Note of the Observatory

Our Observatory is keeping a very close eye and ear on the discussion about the legal recognition of homosexual civil unions in the wake of the recent diffusion of Pope Francis’ opinion in this regard. In this Note we wish to highlight the points ever embodied in the Social Doctrine of the Church, and which should be the benchmark for Catholics and all persons who love the truth.

The Magisterium of the Church has already addressed this issue extensively, denying the legal/moral legitimacy of the recognition of homosexual civil unions, and the lawfulness for Catholics to sustain their approval. This has been set forth in various documents, especially in the Considerations regarding projects for the legal recognition of unions between homosexual persons issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The motives set forth by the Magisterium are supernatural in nature and pertain to divine law, since, while expressing this datum as perceived, they also contain elements of the natural order insofar as just reason, unless weakened by its own pretensions of biased expedience, is able to understand that the legal recognition of  homosexual unions cannot come into force at all because it is contrary to the common good.

The exercise of homosexual practices is to be considered a grave disorder with respect to the natural and finalistic order. Such practices are the expression of a desire not supported by any finalistic duty and not finalized with respect to any moral good. Such conduct is negative in its own right, no matter what may be the intentions or circumstances. It is unjust, and opens the way to other forms of injustice: in the case of the adoption of minors, it deprives them of a parental figure; in the case of artificial insemination, it involves the production of human beings in a laboratory, the sacrifice of human embryos, the marketing of gametes, the contracting of procreation, the uterus-for-rent, or the artificial uterus in the future, etc.

The rights of homosexual couples do not exist, since authentic rights always stem from the duties to which they owe their own legitimization. The difference between a right and a duty is that the former is an able-to-do and an able-to-have, while the latter is a being-available. De facto, the origin of a claim or a pretense of a right may also be an unsubstantiated desire, while a duty has an objective origin in the finalistic nature of all things.  Rights as claims create an individualistic and relativist society, while the ‘finalistic duty’ generates a society based on the natural vocation of persons, families and intermediary bodies.

The two individuals in a homosexual relationship are not complementary to one another, but additions to one another. Any relations of care and solidarity they may have are only apparently such, since they are the consequence of an unnatural and essentially unjust relationship. By just being one person added to another person without fully realizing this, and only having their respective ungrounded desires encounter one another, they do not express sociality.  Moreover, being naturally sterile they don’t even found a society insofar as not being able to promote and develop it by procreating new life.

The common good is what renders political authority legitimate. Therefore, said authority cannot legally recognize all the relations that citizens may forge among themselves, but only those revealing themselves to be in conformity with natural law. Male and female corporeality is anthropological as well as physical, and illustrates the plan for ‘man’ articulated in two complementary poles: male and female. Male and female corporeality therefore projects an ought-to-be, indicating how persons are to live in accord with human nature.  Politics and laws cannot disregard this fundamental anthropological datum and bestow community-wide dignity and value upon its negation. When political authority does this, it becomes self-contradictory, goes bad, and is debased to something other than itself. The recognition of a right that is a wrongdoing and not a right downgrades the right to wrongdoing and authority to power. Power differs from authority because it is a pure-doing based on the use of force alone and bereft of moral legitimacy.

The legal recognition of the civil union between homosexual persons is not admissible even if the law in question clearly indicates that it does not establish any equivalence with the family founded on the matrimony between a man and a woman. In fact, the homosexual relationship is unjust in its own right. The line of action “civil unions, yes, as long as they don’t want matrimony” is mistaken. Not only for factual reasons: history teaches us that once the civil union is recognized, its supporters will engage in the battle for matrimony as well, and it is illusory to think just the opposite. It is also mistaken de iure, because the homosexual union is wrong in its own right. In itself it is a form of violence and later gives rise to other forms of violence.

The idea of accepting the recognition of homosexual civil unions in order to prevent radicalization in homosexual matrimony once again updates the ever losing and morally unsustainable strategy of “the lesser evil”. It is not licit to do evil in order to achieve good, and all the more so is it illicit to accept a lesser evil in order to avoid a greater evil. In addition to not being morally licit, such a strategy is also shortsighted from a political viewpoint.

Civil unions cannot be legally recognized even if they are between a man and a woman. These are the so-called cohabitations or common law unions. In this case, the two persons living together do not accept matrimony which, on the other hand, is fundamental in order to create a family worthy of this name, and the true cell of society. There is no true family if not in matrimony. By virtue of matrimony the married couple publically acknowledges their being together is not driven by  individualistic interests, but by vocation. Their intention is not just to be side by side, but mutually and inseparably to become one, remaining open to life. Only in this way are the two characteristics of sociality and society present in a couple.

Our Observatory deems it has expressed neither personal nor partisan opinions in this Note, but rather the fundamental features of the teaching of the Church and the conclusions of just reason.

Stefano Fontana

Director of the Observatory

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Stefano Fontana
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Direttore dell'Osservatorio Card. Van Thuận