VATICAN CITY (July 31) - The Vatican urged Catholics and non-Catholics alike Thursday to unite in campaigning against gay marriages and gay adoptions, seeking to stem the widening legal recognition of same-sex unions and the increasing acceptance of homosexual lifestyles.
Catholic politicians have a ``moral duty'' to oppose laws granting legal rights to gay couples, and non-Catholics should follow their lead since the issue concerns ``natural moral law'' and not just Roman Catholic teaching, said the Vatican's orthodoxy watchdog, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in its latest effort to rally public opinion on the issue.
The 12-page document, which was issued in seven languages, was immediately criticized by gay groups across North America and Europe, where politicians - including some conservatives - are increasingly granting homosexual couples the same legal status as heterosexual couples.
``This new document is intended to intimidate public officials across the globe into doing what the Vatican has not been able to do on its own - stem the growing tide for justice,'' said Marianne Duddy, executive director of Dignity USA, an organization of gay Catholics. ``It is a tremendous shame that the leaders of our Church are becoming the vocal proponents for intolerance and continuing discrimination.''
But the document was welcomed by some conservatives and the clergy, including those in Pope John Paul II's native Poland, where Roman Catholic bishops read out excerpts of the text at a press conference to condemn a proposal by leftist lawmakers to legalize homosexual unions.
``The idea is immoral and hurting to families and marriages,'' said Bishop Stanislaw Stefanek. ``We strongly object to it.''
The document, ``Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons,'' sets out a battle plan for politicians confronted with legislation legalizing same-sex unions and also rails against gay adoption, saying children raised by same-sex parents 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,'' it said.
The document says Catholic politicians must vote against laws granting recognition to homosexual unions. If the laws are already on the books, politicians must speak out against them, work to repeal them and try to limit their impact on society.
``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.
``To vote in favor of a law so harmful to the common good is gravely immoral,'' it added, although it didn't provide for specific penalties for Catholics who fail to oppose such laws.
It wasn't clear what impact, if any, the new document would have on Catholic lawmakers grappling with demands from gay groups for equality in issues such as inheritance rights and being allowed to make health care decisions for incapacitated partners.
Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, who is Catholic, has supported a proposed law that would conform to court rulings in defining marriage as a union between two people, rather than a man and a woman.
``As prime minister of Canada, he has the moral responsibility to protect the equality of Canadians,'' a spokesman, Thoren Hudyma, told the Globe and Mail newspaper in explaining that Chretien's duty was to the public, not his Church.
In June, an appeals court in Ontario ruled that Canada's definition of marriage as only between a man and a woman was unconstitutional, paving the way for legalized gay unions there.
The U.S. state of Vermont has a ``civil union'' law, giving same-sex couples the rights and responsibilities of traditional marriages, and the highest court in another state, Massachusetts, is weighing whether to legalize such unions.
In reaction, some Republican lawmakers in Washington are calling for a constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriages nationwide, despite recent polls showing that opposition to gay marriage had diminished in recent years.
On Wednesday, U.S. President George W. Bush weighed in on the issue, telling a press conference that marriage was defined strictly as a union between a man and a woman and that he wants to ``codify that one way or the other.'' Government lawyers are exploring measures to enshrine it into law, the White House said.
Over the past two years, the Netherlands and Belgium extended marriages rights to all couples, no matter the partners' gender. Germany, France, Sweden and Denmark also have ``civil union'' laws.
In the Netherlands and Belgium, the proposals were backed by conservative Christian Democrat parties, which stressed Thursday that they respected the Vatican's viewpoint but had decided that its teaching on the issue wasn't appropriate.
``It's the Vatican's good right to make statements like this, but here in the Netherlands, we have separation of church and state,'' said Kathleen Ferrier, a spokeswoman for the largest Dutch conservative party, the Christian Democrats.
In Belgium, where three-quarters of the population is Roman Catholic, the Flemish Christian Democrats who voted in favor of the law said the issue boiled down to supporting all kinds of families.
``For us, what's important is sustained relationships,'' said Luk Vanmaercke, a party spokesman. ``We do not want to exclude gay couples from sustained relationships. On the contrary, we want to encourage them to take that responsibility too.''
07/31/03 12:08 EDT
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remind me again (not really) why people like this, so close minded, have a say in this?