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A SELECTION OF RESPONSES to the VATICAN statement of July 31st 2003:

.Vatican Says Lawmakers Have Duty to Oppose Gay Marriage
.Catholic church fighting against gay marriages
.Europeans react to Vatican statement on gay marriage


New York Times,
July 31, 2003


Vatican Says Lawmakers Have Duty to Oppose Gay Marriage
By Kirk Semple
       The
Vatican today condemned gay marriages as "deviant" in a document that instructs clergy and Catholic politicians on how to stop the legislative momentum in favour of gay marriages in North America and Europe.
       In a 12-page set of guidelines, issued with the approval of Pope John Paul II, the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith urged Catholic lawmakers to lobby and vote against bills that would recognize gay marriage, saying they have a "moral duty" to do so.
       The congregation, which was formed in the sixteenth century to defend the church against heresy, defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman and said that "homosexual acts go against the natural moral law."
       The document continued, "Legal recognition of homosexual unions or placing them on the same level as marriage would mean not only the approval of deviant behaviour . . . but would also obscure basic values which belong to the common inheritance of humanity."
       The Vatican's pronouncements came a day after President Bush weighed in on the highly charged subject, saying he remained firmly opposed to gay marriages and that administration lawyers were working to ensure that the term "marriage" would cover only unions between men and women.
       In June, an Ontario appeals court opened the way for Canada to end the ban on marriage between partners of the same sex.
       It was the second time this year that the Vatican instructed Catholic lawmakers to vote against bills legalizing gay marriage.  In January, the Vatican issued guidelines for Roman Catholic politicians that underlined the church's opposition to same-sex marriage as well as abortion and euthanasia, and told Catholics not to promote laws that favour those practices.
       It is not unusual for the Catholic church to issue guidelines to Catholic politicians on public policy.  Officials from the Vatican and the United States Conference of Bishops have frequently advised politicians to take "pro-life" positions on issues such as birth control and abortion.  In a sense, the church sees itself as a prophetic voice for society.
       In the United States, the Bishops' group meets twice a year, and much of its business involves dispensing advice on a range of social issues that includes immigration, poverty, the economy and even agriculture.  Last September, Bishop Wilton D. Gregory, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, sent a letter to President Bush expressing reservations about a potential war with Iraq, warning that it could have "unpredictable consequences" for civilians and for stability in Iraq and the Mideast.
       Though gay marriage is not permitted in the United States, Vermont allows gay civil unions, which give same-sex couples the rights and responsibilities of opposite-sex marriages.  The highest court in Massachusetts is set to rule on the issue soon.
       In Europe, several European nations, including Germany, France, Sweden and Denmark, also permit civil unions.
       Last month, the United States Supreme Court struck down state sodomy laws that made it a crime for gays to have consensual sex.
       In today's document, the Vatican congregation mandated that it is the "moral duty" of Catholic politicians to publicly oppose laws granting recognition to gay unions and to vote against legislative proposals.
       "To vote in favour of a law so harmful to the common good is gravely immoral," the document says.
       Gay rights activists were quick to strike back at the Vatican.
       "It's deeply troubling that a spiritual leader would herd his flock in the opposite direction of understanding," said David Tseng, executive director of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), a gay-rights organization based in Washington, D.C.  "Instead of promoting stable relationships that help build communities that strengthen moral values, he would divide families."
       Mr. Tseng said he believed that the Pope was "clearly" reacting to the growing legislative movement toward gay marriages.
       "If the Vatican felt confident that the world was going to remain in the Middle Ages, to toe the line on the traditional confines of marriage, there would be no need for this pronouncement," he said.  "Clearly, he's looking at what's happening around the globe and seeing that the tide is running against him."
       Charles Kaiser, an author and gay activist, asserted that history would prove the shortsightedness of the Vatican's declaration.
       "Years from now people will look back at this proclamation and will see it as being no more sensible than the Inquisition," said Mr. Kaiser, the author of "The Gay Metropolis," a history of gay life in modern America.
       In the document, the Vatican also urges non-Catholics to follow the lead of Catholics in this matter.
       The document also strongly opposes adoption by gay couples, saying children raised by same-sex partners face developmental "obstacles" because they are deprived of having either a mother or a father.
       "Allowing children to be adopted by persons living in such unions would actually mean doing violence to these children, in the sense that their condition of dependency would be used to place them in an environment that is not conducive to their full human development," the document said.


Arizona Republic, July 31, 2003

Catholic church fighting against gay marriages
Michael Clancy, The Arizona Republic
       As gay rights gain momentum here and abroad, the Catholic church joins its conservative brethren Thursday in battling against the possibility of gay marriages.
       The Vatican is expected to send to bishops and Catholic politicians a 12-page directive today restating the church's opposition to same-sex marriage.
       "It's natural that the Vatican would weigh in on the question," said the Rev. Chris Carpenter, a Catholic priest at Christ the King Church in Mesa.  "It will upset some people in the gay and lesbian community.  I also know that some of them pay no attention to the statements of the Vatican."
       He said he did not know whether the matter would actually reach the Catholic faithful.
       "We priests rarely get directives from the Vatican or the bishop," he said.
       The church may be fighting a tough cultural battle, as public acceptance of gay rights appears to be growing with the support of several key developments:
       On June 25, the Supreme Court ruled that private consensual sex cannot be a criminal act, overturning a Texas law that banned sodomy.  The ruling opened the door for Harold Donald Standhardt and Tod Alan Keltner of Phoenix to file a lawsuit against the Maricopa County Superior Court Clerk and the state of Arizona on July 7 seeking the right to be legally married under state law.
       Already two Canadian provinces, British Columbia and Ontario, as well as the Netherlands, Germany and the state of Vermont recognize same-sex unions.
       Another case is pending in the Massachusetts Supreme Court involving seven gay couples.  A ruling could come any day.
       While the diocese of Phoenix, under former Bishop Thomas O'Brien, started a task force to study the needs of gay Catholics, "with all the challenges the diocese is going through right now this is small potatoes," Carpenter said.  He was referring to challenges the diocese faces in finding a new bishop in the wake of allegations of sexual abuse and the arrest of O'Brien in connection with a fatal hit-and-run accident.
       Bill Luke, president of the Phoenix Chapter of Dignity, a group of gay Catholics, said change within the Catholic church can take centuries.
       "The church is about 500 years behind the times on issues like this," Luke said.
       Thursday's statement will not affect his faith or that of his fellow Dignity members, he said.
       "Among the priests and the laity, there is a difference between what is being said and done and what is going on in the Vatican," Luke said.
       But Richard Jeffreys, past leader of the state Knights of Columbus, a fraternal organization of Catholic men, said he is glad to hear the Vatican is taking action.
       "Being a Catholic-family organization, we have been absolutely opposed to legalizing same-sex marriage," he said, calling it "fundamental" that marriage is the union of a man and a woman dedicated to producing children.
       It does not matter what position the courts or legislatures take, he added.
       "I think the church has always been countercultural, not necessarily in union with the values of the culture," he said.
       John Loredo, a Democrat state representative and a Catholic, said he doubts the Vatican letter will have any impact on lawmakers, and little on Catholics.
       "If they think lobbying legislators would be effective in determining a court case, they'd be wrong," he said.
       The church, through the Arizona Catholic Conference, is a frequent presence at the legislature on issues ranging from health care for children to the death penalty, but not on gay marriage.
       He said most American Catholics, especially younger ones like himself, accept the fact that the Vatican is out of touch on certain issues.
       The church isn't alone in its position.  On Wednesday, President Bush told reporters that federal lawyers are working on legislation that would define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.  And, a USA Today-CNN-Gallup Poll found that after the U.S. Supreme Court decision, opinions shifted on acceptance of homosexuality, reversing a trend of several years toward greater tolerance.
       Contact the reporter at mike.clancy@arizonarepublic.com or at (602) 444-8550.


Associated Press, July 31, 2003


Europeans react to Vatican statement on gay marriage
      
Vatican City (AP) Europeans are reacting strongly and on opposite sides to a new Vatican campaign against gay marriages.
       The Catholic Church today released guidelines stressing its opposition to gay marriage and urging Catholic politicians to vote against granting legal rights to same-sex unions.
       Across Europe where countries such as Germany legally recognize same-sex civil unions criticism is surfacing fast.  One German lawmaker describes the guidelines as "a document of narrow-minded fanaticism."  But a more conservative German lawmaker says all Catholic lawmakers should heed the Vatican.
       A small group of protesters from Italy's Radical Party stood at the edge of St. Peter's Square holding signs that compared the church with a rigid theocracy.  In Austria, a Green Party spokesman says the Vatican is unrealistic and that lawmakers should follow the ideals of human rights, not the church.

 

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Friday, August 1, 2003
Gay Mainers 'very disappointed'
By TESS NACELEWICZ, Portland Press Herald Writer
 

Members of the gay and lesbian community in Maine said Thursday that they found the announcement of a new, global Vatican campaign against gay marriages disturbing. "I'm a former Catholic and I'm very disappointed in the church," said Maggie Fournier of Portland, who has been with her partner for 31 years. The couple have a 17-year-old daughter. "My relationship with my family is based on love and solid moral values." Kate Perkins, who also lives in Portland, with her partner of seven years and their two children, said that if the pope "is worried about morality, he needs to look inside his own organization. They should spend their time and money worrying about their priest sexual abuse problem, not worrying about what I'm doing in my bedroom." The Rev. Marvin Ellison, a Presbyterian minister who teaches ethics at the Bangor Theological Seminary and has been in a nine-year relationship with his partner, said, "Where I find myself differing sharply with both the president and the Vatican is that supporting same sex relationships is a good thing. It's a good thing not only for those couples but for society at large. The challenge these days is that we all need to learn to live with diversity and many different kinds of families." On Wednesday, President Bush said he supports enacting a law saying that marriage should be limited to a man and a woman. The Vatican announced that it has issued guidelines that have the approval of Pope John Paul II and are designed to fight the increase in laws that extend legal rights to homosexual unions in North America and Europe. The Vatican said support of same-sex unions is "gravely immoral" and called on Catholic politicians and non-Catholics to oppose laws that allow them. Betsy Smith, executive director of the Maine Lesbian Gay Political Alliance, characterised the Vatican's actions as "typical backlash" to the recent gains that gays and lesbians have made. "When the Vatican launches a global campaign, it shows me we are making progress toward full equality," she said. Smith said the church should not be trying to play a role in civil unions between same-sex couples. "The conversation shouldn't even be around one's religious beliefs, because we're talking about a contract between two people and the state," she said. However, Michael Heath, executive director of the Christian Civic League of Maine, said politicians should think of homosexuality and same-sex unions in a religious light and not "as something that excludes Christianity and morality." Heath said his non-Catholic, conservative Christian group applauds the Vatican's stance. "We think this is outstanding," he said. Peter O'Donnell, a Portland city councillor who is gay and was raised Catholic, accused the church of trying to "threaten me as an elected Catholic official." He said the church should spend its time resolving its sexual abuse scandals instead of "telling us we should go after the relationships of people who love each other." The Vatican also said gay couples shouldn't be allowed to adopt children because not having a mother or a father obstructs their development. But Perkins said that "children raised with loving parents do well. It is not the gender of the parents that matters." And she said the gay and lesbian parents she knows typically work harder than do many single mothers and fathers to ensure that their children have adult role models of the opposite sex in their lives. Fournier, who said she and her partner would get married "in a heartbeat" if they could, said that "whether their parents are gay or straight, it's in the child's best interest for their parents to be married."

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Casper Star Tribune 8/1/03
Colorado politicians mostly reject Vatican's call

DENVER (AP) - Many Colorado lawmakers, including Gov. Bill Owens, are ignoring the Vatican's call to fight the legalization of gay marriages. ''On this issue of same-sex marriage, I have long believed that the formal institution of marriage should be reserved for a man and woman,'' said Owens, a Roman Catholic. ''However, I also agree with John Kennedy that the Vatican should not be attempting to direct politicians on how to vote on any issue.'' The 12-page set of guidelines issued Thursday instructs Roman Catholic politicians to vote against measures that would recognize gay marriage and to repeal laws already in existence. The documents says such laws would be ''gravely immoral''. U.S. Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, R-Fort Morgan, was the only Colorado politician contacted who praised the Vatican's directive. ''I agree with this policy by the Vatican that marriage needs to be defined as a union between a man and woman. So do the American people,'' said Musgrave, the main sponsor of a proposal to amend the U.S. Constitution to say that marriage in the United States ''shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman.'' She is not Catholic. Democratic state Sen. Jennifer Veiga disagreed. ''The Vatican should stay out of it, and Marilyn Musgrave should stay out of it, too,'' said Veiga, a Catholic. Colorado, along with the majority of states, has a law that affirms marriage is between a man and a woman. Denver has a domestic-partnership registry that Veiga said is largely symbolic for many gay couples, but can help them in getting employment benefits for their partners. Representatives for U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard and U.S. Rep. Joel Hefley, both Republicans, said they oppose gay marriage but would not comment on the Vatican's directive. U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Denver, said she would ignore it. ''As a strong believer in the separation of church and state, it is not appropriate for me as an elected official to comment on the policy announcements of a religious leader,'' said DeGette. A spokesman for Rep. Mark Udall, D-Boulder, said Udall respects the pope's opinion but he thinks that the Constitution, not religious doctrine, should determine how the government recognizes same-sex unions. The state Senate's assistant minority leader, Ken Gordon, D-Denver, said: ''The Vatican does not need our help in setting policy for the Roman Catholic Church, and we don't need the Vatican's help in setting policy for Colorado.'' This is not the first time Owens, a Republican, has disagreed wit the Vatican. He supports the death penalty, which the Roman Catholic Church opposes. AP-WS-08-01-03 0554EDT

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Vatican warns on same-sex marriage
Broad edict has message for Catholic politicians
By Michael Paulson, Globe Staff, 8/1/2003

The Vatican yesterday declared that same-sex marriages ''go against natural moral law'' and decreed that for a Catholic politician to support gay marriage would be ''gravely immoral.'' The document, which was approved by Pope John Paul II, also vehemently objected to the adoption of children by gays and lesbians, saying that ''allowing children to be adopted by persons living in such unions would actually mean doing violence to these children, in the sense that their condition of dependency would be used to place them in an environment that is not conducive to their full human development.'' The Vatican said it released the document, titled ''Considerations Regarding Proposals To Give Legal Recognition To Unions Between Homosexual Persons,'' to help bishops articulate the church's teaching and in an attempt to direct the political behaviour of Catholic lawmakers. ''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,'' declares the Vatican document, which cites human biology, the Bible, and centuries of Catholic teaching as justification for its position. ''Marriage is holy, while homosexual acts go against the natural moral law.'' The document, from the world's largest religious denomination, comes as acceptance of same-sex relationships appears to be growing in the developed world. The Netherlands and Belgium have legalised gay marriage and Canada appears poised to do so after courts in the provinces of Ontario and British Columbia allowed same-sex marriages. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court is now weighing a case in which seven gay couples are asking to be granted marriage licenses here. And several countries, including Germany, France, Sweden, and Denmark, have laws recognizing civil unions of same-sex couples, as does the state of Vermont. The US Supreme Court in June overturned antisodomy laws, citing sexual privacy rights. But public opinion polling on the question of gay marriage has been conflicting. A nationwide survey released last month by the Pew Research Centre and the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found opposition to gay marriage has declined significantly since the mid-1990s, to 53 percent from 65 percent. A Gallup poll conducted in July, however, found support for legalised gay unions at its lowest point in four years. On Wednesday, President Bush stepped into the fray, declaring, ''I believe marriage is between a man and a woman, and I believe we ought to codify that one way or the other, and we have lawyers looking at the best way to do that.'' Bush's predecessor, President Bill Clinton, in 1996 signed the Defence of Marriage Act barring federal recognition of gay marriage, but some conservatives are now hoping for a constitutional amendment that would strengthen such a ban. An increasing number of liberal religious denominations are permitting clergy to hold religious ceremonies to celebrate gay and lesbian relationships. The Unitarian Universalist Association and Reform Judaism officially sanction same-sex unions, while individual clergy in the United Church of Christ and the Episcopal Church regularly bless such couples. More than 450 Massachusetts clergy have expressed support for same-sex marriage. But numerous conservative religious denominations, including Islam, Orthodox Judaism, Orthodox Christianity, and Mormonism, as well as the vast family of evangelical Protestant churches, remain staunchly opposed to civil or religious legitimation of same-sex relationships. And the Anglican Communion, the global church represented in the United States by the Episcopal Church, faces a rising risk of schism over differing attitudes toward homosexuality. Today the Episcopal Church USA, gathering at its general convention in Minneapolis, begins a debate over whether to consent to the election of a gay priest, Canon V. Gene Robinson, as bishop of New Hampshire. Conservative elements of the Anglican Communion, both in the United States and around the world, have warned of a possible split in the denomination if the American church ratifies Robinson's election or approves liturgies to bless same-sex couples. The Vatican document, drafted by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, declares homosexuality to be a ''troubling moral and social phenomenon.'' The document, which was approved March 28, does not offer new doctrine but rather reiterates the Catholic Church teachings. The document says discrimination against gays and lesbians ''should be avoided,'' but says politicians should be wary of gay-rights measures. The Vatican says that homosexual relationships, because they are not procreative, cannot be justified biologically or anthropologically, and warns that the approval of same-sex marriage would harm society. ''Legal recognition of homosexual unions would obscure certain basic moral values and cause a devaluation of the institution of marriage,'' the Vatican declared. The document includes a section directed at Catholic politicians, following up on a document issued in January in which the Vatican told Catholic politicians they should not dissent from church teachings on abortion, homosexuality, and euthanasia, and warned that ''a well-formed Christian conscience does not permit one to vote for a political program or an individual law which contradicts the fundamental contents of faith and morals.'' The January document had no discernible impact on the voting of Catholic politicians in the United States. The document issued yesterday declared that Catholic politicians have an obligation to oppose gay unions and to seek to repeal or limit the effect of laws endorsing gay unions that do win approval. ''When legislation in favour of the recognition of homosexual unions is proposed for the first time in a legislative assembly, the Catholic lawmaker has a moral duty to express his opposition clearly and publicly and to vote against it,'' the document states. ''To vote in favour of a law so harmful to the common good is gravely immoral.'' Stephen J. Pope, a theologian at Boston College, said describing the behaviour of such politicians as ''gravely immoral'' is strong condemnation from the church. '' `Gravely immoral' means that it can never be done under any circumstances, it always offends God in a profound way, and that anyone who thinks it is morally permissible is operating with a malformed conscience,'' Pope said. Papal biographer George Weigel agreed, saying '' `gravely immoral' means just that: for politicians to support same-sex unions is to violate basic norms of justice. This is not a question of tolerance. It's a question of the defence of a basic social institution.'' Weigel said the document is a defence of the traditional understanding of marriage. ''The new document is a defence of . . . what human beings have understood marriage to mean for millennia,'' he said. ''It's also a defence of the idea of marriage as something richer and nobler than a mere contract. If we think of marriage as any possible configuration of consenting adults satisfying their needs, we've emptied marriage of its intrinsic meaning and its social value. And that, the Catholic Church is suggesting, is bad for everybody.'' The document was welcomed by Bishop Wilton D. Gregory, the president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. ''Because the human intellect is naturally drawn to the truth, as the human heart is drawn by nature to the good, I am confident that many a careful reader will see the wisdom of what is proposed in this document, including many who may think otherwise at first,'' Gregory said in a statement. Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley of Boston, who was installed as leader of the Boston archdiocese on Wednesday, did not mention the issue of homosexuality during his initial homily, and declined to comment on the issue yesterday. But in 1999, testifying before the Massachusetts Legislature, he warned that gay parents could ''open the door to polygamy and incest'' and said that ''the church's position is that any tampering with the definition of marriage is dangerous to society.'' Traditionalists hailed the Vatican document, which they hope will bolster their efforts to resist movement toward approval of gay marriage in the United States. ''Because of an aggressive gay-rights movement that seeks to normalize homosexual unions, the Vatican decided the time was ripe to issue a reality check to Catholics,'' said William Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. But gay Catholics were irate. ''To say that violence will come to children, from a church that protected predators, is such a contradiction,'' said Chuck Colbert, a gay Catholic journalist living in Cambridge. ''And why aren't they singling out single parents, or divorced and remarried parents? This is going to make it really difficult for lesbian and gay Catholics to stay in the church.'' Michael Paulson can be reached at mpaulson@globe.com. This story ran on page A1 of the Boston Globe on 8/1/2003. Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.