As we wait here in the United States for our Supreme Court to weigh in on two marriage equality cases this week, news from across the Atlantic about Catholic support gay and lesbian couples is positive.
A Belgian archbishop and cardinal have both joined the growing list of senior Catholic Church officials who are now supporting civil unions for same-gender committed couples. London’s Tablet magazine reported this month:
“Two of the most senior Belgian clerics have voiced support for civil unions, but said the Church would not see such a partnership as a marriage, which they said was only between a man and a woman.
“Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard, Archbishop of Brussels, made his comments through his spokesman in response to an interview by the Belgian newspaper De Tijd with his successor, Cardinal Godfried Danneels.
“In an interview to mark his 80th birthday, the cardinal told the paper it was good that states were making reforms to normalise same-sex relationships, saying it showed ‘more nuanced thinking about the person in their totality rather than being fixated on the moral principle.’ He said the recognition of gay relationships was a legal matter and not one for the Church to comment on, even though they could not constitute real marriage.
Danneels said the Church had evolved in its understanding of homosexuals.
What is significant here is not just their support, but, more importantly, Cardinal Daneels’ reasoning behind his support. The fact that he wants a more nuanced approach to gay and lesbian relationships, and that he sees this as an issue affecting the entire person, not just sexual activity, are major steps forward for the way a Catholic leader has described this matter.
QueeringTheChurch.com’s Terence Weldon, intrepid gay Catholic blogger in the United Kingdom, cites additional information about Cardinal Daneels’ support, gleaned from an Italian news source,Chiesa Expressso. Their account points out that Daneels’ statement is a significant departure from a 2003 Vatican statement from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) which repudiated any support for marriage or civil unions for lesbian and gay people:
“Ten years have passed since the publication of that document by the Ratzingerian CDF under the pontificate of Karol Wojtyla. But the contents of the ‘considerations’ cited above seem by now to belong to another ecclesial era.
“One faithful mirror of this new course are the declarations released to the press by Cardinal Godfried Danneels, archbishop emeritus of Mechelen-Brussels, on the eve of his eightieth birthday on June 4.
“The Belgian cardinal – who without hypocrisy did not conceal his disappointment at the election of Benedict XVI at the conclave of 2005, and this year was one of the main electors of Pope Francis – stated that the Church ‘has never opposed the fact that there should exist a sort of “marriage” between homosexuals, but one therefore speaks of a “sort of’ marriage, not of true marriage between a man and a woman, therefore another word must be found for the dictionary.” ‘
“And he concluded:
” ‘About the fact that this should be legal, that it should be made legitimate through a law, about this the Church has nothing to say.’
“The Belgian newspaper ‘Le Soir,’ in reporting the words of Danneels, added that ‘the position of the cardinal is shared by Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard,” his successor as archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels. The newspaper does not provide the evidence for this agreement, which in fact has been denied by Léonard’s spokesman. But there is no doubt that Danneels has effectively said, with the frankness that distinguishes him, what other cardinals and prelates have said in recent months.”
Additional quotations from Cardinal Daneels on the issue of civil unions can be found at the Gay Mystics blog.
Weldon has a very comprehensive list of all of the recent support for civil unions by senior church leaders, which can be found here.
As we have stated before, this recent development shows that Catholic leaders are in fact, if slowly, responding to the growing support that the Catholic laity are exhibiting for supporting committed gay and lesbian relationships. May this development continue, and may the leaders continue to follow!
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry