.- The Permanent Council of the Italian Bishops Conference, led by new president Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco, has sent a firm message to members of the Italian Legislature – voting for the legalization of civil unions, which would pave the way for legalized homosexual “marriage,” is not compatible with the Catholic faith and is dangerous to society.
The Italian legislature is in the process of considering a proposal known as the Dico Bill which would provide legal recognition, equal to marriage, for any cohabiting couples, those couples which are homosexual.
“The legalization of civil unions,” the bishops said, is, “unacceptable on a principle level; it is dangerous on the social and educational level.”
The law would have dangerous effects on the family, the Italian prelates said, because it would deprive “the marriage pact of its uniqueness, which alone justifies the rights of spouses, which belong just to them.”
“An even more serious problem,” they continued, “would be the legalization of civil unions of people of the same sex, because, in this case, one would deny sexual difference, which is insuperable.”
The bishops note that their objections do not in any way, “compromise the acknowledgement of the dignity of every person.
“We confirm our respect and our pastoral concern to all,” the bishops write.
At the same time, they continue, “the law does not exist with the aim of giving juridical shape to any kind of life in common, or supplying ideological acknowledgments. On the other hand, the law’s objective is to guarantee public responses to social needs exceeding the private dimension of existence.”
“We are aware,” the bishops said, of the existence of “concrete situations in which juridical protections and guarantees may be useful for the person living together with someone. By principle, we are not against this kind of attention. However, we firmly believe that it is possible to pursue this objective within individual rights, without conceiving a new juridical figure which would be an alternative to marriage and the family, and would produce more damage than the one it intends to repair.”
According to ANSA the bill was created after long negations between was hammered out after long negotiations between Romano Prodi's centre-left allies. It was a supposed compromise between hard-line gay marriage campaigners on the left and more cautious centrists.
Catholic MPs have a "moral duty to express their disagreement clearly and publicly and to vote against any draft law that could give recognition to gay unions," the bishops also wrote, following a meeting.
The bishops also dismissed suggestions that they were interfering in national politics, saying it was their duty to speak out on "ethical principles which are fundamental for society's common good."
According to the most recent available figures from national statistics bureau Istat, the number of unmarried couples living together in Italy doubled between 1994 and 2003 from 227,000 to 555,000.
A survey published in the Corriere della Sera daily last month found that 49% of Italians opposed the DICO bill and 47% were in favor. Pollsters found that support for the bill would have been higher if the rights it contained had not been extended to gay couples as well as heterosexual ones.
About 40 associations, many of them Catholic ones, are organizing a 'Family Day' demonstration in Rome on May 12, ANSA reports. The groups are calling on the government to do more to support families and, although the Dico law is not mentioned in their manifesto, they oppose putting marriage on a par with "other forms of cohabitation."