On June 3, 2003, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published a document, with the approval of Blessed John Paul II, called “Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons.” In this document, the present battle for the reality of marriage as a monogamous and permanent relationship between a man and a woman was given an official response by the Catholic Church.
Of course, the question of the intrinsically evil nature of homosexual acts—not, of course, same-sex attracted people—is not open for discussion. The witness of Sacred Scripture and the entirety of Sacred Tradition is definitive, irreformable and conclusive. Since the Second Vatican Council, the Church has spoken numerous times on the theme of marriage and family as opposed to the lie of homosexual activity so as to help Catholics understand both the rational and revelatory reasons for the Church’s teaching. (See "References" below.)
The 2003 document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is concerned with two specific questions: legal recognition to homosexual unions and the possibility given to people in these unions to adopt children. Since the document’s publication in 2003, the question of “gay marriage” has been felt more forcefully than ever and the question of civil unions is increasingly being proposed by members of the Christian community as a “lesser of evils” before the possibility of a total redefinition of marriage. So the question becomes: “Can we accept, as a political concession and expediency, the possibility of affording merely civil rights to people who are in homosexual relationships?” (e.g. visiting rights, heredity, etc.).
The question is important and very apropos on account of recent statements by members of the Church hierarchy. The influential Cardinal Archbishop of Vienna has expressed his openness to legalizing homosexual unions for the insurance of the above mentioned civil effects and rights, so long as marriage is not redefined. The former Papal Master of Ceremonies, Piero Marini, has expressed similar sentiments. And finally, the head of the Vatican’s Press Office, Father Lombardi, has made an ambiguous comment that many took to indicate the Church’s openness to civil unions as a form of political concession in the face of laws redefining marriage. To understand better the interventions by the above mentioned priest, bishop and cardinal—all of whom enjoy power and status in officialdom—a short evaluation of the CDF text is helpful.
The first part of the document deals with “The Nature of Marriage and Its Inalienable Characteristics.” Here we find a masterful presentation of the Church’s position from the perspective of revelation. What did God reveal about mankind in the Sacred Page and in the Sacred Tradition? (There is no need to rehash each argument here as it can be had by reading the document.) After an examination of the question from the perspective of faith, the question of tolerance is raised and whether or not homosexual unions receiving legal recognition is a matter of tolerance or injustice. Third, the natural (scientific, biological, sociological, etc.) data is brought to bear on the question. Namely, what is right reason and what is law? Is a law binding or even truly a law if it is not reflective of reality? Also, what is the value of homosexual activity from the biological and anthropological vantage point? Does it have effects on the social order and common good, such that recognizing its legal value would not only be a falsity in the realm of truth but also a wound to the political health of the State? Lastly, the question of Catholic politicians is again examined and their obligation to work for truth, justice and peace is emphasized while highlighting basic moral principles.
The latter sections of the document are important and should not be lost on the reader. We are not dealing with a question of mere “religion” and consequently something trapped in the privacy of the ego. For the secular press and for many fighting against the Church over the question of marriage, we must not forget that their main argument is not rational or scientific but rather that faith is something private, sentimental and utterly separate from the realm of reason, science and the public square; their main argument is an ideological assumption not proven by argumentation or science. For this reason, it is exceedingly important that Catholics read carefully Blessed John Paul II’s masterful Fides et Ratio.
I hope this brief summary will encouraged all to read this document which clearly shows the mistaken conclusions of Catholics who would like to afford legal status to homosexual unions and the possibility of so called “gay adoption”—no matter how politically expedient it may seem. I can only hope that more Catholics will study carefully the Church’s teaching on the question of homosexual activity and the risks it presents to society. For those who are not Catholic, I would suggest that much wisdom and knowledge can be had from the Church’s 2,000 year reflection on the human person. As Christians we believe the truth of man is found only in the Person of Jesus Christ. For this reason, the Church is an “expert in humanity” on account of God’s revelation to man in Christ which makes the sublime and full calling of man clear. (Cf. Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et Spes, 22)
- Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et Spes, 47-52
- Blessed John Paul II, Familiaris consortio, 3, 45-46, and 81
- CDF, "On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons," 1986
- CDF, "Some Considerations Concerning the Response to Legislative Proposals on the Non-Discrimination of Homosexual Persons," 1992
- Blessed John Paul II, Letter to Families, 6-12 and 17
- Pontifical Council for the Family, "Declaration regarding the Resolution of the European Parliament," 2000
- Pontifical Council for the Family, "Family, Marriage and De Facto Unions," 2000
- Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, "Homosexual Unions," 228-229
- Benedict XVI, Address to the Roman Curia, 2008