VATICAN CITY – Supporting legislation that gives legal rights to gay or heterosexual couples who are not married is a position that is not consistent with the Catholic faith, said members of the permanent council of the Italian bishops’ conference.
“The faithful Christian is obliged to form his conscience” in accordance with the teaching of the Catholic Church, the bishops said in a statement released March 28 as Italian politicians continued to debate legislative proposals recognizing unions formed by unmarried couples, including homosexuals.
The bishops’ statement quoted the 2002 statement of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on “The Participation of Catholics in Political Life.”
The Vatican document, signed by the future Pope Benedict XVI, said Catholic politicians “cannot appeal to the principle of pluralism or to the autonomy of lay involvement in political life to support policies affecting the common good which compromise or undermine fundamental ethical requirements.”
The Italian bishops said they understood the difficulties and tensions faced by Catholic politicians in today’s cultural context, “in which an authentically human vision of the person is contested in a radical way. But it is also for this reason that Catholics are called to be involved in politics.”
The bishops said they wanted Catholic politicians to reflect on the dignity and sanctity of the traditional family and on their own obligation to be coherent in professing and acting on the faith they claim to hold.
Catholic politicians, they said, must reflect on “the coherent choices to be made and on the future consequences of their decisions.”
The bishops’ statement did not say Catholic politicians voting in favor of the proposed legislation would be excommunicated or denied Communion.
“We feel it is our responsibility to enlighten the consciences of believers so they can find the best way to incarnate the Christian vision of the person and of society in their daily activities, both personal and social,” the bishops said.
The statement also said the bishops have “no political interests,” but rather are concerned about the good of Italian society and of the country’s citizens.
“Together with many other people, including nonbelievers, we are convinced of the value the family represents for the growth of individuals and the entire society,” they said.
Proposals to recognize the union of cohabiting couples, they said, are “unacceptable on the level of principle (and) dangerous on a social and educational level.”
The laws would rob matrimony of its unique status, they said.
“An even more serious problem would be represented by the legalization of unions of persons of the same sex because, in this way, it would deny sexual differences,” they said.
The bishops said the system of law was never meant to grant legal recognition to every type of lifestyle or ideology, but rather was designed “to guarantee public responses to social needs that go beyond the private dimension of one’s existence.”