Catholic Church Leaders in India Welcome Government Opposition to Same-Sex Civil Marriage

Responding to petitions filed by homosexual activists with India’s Supreme Court, the federal government told the court ‘the legal recognition of marriage is for heterosexual relationships’ only.

A Catholic wedding, presided over by Archbishop Andrews Thazhath of Thrissur in Kerala, presently president of Catholic Bishops Conference of India during January 2021.
A Catholic wedding, presided over by Archbishop Andrews Thazhath of Thrissur in Kerala, presently president of Catholic Bishops Conference of India during January 2021. (photo: Anto Akkara / National Catholic Register)

INDORE, India — The Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI), often at loggerheads with social policy decisions of the ruling Hindu nationalist BJP government, has lauded the government for categorically opposing the demand for the legalization of same-sex civil marriage in the federal Supreme Court.

The Indian government declared its opposition to the redefinition of marriage in a March 12 filing to the Supreme Court on Sunday. Reuters reported the government directed the court to reject challenges to the current legal framework expressed by same-sex couples. According to Reuters, which saw the filing, “The Ministry of Law believes that while there may be various forms of relationships in society, the legal recognition of marriage is for heterosexual relationships and the state has a legitimate interest in maintaining this.”

The Court has set up a five-member constitution bench during a hearing on March 13 to discuss the government's strong objection. The matter will be discussed on April 18 in another hearing that will be televised in India.

“What the Indian government has said to the Supreme Court is in full accord with the Christian teaching on marriage relationship,” Father John Karuvelil, moral theology professor at Jnana Deepa Vidyapeeth at Puna, India’s leading theological college, told the Register March 23.

Father Karuvelli pointed out, “The aim of human sexuality is not merely personal satisfaction, but human completion which is possible only in their duality and complementarity. A preoccupation with personal satisfaction is often the result of an inversion of the person in selfishness and self-centeredness.” 

“Only heterosexual relationships can protect the institution and sanctity of marriage, the goods of marriage and the flourishing of family life for the good of society at large," he emphasized.

The federal government’s negative response to the push for legal recognition of same-sex marriages was conveyed in newspaper headlines published across the country, ahead of the Supreme Court’s March 13 hearing .

“Any change in human relationship should come from legislature, not court, [the national government] says in its affidavit in response to a Supreme Court decision to examine petitions on same-sex marriage,” The Hindu national daily newspaper said, summarizing the gist of the government stance on the internationally sensitive issue. 

“The institution of marriage has a sanctity attached to it and in major parts of the country, it is regarded as a sacrament, a holy union, and a sanskar (culture). In our country, despite statutory recognition of the relationship of marriage between a biological man and a biological woman, marriage necessarily depends upon age-old customs, rituals, practices, cultural ethos and societal values,” reported The Hindu, quoting from the 46-page government affidavit filed before India’s highest court. 

The government also reminded the court, according to another report in The Hindu, that while it had decriminalized sexual intercourse between same-sex persons in 2018, it had not legitimized same-sex marriage. 


Archbishop Machado

“We are happy that the government has sensed the mood of the people and taken an unequivocal stand on the demand for legalizing sex marriage. This endorses the Church stand,” Archbishop Felix Antony Machado of Vasai, the general secretary for India’s bishops’ conference, told the Register. 

“The demand for same-sex marriage is an imported issue in this country. The demand was unheard here 15 years ago,” pointed out Archbishop Machado, who lived for more than 35 years in the U.S. and Europe, including a term at the Vatican as secretary of the Dicastery for Ecumenism and Dialogue.  

“The Church looks at people with non-heterogeneous sexual attitude with compassion and extends pastoral support to them,” Archbishop Machado said. “But the Church will never approve same-sex marriage, which is between man and woman.” 

On March 14, Kiren Rijiju, India’s law minister, defended the government’s opposition to same-sex marriages, telling The Hindustan Times, it is “grounded in the Indian tradition and ethos.” 

“A person of any sex can choose to live a particular life. But when you talk about marriage, it is an institution ... guided by different provisions and laws,” Rijju told the Times

“I am very happy with the clear stand the government has taken on this sensitive issue,” Estelle D’Souza, secretary of the Commission for the Differently Abled of the Archdiocese of Bangalore, told the Register. 

“Marriage is a sacrament between a man and woman and it would be difficult … to accept them (same-sex partners) as husband and wife, because Indian society is not ready for this,” D’Souza added.


International Pressure?

Regarding the upcoming April 18 hearing, Sunny Kattukaran, a pro-life activist from the V4Life Indian lay pro-life group that campaigns vigorously in the country, told the Register, “We feel the Supreme Court is trying to be in the good books of the international gay lobby. That is why the court is giving much prominence to the case and set up a five-member Constitution bench — the decision of which will be difficult and hard for the government to ignore.” 

Catholic psychiatrist Antonio Carvalho told the Register that the “court cannot and should redefine creation and humanity. The court should only put in place some protection for the affected people so that they will not be ostracized and persecuted but guided to a sensible path.”

“The government is opposing same-sex marriage on cultural grounds and also on other points government on this because every person will be affected,” Carvalho said. “It is not only a moral or religious question but it [would] destroy the very foundation of our social life and our nation.”