Civil unions in Italy should not be equated to marriage, says Cardinal Ruini

.- Cardinal Camillo Ruini conceded Monday that de facto unions are on the rise in Italy, but he does not believe most couples in these unions want legal recognition. Heterosexual couples are either looking to marry or to “remain in a situation of anonymity, without any bonds,” he said according to The Associated Press. The cardinal was responding to the debate sparked in Italy on civil unions last week, when Romano Prodi, the center-left leader expected to run against Premier Silvio Berlusconi next year, had proposed giving legal status to unmarried couples.

Cardinal Ruini, president of the Italian Bishops' Conference, told a meeting of Italian bishops Monday that common-law status might be applied to offer some legal protection to unmarried heterosexual couples, but it should stop short of envisioning "something similar to a marriage."

According to the AP, the cardinal said proposals to give legal recognition to de facto couples “are largely modeled on the institution of marriage, and envisage what might be called a ‘small marriage’ — something of which there is no real need and which would produce, on the contrary, an eclipsing of the nature and value of a family and a very grave harm to the Italian people.”

The Pope’s vicar for Rome also defended traditional marriage and its "great social role" in raising children.

The cardinal added that homosexual and lesbian couples “are not always looking for legal recognition. On the contrary, many run away from it on principle and want to remain an exclusively private matter,” he was quoted as saying.

Church law already recognizes the "civil effects" of non-marital unions in providing child care, but distinguishes between civil unions and "the religious character and validity" of sacramental marriage, Msgr. Ronny Jenkins told the AP. Msgr. Jenkins teaches canon law at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

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