Vatican goes on offensive over gay marriage

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The Independent Online

The Vatican declared a worldwide, political offensive against the legalisation of gay marriage yesterday, instructing Roman Catholics to resist any attempt to give social standing to "deviant" and "unnatural" couples.

The Vatican declared a worldwide, political offensive against the legalisation of gay marriage yesterday, instructing Roman Catholics to resist any attempt to give social standing to "deviant" and "unnatural" couples.

All Catholics, and especially Catholic politicians, had a "moral duty" to try to block or repeal laws that "remotely" recognised gay marriages, the Vatican said.

A 12-page battle plan issued by its moral watchdog, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, listed ways in which Catholics and any other opponents of gay marriage should fight legal change. Voting for such laws was itself "gravely immoral", the watchdog warned.

The document, signed by the Pope's chief theological adviser, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, said: "There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God's plan for marriage and family.

"Marriage exists solely between a man and a woman. Marriage is holy, while homosexual acts go against the natural, moral law. Legal recognition of homosexual unions or placing them on the same level as marriage would mean not only the approval of deviant behaviour ... but would also obscure basic values that belong to the common inheritance of humanity."

Liberal politicians and gay rights groups attacked the document as part of a "homophobic crusade" and an example of "close-minded fanaticism". Legislation to recognise gay unions has been passed in the Netherlands, Belgium and two provinces in Canada. Other countries, including Germany, Sweden, Denmark and the mostly Catholic France and Argentina, allow homosexuals to register partnerships and obtain legal and tax advantages given to married couples. A similar law has been passed in the US state of Vermont. Pope John Paul II is said to be deeply worried that this trend will spread to other European Union countries, including Italy.

The issue is also deeply contentious in the US, where some conservative members of the House of Representatives are pushing for a constitutional change to ban gay marriages. President George Bush has appeared to call for a law limiting the idea of marriage to heterosexuals. Mr Bush, a devout Methodist, said: "I believe in the sanctity of marriage. I believe a marriage is between a man and a woman, and I think we ought to codify that one way or the other."

The Vatican document, Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons, says that Catholic politicians have a duty to oppose laws that support gay couples.

"To vote in favour of a law so harmful to the common good is gravely immoral," the document says. The statement objects to gay couples adopting children. "Allowing children to be adopted by persons living in such unions would actually mean doing violence to these children, in the sense that their condition of dependency would be used to place them in an environment that is not conducive to their full human development."

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