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 What they said about... gay marriages

 Sam Jones, Friday August 01 2003,  The Guardian

 The smudged line between western religion and western politics was blurred
further on Thursday when Pope John Paul II called on Catholic lawmakers to campaign against the legalisation of gay marriages. The pontiff's new guidelines - which describe homosexual unions as "deviant", "evil" and "gravely immoral" - were released a day after President George Bush, a devout Methodist, revealed he was profoundly opposed to gay marriages. The Irish Independent was troubled by the Pope's harsh language, but
 found "nothing surprising in the document". It was, said the paper, merely "a reiteration of the traditional catholic teaching against homosexual acts and homosexual unions".

 Others were too disturbed by the Pope's words to address the issues behind them.
Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung dismissed the "sharp, anti-homosexual text" as another example of the Vatican's skewed thinking on homosexuality, while Der Standard was blunter still. "Let us not beat about the bush," sighed the Austrian daily, "the Catholic Church is a hopeless case."

 The document left El Mundo with a familiar sense of deja vu. "What the Vatican is trying to do - and not for the first time - goes far beyond a pastoral decree," said the Spanish paper. "It wants Catholics to mobilise themselves to hinder the legislative process in secular, democratic countries. But the concept of marriage in such countries is completely different: it is not a sacrament but a cohabitational contract between two people. A Catholic is perfectly entitled - personally - to disapprove of types of marriage that run contrary to his religious beliefs, but he should not interfere in a decision that is explicitly sociopolitical and legal."

 Eileen McNamara, writing in the Boston Globe, agreed. While she had no problem with the Pope telling Catholics that he found no theological defence for gay marriage, McNamara said it was unacceptable for him "to order Catholic policy-makers to work to defeat what more and more people accept as a fundamental civil right".

 The Daily Mail conceded that the Pope's condemnation of gay marriages had been fierce, but couldn't help admiring his resolve. "Politically incorrect and unforgiving though it sounds, the Vatican is standing up for enduring human values. How sad that our feeble, vacillating, gay-promoting, marriage-undermining Church of England... never displays such courage."


 European Press Review: The Vatican Defiant


 Criticism was the order of the day on European op-ed pages after the


See urged Catholic lawmakers to oppose legalizing gay marriages.




 “There’s no use talking about it too long,” wrote the Austrian liberal


Standard newspaper, “this Catholic Church cannot be saved." The attitudes towards homosexuality and gay partnerships that the Church had long had and only now published in a 12-page document approved by Pope John Paul II seemed like a declaration from the past, the paper said. Everything we have learned about how people live and feel over the past hundred years -- which should have led an enlightened society to accept tolerant values -- has apparently not reached the Vatican, observed the paper. “This is like a statement made by scholars who have been locked away for years in a heavenly dungeon.”


 The German paper Neue Presse from Hanover did not even feign surprise over the Vatican’s statement. “You can still count on the old men in the heart of Rome. Like a rock in the middle of an inferno, the Vatican is defiant despite all the developments in modern society.” Same-sex marriage? “No thanks!” was Catholic leaders' battle cry. The paper said the Vatican’s was going to far when it urged Catholic politicians around the world to oppose legislation permitting same-sex marriages. The arguments were as outdated as they were absurd, it contended. “In the modern times, just what exactly is this so-called “natural moral law” that homosexuals allegedly violate?" the paper asked.

 The Italian daily Corriere della Sera began by defending the Catholic Church, pointing out that the state is not the church. Legal institutions are responsible for deciding if and when same-sex partnerships would be legalised. At the same time, the paper wrote, Catholics have the right to express their views on the subject, just like everyone else.

Salzburger Nachrichten in Austria was less understanding towards the Church. "The Vatican is urging intolerance and hate," it wrote. In circulating the document publicly, the Church was exposing its own fear of a phenomenon which it could never openly face due to its general condemnation of sexuality in forms that religious law could not control, the paper concluded.