Cardinal Carlo Caffarra of Bologna has issued a doctrinal note in an attempt to cut through the confusion sown through the mass media about marriage and same-sex unions.
Written on Feb. 16, the Feast of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, patron saints of Europe, the cardinal warned that public officials who openly support awarding same-sex couples the same rights as married ones cannot consider themselves to be Catholic. He also stated that it is impossible for anyone to consider themselves Catholic if they recognize same-sex “marriage” as a right.
Cardinal Caffarra stressed that allowing such a legal right would be “devastating” for society.
The note was aimed at helping enlighten Catholics in public office so that their choices would not publicly contradict their affiliation with the Church. It was also directed at the young, to encourage them think beyond what they hear in the mass media and elsewhere.
Cardinal Caffarra is a member of the Pontifical Council for the Family, the Pontifical Academy for Life and the Apostolic Signatura. Following is the cardinal’s document.
‘Marriage and Homosexual Unions’ Doctrinal Note
This note is addressed primarily to the faithful so that they will not be troubled by media-generated confusion. But I dare to hope that it will also be taken into account by non-believers who intend without any prejudice to make use of their own reason.
1. Marriage is one of mankind’s most valuable benefits. It offers the human person one of the basic forms of self-realization. Every legal system has given it special treatment, considering it to be eminently in the public interest.
In the West, the institution of marriage is perhaps going through its most serious crisis ever. I am not saying this because of the increasing number of divorces and separations; I am not saying it because of the fragility that seems to be increasingly weakening the bond of marriage from within; I am not saying it because of increasing cohabitation. In other words, I am not saying this from observing what people are doing.
The crisis concerns the judgment regarding the benefit of marriage. Marriage is in crisis because our understanding of it is in crisis, in the sense that it is no longer esteemed as its precious value merits. We no longer clearly perceive its incomparable ethical uniqueness.
The most obvious though not the only sign of this “intellectual downgrading” is the fact that some states have granted or are seeking to grant legal recognition to homosexual unions, making them equivalent to the legitimate union between a man and a woman, including permitting them to adopt children.
Regardless of the number of couples who would choose to make use of this recognition — even if it were only one! — making them equivalent to married couples would gravely harm the common good.
This note is intended to help perceive this damage. It also aims to enlighten believing Catholics who have public responsibilities of any kind, so that they not make choices that would publicly contradict their membership in the Church.
2. Equating homosexual unions in any form or degree to marriage would objectively mean declaring the state’s neutrality regarding two ways of living out sexuality that are not, in reality, equally relevant to the common good.
While the legitimate union between a man and a woman ensures the benefit — not just the biological benefit! — of procreation and the survival of the human species, homosexual unions have no intrinsic capacity to generate new lives. The possibilities offered today by artificial procreation, besides not being exempt from serious violations of human dignity, do not substantially alter the inadequacy of homosexual couples in bringing about life.
Furthermore, it has been shown that the absence of exposure to both sexes can create serious obstacles to the development of a child who could be adopted by homosexual couples. This would fit the profile of violence committed against the smallest and weakest, forced to grow up in an environment not suitable for harmonious development.
These simple considerations demonstrate that, in its legal system, the state must not be neutral regarding marriage and homosexual unions, since it cannot be neutral regarding the common good: Society owes its survival not to homosexual unions, but to the family based on marriage.
3. I submit another consideration to those who wish to calmly consider this problem.
Equating the two would have consequences I’m not afraid to call devastating, at first in the legal system and then in the ethos of our people. If homosexual unions were treated as equivalent to marriage, marriage would be downgraded to simply one of the possible ways to become spouses, signaling that the state is indifferent to whether one makes one choice rather than the other.
In other words, equating the two would objectively mean that the connection of sexuality to procreation and the raising of children is a fact of no interest to the state since it has no relevance to the common good. And with that, one of the pillars of our legal system would collapse: marriage as a public benefit — a pillar not only already recognized by our Constitution, but also by previous legal enactments, including the fiercely anticlerical ones of the state of Savoy.
4. I would like to now consider now some reasons given in support of equating the two.
The first and most common one is that the primary task of the state is to remove any discrimination in society, and positively to enlarge the sphere of individual rights as much as possible.
But discrimination consists of treating unequally those who are in the same condition, as Thomas Aquinas says clearly, following the great tradition of Greek ethics and Roman jurisprudence: “The equality characteristic of distributive justice consists in conferring different benefits on various individuals in accordance with their individual qualifications. So, if the one conferring a benefit uses as a criterion a qualification of the individual, such that what is conferred is deserved, that is not discrimination but entitlement.” (Summa Theologiae, II-II, q. 63, a. 1).
Not to attribute the legal status of marriage to living arrangements that are not and cannot be marital is not discrimination but simply recognizing things for what they are. Justice is the supremacy of truth in interpersonal relationships.
Some people contend that by not equating the two forms, the state is simply imposing one ethical viewpoint in preference to another.
The state’s obligation not to equate the two is not based on a negative ethical judgment on homosexual behavior: The state is incompetent in this regard. The obligation arises, rather, from the consideration of the fact that, in relation to the common good, the promotion of which is the primary task of the state, marriage has a relevance that is different than homosexual unions. Married couples ensure the succession of the generations and are therefore eminently in the public interest. Civil law must therefore afford them the institutional recognition suited to their task. Since they do not carry out such a role for the common good, homosexual couples do not require equal recognition.
Obviously — and this is not in question — same-sex partners can always appeal, like any citizen, to common law to protect rights or interests deriving from their cohabitation.
I am not taking other difficulties into account, because they are not worth it: They are clichés rather than rational arguments. For example, the accusation of homophobia against those who hold that equivalence is unjust; the obsolete appeal in this context to the secular nature of the state; the elevation of any loving relationship to sufficient grounds for obtaining civil recognition.
5. I now address the believer who has public responsibilities of any kind.
In addition to the obligation of everyone to promote and defend the common good, the believer also has the grave duty of full coherence between what he believes and what he thinks and puts forward regarding the common good. It is impossible to have cohabiting in one’s conscience both the Catholic faith and support for the equivalence between homosexual unions and marriage — the two contradict each other.
Obviously, the most serious responsibility is of those who propose to introduce into our legal system that equivalency, or vote in Parliament in favor of such a law. Such an act is publicly and gravely immoral.
But there is also the responsibility of those who implement, in its various forms, such a law. Should the need arise, quod Deus avertat (God forbid), we will at the appropriate time give the necessary directives.
It is impossible for anyone to consider themselves Catholic if in one way or another they recognize the right to marriage between persons of the same sex.
I would like to conclude by addressing the young above all. Have esteem for conjugal love; allow its pure splendor to be revealed to your conscience. Be free in your thinking and do not allow the yoke of pseudo-truth created by media-generated confusion impose itself on you. The truth and the preciousness of your masculinity and femininity is not defined and measured by consensus-based procedures and political struggles.
Bologna, Feb. 14, 2010
Feast of Sts. Cyril and Methodius
Patrons of Europe
Edward Pentin writes from Rome.