Two More Cardinals on the Record Endorsing Civil Unions

The number of cardinals endorsing civil unions for lesbian and gay couples continues to grow.

Cardinal Christoph Schonborn

Cardinal Christoph Schonborn

Thanks to, we have this report from London’s The Tablet magazine:

“A leading cardinal has said that same-sex relationships should be respected and recognised in law amid signs of a change in church thinking on the subject.

“Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, the Archbishop of Vienna, made the remarks in a lecture at the National Gallery evening titled “Christianity: Alien Presence or Foundation of the West?” on Monday.

“ ‘There can be same-sex partnerships and they need respect, and even civil law protection. Yes, but please keep it away from the notion of marriage. Because the definition of marriage is the stable union between a man and a woman open to life,’ Cardinal Schönborn said.

“ ‘We should be clear about terms and respect the needs of people living in a partnership together. They deserve respect,’ he added.

“Two other cardinals, Colombian Ruben Salazar and Theodore McCarrick have recently suggested the Church should not oppose same-sex civil unions.”

Bondings 2.0 had already reported about Cardinal McCarrick’s comments.  You can read the blog post about them here.

Cardinal Ruben Salazar

Cardinal Ruben Salazar

We had not heard of Cardinal Salazar’s support for civil unions before this news, and a web search revealed that his comments were only minimally noted in the Spanish-language press. Colombia’s El Tiempo reports that his support for civil unions was stated in the context of declaring that the term “family” can only be used by heterosexually-headed households.  What follows is a translation from the original Spanish text:

“There can be no true marriage but between a man and a woman, and only on this basis can there be a real family,” said Salazar, President of the [Colombian]Episcopal Conference, who said that it is not a personal position but of vision of the universal Church, reflected also in the Constitution. . . .

” ‘The other unions have a right to exist; no one can ask them not to exist, but they should not try to equate themselves with the family.  They should not not assume the role of the family within the state, that’s where it starts to subvert the social order,’  Archbishop of Bogota also said and cautioned that these statements are not looking to attack the country’s gay community, much less violate their rights.”

Cardinal Salazar was elevated to the College of Cardinals by Pope Benedict XVI in November 2012, during the pope’s last consistory of naming cardinals.

Over the past year,  more and more cardinals and bishops have been speaking positively about either the need for civil unions or for greater respect for lesbian and gay couples.  A recent survey of many of these endorsements can be found here.

Cardinal Schonborn, who was often spoken of as a papal candidate,  made headlines last year when he reinstated an openly gay man to a parish council after the local pastor had removed him.

While it is disappointing that many of these church leaders  support civil unions out of a a desire to reserve marriage for only heterosexual couples, I think we need to keep this step forward in perspective.  We need to see it for what it is:  a step forward that was unthinkable a year ago.  More importantly, the fact this this strategy of supporting civil unions was also endorsed by Pope Francis when he was Cardinal Bergoglio in Argentina makes it even more possible that this strategy can develop.

Is hierarchical support for civil unions ideal?  No, especially not when it is a stopgap measure against marriage.  But none of us know how the Holy Spirit works, other than that even our imperfect ways can some times be used for good purposes.  Who knows what the Holy Spirit has in mind with this new trend?

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

11 replies
  1. Terence
    Terence says:

    Thanks for tracking down Cardinal Salazar’s statement (which I’d been unable to find), and the translation.

    Some of these words of “support” are grudging, as a lesser of two evils argument – others are more positive. But you are right that we need to see this in perspective. Grudging or not, the bishops have come a long way collectively. While we continue to hear strong words against gay marriage, there is no longer the same public diatribes against gay relationships, per se.

    Some gay Catholics who marry or enter civil unions may find themselves excluded or fired for their honesty, most LGBT Catholics are finding the opposite: genuine welcome and acceptance in local parishes. Most Catholics no longer believe that “homosexuality” is even a matter for morality.Marriage equality continues to spread around the world (at least five countries are likely to approve legislation this year – Uruguay, Colombia, UK, France and New Zealand, as well as some US states). As more and more married same sex couples become visible in our parishes, bishops will have no choice but to start treating us similarly to other Catholics who live in contravention of Vatican sexual rules. And that, considering the prohibitions on masturbation, sexual relationships before marriage, contraception, and remarriage after divorce means practically all who have passed puberty.

  2. Lisa Burke
    Lisa Burke says:

    It’s important to circulate these statements because, while equality advocates may argue civil unions aren’t enough, this means that the cardinals are getting the fundamental argument and it also produces statements by them that stand in support of equality. Now the challenge? Getting the bishops to get it, too.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] saintly” because of their love and care for one another. He has previously expressed support for civil unions, and in 2012 reinstated a gay man to a parish council after the local pastor had rejected […]

  2. […] years regarding LGBT issues.  He made a supportive statement regarding gender identity, supports civil unions for lesbian and gay couples, and re-instated a partnered, gay parish council president who was ousted by the local pastor. […]

  3. […] April 12, 2013: “Two More Cardinals on the Record Endorsing Civil Unions […]

  4. […] derechos legales estánprogresando lentamente , y cardenal superior de esa nación incluso ha aprobado las uniones civiles para parejas del mismo sexo, aún queda mucho trabajo en la lucha contra la homofobia que […]

  5. […] cardinal has previously endorsed civil unions for same-gender couples and urged the Church to rethink teachings on marriage. He was also […]

  6. […] Colombia has a dominant Catholic majority, many of whom vocally oppose pro-LGBT laws, however Cardinal Ruben Salazar is on the record endorsing civil unions as a form of legal protection for same-gender […]

  7. […] comments came on the heels of an interview in which Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, the Archbishop of Vienna and editor of The Catechism of […]

  8. […] put it mildly) left much to be desire and it increasingly seems that members of the hierarchy are realizing that civil unions are not the end of the world (see also this one).  Huston Smith once rhetorically asked how many robins it takes to make a […]

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