Swiss Bishops: Same-Sex Marriage Proposal ‘Fraught with Difficulties’

Switzerland has recognized civil unions for same-sex couples since 2007, following a 2005 referendum.

Close-up of a man putting a ring on another man's finger.
Close-up of a man putting a ring on another man's finger. (photo: Syda Productions / Shutterstock)

BERN, Switzerland — The Catholic bishops of Switzerland are voicing opposition to a legal measure that would legalize same-sex marriage in the country, calling the proposal “fraught with numerous administrative, legal and ethical difficulties.”

The Swiss senate on Dec. 1 passed a bill entitled “Marriage for All,” which had been debated in the Swiss parliament since its introduction by the Green Liberal Party of Switzerland in 2013. It would legalize same-sex marriage and pave the way for allowing same-sex couples to avail themselves of sperm donation, facilitated citizenship for partners, and co-adoption rights.

Switzerland has recognized civil unions for same-sex couples since 2007, following a 2005 referendum.

While affirming the importance of “equality in terms of civil rights and social benefits” for self-described LGBT people, the bishops noted that differentiation between civil unions and the institution of marriage does not amount to discrimination.

“[T]he Catholic Church is primarily entrusted with the sacrament of marriage. She celebrates before God the union of man and woman as a common, stable and reproductive life laid out in love,” the Swiss Bishops’ Conference said in a Dec. 4 statement.

“This is why [we are] convinced, also with regard to civil marriage, that the use of the term ‘marriage’ should not be extended to any connection between two people regardless of their gender. Such a use of the term would bring about an equality that, in [our] opinion, cannot exist.”

The “Marriage for All” bill will continue to be debated throughout the winter parliamentary session.

Among the reasons the bishops gave for opposing the measure is that same-sex couples would need to resort to reproductive medicine techniques such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) and surrogacy in order to have children, which are morally illicit.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2008 issued an instruction that laid out guidelines for treatment assisting with infertility, writing that medical techniques regarding fertility must respect the right to life and to physical integrity of every human being from conception to natural death, the unity of marriage, and the requirement that “the procreation of a human person be brought about as the fruit of the conjugal act specific to the love between spouses.’”

The CDF also noted that even in modern IVF treatments, the number of embryos sacrificed in order to achieve pregnancy remains high, and embryos with defects may be discarded altogether. Moreover, IVF disassociates procreation from the personal marital act of a husband and wife, which in itself is ethically unacceptable.

“The ethical implications of reproductive medicine and the rights of the child are profound,” the Swiss bishops noted.

“Not addressing these effects in order to facilitate equality today without distinguishing between heterosexual and homosexual couples could tomorrow lead to an already accepted principle being accepted unconditionally.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that those who identify as LGBT “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God‘s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.”

The Catechism elaborates that homosexual inclinations are “objectively disordered,” homosexual acts are “contrary to the natural law,” and those who identify as lesbian and gay, like all people, are called to the virtue of chastity.

In a 2003 document approved by St. John Paul II and written by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith taught that “respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behaviour or to legal recognition of homosexual unions.”

Even if civil unions might be chosen by people other than same-sex couples, like siblings or committed friends, the CDF said that homosexual relationships would be “foreseen and approved by the law,” and that civil unions “would obscure certain basic moral values and cause a devaluation of the institution of marriage.”

“Legal recognition of homosexual unions or placing them on the same level as marriage would mean not only the approval of deviant behaviour, with the consequence of making it a model in present-day society, but would also obscure basic values which belong to the common inheritance of humanity,” the document concluded.

Pope Benedict XVI in 2005 said that acceptance of various alternatives to marriage devalue the institution of marriage.