Sunday, 10 Feb 2013, 04:47
Last Monday the Vatican's top official on family policy gave the impression that the Church had shifted slightly its position on the rights for gay civil unions, although he also stressed that marriage should remain between a man and a woman.
But in a follow-up interview four days later with Vatican Radio, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia insisted that his remarks, which had been given off-the-cuff after a prepared statement, were taken out of context and that he had never intended to imply that the Church supports homosexual civil unions.
The remarks from Monsignor Vincenzo Paglia (photo) , head of the Pontifical Council for the Family, were made at a Vatican press conference on Monday and were quoted in the Italian press on Tuesday.
"Marriage is a clear legal dimension. There are then multiple other types of non-family cohabitation for which solutions should be found in terms of individual law and in my view also in terms of property law," Paglia said.
His comments were widely seen as a reference to gay couples.
"I think this is a terrain that politicians should begin to approach," said the archbishop, adding that legal rights for non-traditional families would "prevent injustice against the weakest".
"This seems an important path to pursue," he said.
The Italian prelate also spoke out against homophobia in the Middle East and Africa, saying that in countries where being gay is considered a crime "this should be fought against".
Gay rights activists gave mixed reactions to his comments.
"For the first time a senior prelate recognises that there should be rights also for gay couples and that there are many countries in the world where being gay is a crime," said Franco Grillini, the head of Gaynet.
But Aurelio Mancuso, head of Equality Italia, said the type of legal protection that Paglia was talking about would mean "keeping the status quo, in other words an absence of rights".
"The only chance is a clear law that recognises the rights and duties of gay couples, in terms of property and inheritance, medical assistance, social welfare," he said.
Paglia has been in charge of his Vatican ministry for a year and is considered more open and modern than his predecessors, particularly on accepting the reality of the daily lives of many Catholics.
Fr. Shenan Boquet, the president of Human Life International on Friday thanked the archbishop for his clarification, saying it has relieved the widespread confusion created by
Fr. Boquet cited the Catechism of the Catholic Church and a recent document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith showing that the Church has no established position on questions of inheritance law and has never opposed the claims of individuals to pass on their property to whomever they choose, or to allow visitors of their choice when in the hospital.
But this does not mean that the Church has or could ever condone legal changes creating “civil unions” between persons of the same sex. Rather it has said clearly that Catholics must oppose efforts to establish legal recognitions of any type of non-marital sexual relationships. To do so, Boquet said, would only create “confusion” over the true nature of marriage, “which is rightfully elevated and defended in almost every nation”.
“It makes perfect sense to protect marriage in law, just as it makes little sense to provide legal recognition to dissolvable, affection-based relationships between individuals,” he said.
With regard to “laws against homosexuality,” Boquet added, “in certain nations, we are not aware of any law against sexual orientation per se. Some nations have retained laws against homosexual acts and the Church has never opposed these laws nor sought their reversal.”
However, the Church does not concern itself with the morality of “orientation.”
“Being attracted to those of the same sex is not in itself sinful,” Fr. Boquet said, “but is rather a disordered desire, that is to be responded to with the virtue of chastity.
Sources: AFP, Vatican Radio and Human Life International website.