Are French bishops of the Roman Catholic Church for or against same-sex marriage laws that are being considered in France? Without answering a definitive 'oui' or 'non,' they recently released a document entitled "Expand Marriage to Persons of the Same Sex? Let's Open the Debate!" which keeps the question open.
The Conference of the Bishops of France (CEF) is making a mistake in endorsing an improved "Pact of Civil Solidarity" for homosexuals as an alternative to instituting homosexual 'marriage', in contradiction to Catholic teaching, warns the French pro-family association Avenir de la Future (Future of the Culture).[*]
The organization of faithful Catholics are reacting to a document published recently by the Bishops' Conference's Family and Society Committee, which implies homosexual relationships could be given a strengthened legal recognition, while not going so far as to equate such unions with marriage.
While the Vatican teaches that "all Catholics are obliged to oppose the legal recognition of homosexual unions," the French Bishops' document states that "the Catholic Church calls the faithful to live a [homosexual] relationship in chastity, but it recognizes, beyond its sexual aspect, the value of solidarity, of attention and of concern for the other that can arise in a durable affective relationship. The Church intends to be welcoming regarding homosexual persons and will continue to make its contribution to the struggle against every form of homophobia and discrimination."
Based on my reading, these are the features of the document that make it really worth careful attention:
• the simple fact of a call for constructive dialogue – together with a genuine attempt to begin it.
• a firm rejection of homophobia in any form, and insistence on respect for all
• a call to listen attentively to the concerns and needs of homosexual people themselves
• thoughtful attention to the findings of science, leading to -
• the recognition of the value of loving and committed same – sex partnerships.
• an acknowledgement of the value of the symbolism in marriage, and the weaknesses of civil union legislation.
• a proposal to strengthen the existing civil unions legislation, to improve the symbolic value, and repair its weaknesses.
… this document contained several unusually positive reflections about respect for gay and lesbian relationships, and the need to have civil and open discussion on the matter of marriage. No U.S. bishops’ document even comes close to the content and tone of this document which was issued by the Family and Society Council of the French bishops’ conference.
But as positive as the statement might be, DeBernardo warns, it is not a full endorsement of same-sex unions. He writes:
To make sure that we are not giving the wrong impression, let me be clear that the document does not in any way support the legalization of marriage equality. Still, the strong call for respecting gay and lesbian relationships is a giant step forward in hierarchical discourse, and it should be celebrated.
The Bondings 2.0 blog has published excerpts translated by one of its readers, which can be accessed here.
The full, official document in French, can be accessed here.
*Note: the Pact of Civil Solidarity is French law passed in 1999 that is designed to help recognize same-sex unions
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