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