Vatican Lambasted for Oppostion to Decriminalization of Homosexuality

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday December 2, 2008

The Vatican has come out against a proposal that the UN pass a resolution that encourages the governments of the world to decriminalize same-sex intimate contact between consenting adults.

A Dec. 2 story at reported that GLBT equality groups, along with European newspapers, spoke out in condemnation of the Vatican's opposition to decriminalizing gays worldwide.

The Reuters article recounted that the Vatican's UN representative had indicated to a France-based Catholic media outlet that the Vatican would be against the proposal, which France--representing the entire European Union of 27 member nations--is expected to make before the end of the year.

According to Archbishop Celestino Migliore, who serves as the Vatican's permanent observer at the UN, the resolution encouraging decriminalization of consensual intimacy between adults of the same gender could "add new categories of those protected from discrimination," Reuters reported.

Moreover, the article said that the Archbishop viewed the resolution as a threat to so-called "traditional" marriage.

Said Archbishop Migliore, "If adopted, they would create new and implacable discriminations [against mixed-gender marriage].

"For example, states which do not recognize same-sex unions as 'matrimony' will be pilloried and made an object of pressure."

The Italian newspaper La Stampa called that argument "grotesque," Reuters reported; the editorial went on to say that the Vatican was not concerned that "traditional" marriages would suffer, but that marriage equality would spread in a "chain reaction in favor of legally recognized homosexual unions in countries, like Italy, where there is currently no legislation."

The editorial suggested that the resolution was needed in Islamic countries where Sharia law, based on the Q'ran, holds sway.

In some such countries, sexual contact between adults of the same gender is punishable by long prison sentences, or even death.

The article noted that in 85 nations, homosexuality is considered to be a criminal offense; the death penalty can be inflicted upon those convicted in Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Iran, Yemen, and Sudan.

In another newspaper, La Repubblica, an editorial declared that the Vatican's opposition "leaves one dumbstruck."

A political leader from Italy's Democratic Party also denounced the Vatican's position. Politician Margherita Boniver deemed the Vatican's stance to be "alarmingly anachronistic."

The founder of Italian GLBT equality organization Arcigay, Franco Grillini, denounced the argument against the resolution as "total idiocy and madness."

Said Grillini, "The French resolution, which is supported by all 27 members of the European Union, has nothing to do with gay marriage," Reuters reported.

Added Grillini, "It is about stopping jail and the death penalty for homosexuals."

Referring to a 1994 alliance between the Vatican, Latin American nations, and Islamic countries to block reproductive freedoms, Grillini said that he was concerned that Islamic nations and the Vatican would band together in what he called a "Holy alliance," the Reuters article said.

The French government also responded, with Eric Chevallier, the spokesman for the foreign ministry, saying, that the resolution "is an initiative that is based on existing texts.

"The idea is not to create new rights," added Chevallier, but rather "to make decriminalization possible."

The Reuters article recalled that although the official position of the Catholic church is that homosexuality in itself is not sinful, the church believes that gays and lesbians are "called" by God to lead celibate lives without families.

Even so, on occasion church officials have uttered what some take to be anti-gay sentiments, such as happened last fall when one official, Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, referred to homosexuality as "a deviation, an irregularity, and a wound."

Cardinal Grocholewski made that statement, and also suggested that homosexuality could be "treated" with psychological counseling, at a Vatican press conference that had been convened to announce new guidelines for assessing candidates for the priesthood.

The guidelines called for candidates to be screened for certain "psychic disturbances" such as aggression and "deep-seated homosexual tendencies," which the guidelines dismissed as a matter of a "sexuality identity that is confused or not yet well-defined."

A spokesperson for the Vatican, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, responded to criticisms, saying that "no one wants the death penalty or jail or fines for homosexuals," but went on the note that "fewer than 50 member states of the United Nations have adhered to the proposal in question while more than 150 have not adhered."

Added Lombardi, "The Holy See is not alone."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.