Thursday, July 31, 2003

The Vatican and gay marriage

Cardinal Ratzinger and the Vatican have finally commented on the current gay marriage debate. The relevant document, Considerations Regarding Proposals to give Legal Recognition to Unions between Homosexual Persons, can be read here on the Vatican website.

So far I have read three basic kinds of reaction to this. From supporters of gay marriage Andrew Sullivan has a fairly tyical apopleptic reaction. From fellow Catholics reactions seem split between that of Catholic Analysis, and that of my good friend Waddling Thunder.

For my own part I am completely unsurprised by this statement. Especially to the Andrew Sullivan's of this world I would direct them to the following extract from the first paragraph of the document:

"The present Considerations do not contain new doctrinal elements; they seek rather to reiterate the essential points on this question ..." (my italics).

The current document merely reiterates the current doctrine of the Catholic church. Supporters of gay marriage should not be surprised, especially gays themselves. What, might I ask, did they expect? The overturning of what is pretty much a 3000+ year prohibition?

The essential question of WT though is worth considering - why now?

My first thought on this issue is that the Catholic Church would not have been able to keep quiet on the long-term. It is too obvious, too contentious, too high-profile, too relentless. The last couple of months have brought the question of homosexual marriage again and again onto the headlines. In part this is because of Democratic Presidential contender Howard Dean. In part it is because the relentless discussion, debate, argument, and riot going on in the Anglican Communion. And in part it is because of the FMA, the Lawrence case, and the upcoming Mass. Court decision. These disputes affect the UK, the USA, and Canada. Other disputes are, iirc, taking place elsewhere. Not to comment would have been a derogation of the Church's duty to instruct and to lead.

There is of course a difficulty in today's society about commenting upon others' chosen lifestyles. My initial reaction to this is a particular expletive that I am not sure is current in America. People always comment, commend, or criticise other people's lifestyles. Basically on this one I simply not a libertarian. ;)

Which brings us onto the point about "common good". I would agree with the WT that it is not the role of the state to hold a view of "the common good", but I would argue that is is the role of the Church to promote what it sincerely believes to be the common good. I have no fear of this because it does not do so in isolation. It has to argue its case - as will those who disagree. I fail to see the difference - might that be my European heritage showing?

Personally I believe that the word 'marriage' does have specifically religious connatations, and that the right of religious groups to deny marriage to homosexuals should be enshrined in law, and there should be a recognition that marriage IS a religious term, and a religious ceremony. Part of the current difficulties imo is caused by homosexual groups trying to secularise that word, whether that is their explicit intention or not.

This may come across a little hardline, I realise. In this I must state that, as a Catholic, I take the teaching of the Church very seriously. I acknowledge now the difficulty it causes me, and I think it will be possible to infer where precisely I have greatest difficulty. For the record, I am a celibate heterosexual (though before anyone thinks this, I am not a priest).

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