Are Catholic bishops in France encouraging same-sex relationships?
Last month, a blog hosted by the Boston Globe reported on a document released by the French bishops’ conference that used vague language in articulating the church’s views on the proposed civil marriage equality movement, including a statement from the director of the LGBT-friendly Catholic group, New Ways Ministry:
… 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.
Today, The Jesuit Post reported on the same document, with a young Jesuit writing that he is:
encouraged to see a document that takes the desire of homosexual persons to love and to be loved seriously. Surely much good can come from acknowledging that homosexual people might not be aiming to destroy marriage, but instead yearning honestly and openly to find a path to live full, loving, and relational human lives.
There appears to be no English translation of the document, but the Jesuit Post offers these two snippets:
The diversity of homosexual practices should not prevent us from taking seriously the aspirations of those who wish to engage in a stable relationship.
While affirming the importance of sexual difference and of the fact that homosexual partners differ from heterosexual couples being unable to procreate naturally, we can respect the desire for a commitment to fidelity of affection, of a sincere attachment, of concern for others and solidarity that goes beyond the reduction of the homosexual relationship to a simple erotic engagement.
Earlier this week, RNS reported about a possible sign of support for same-sex civil unions from the Vatican, in which an official there
suggested that nations could find “private law solutions” to help individuals who live in non-matrimonial relations, “to prevent injustice and make their life easier.”
Even if the Catholic Church is beginning to recognize that gay couples do exist, and if it begins supporting same-sex civil unions, a shift I find improbable given the extreme rhetoric on the subject from bishops, especially in the US, and Pope Benedict himself, will it be too little, too late?
Vermont introduced same-sex civil unions in 1999, certainly a bold move at the time. Five years later, its neighbor to the south, Massachusetts, legalized same-sex marriage, and the marriage equality movement then surged. France and the UK seem poised to pass legislation for full marriage rights soon.
What does this mean for marriage equality opponents, including Catholic, Evangelical, Mormon, and some mainline-Protestant churches? It shows that the public has moved past them on this issue. Offering belated support for same-sex civil unions might be good PR, but it won’t mean much to those who were on the leading edge during this civil-rights battle. In fact, it might just remind some people how far behind the churches are on the issue.