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Gay Marriage Is Immoral, Vatican Says

Document signed by the pope urges lawmakers everywhere to fight against same-sex unions.

August 01, 2003|Maria De Cristofaro and Tracy Wilkinson | Times Staff Writers

ROME — The Vatican on Thursday vigorously condemned gay marriage and urged lawmakers around the world -- Catholic and non-Catholic alike -- to defend the "common good" of society by fighting the legalization of same-sex unions.

Hoping to halt what it sees as an alarming trend, the Vatican singled out politicians to join the struggle to preserve traditional marriages between men and women and the "sanctity" of the family.

Homosexual relationships are immoral and deviant, and only traditional marriages can fulfill God's plan for the reproduction of the human race, the Vatican said in a 12-page set of guidelines signed by Pope John Paul II.

The document was drafted earlier this year by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith -- the body that polices adherence to religious rules and philosophy -- and released Thursday as a counter to the spread of legal recognition of gay marriage in Europe and Canada and moves to win recognition in the United States.

Gay and lesbian organizations responded angrily to the Vatican's position. The Vatican's call on politicians to "defy the will of their constituents" is both anti-democratic and dangerous, the Britain-based Gay and Lesbian Humanist Assn. said in a statement.

Although it broke no new doctrinal ground and reiterated the church's well-known opposition to homosexuality, the document clearly reflected deep fear in the Roman Catholic hierarchy over the growing acceptance of same-sex unions.

President Bush on Wednesday announced his support for laws to "codify" traditional marriage, part of a campaign launched by congressional conservatives who seek a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. In the United States, Massachusetts courts are about to decide the issue, Vermont already recognizes civil unions between members of the same sex, and the U.S. Supreme Court in June struck down state sodomy laws.

Two provinces in Canada recently legalized homosexual partnerships, and hundreds of couples quickly availed themselves of the privilege. In Europe, the Netherlands and Belgium recognize gay marriage, several more acknowledge civil unions with basic rights, and Britain is considering similar measures.

The Vatican said Thursday that Catholic politicians, especially, are obliged by moral duty to vote against bills that grant status to homosexual unions and to lobby publicly against such legislation.

All political leaders regardless of their religion who are "committed to promoting and defending the common good of society" should follow suit, it added.

Failing to block such laws, the Vatican said, politicians must work to have them repealed.

A state that grants legal recognition to a gay marriage fails "in its duty to promote and defend marriage as an institution essential to the common good," the Vatican said.

"There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God's plan for marriage and family," the document said. "Marriage is holy, while homosexual acts go against the natural moral law."

The document also opposed adoptions by gay couples, saying children raised in such households are deprived of mother and father. "Allowing children to be adopted by persons living in such unions would actually mean doing violence to these children," it said. "This is gravely immoral."

In a statement, the archbishop of Los Angeles, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, said, "I welcome and offer my full support to the document released today by the Holy See with respect to granting legal recognition to unions between homosexual persons."

In St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, a small group of Italian demonstrators protested what they saw as the church's meddling in private and government matters. They waved banners that read, "No Vatican, No Taliban," and "Democracy Yes, Theocracy No."

The Vatican said homosexuals should not suffer discrimination and should be treated with "respect, compassion and sensitivity." But denying gay couples the rights of the married does not constitute discrimination, the Vatican said. They should live lives of chastity, the church said.

"Legal recognition of homosexual unions, or placing them on the same level as marriage, would mean not only the approval of deviant behavior, with the consequence of making it a model in present-day society, but would also obscure basic values which belong to the common inheritance of humanity," the document said.

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De Cristofaro reported from Rome and Wilkinson from Ankara, Turkey.

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