Did a Vatican Official Backtrack from His Supportive LGBT Stance?


Archbishop Vincent Paglia
Archbishop Vincent Paglia

Earlier this week, we reported on positive comments about same-gender couples made by Archbishop Vincent Paglia, head of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Family, and noted that it seemed to be part of a trend among international bishops in making positive statements about the relationships of lesbian and gay people.

Since that time, a news account has emerged which claims that Paglia has backtracked from his original statement.  The National Catholic Reporter carried the Religion News Service story:

“A top Vatican official blamed the media for ‘derailing’ his recent remarks on possible legal protections for unmarried couples, while reaffirming his support for British and French bishops who have been vocal opponents of same-sex marriage.

“His remarks were widely repeated, with some interpreting it as a softening of the Vatican’s stance just as bishops in France and Britain are furiously opposing the legalization of same-sex marriage.

“In an interview Wednesday on Vatican Radio, Paglia said he had been ‘very surprised’ by the way his words had been reported by ‘some media.’

” ‘Not only were the words not understood … but in truth, and perhaps knowingly, they were, as it were, derailed,’ he said.

“For the archbishop, recognizing that ‘norms that protect individual rights’ can find their place in “existing (legal) systems” is “completely different” from approving same-sex marriage.

Though the archbishop may not be pleased with the way the story was reported,  I think it is incorrect to say that his second statement was “backtracking” from his first one.  He was very clear in the first statement that he did not support same-gender marriage.   Yet, what was news about that first statement was the positive comments about protecting lesbian and gay relationships.

It does not appear that he has backtracked from those positive statements at all.  And those statements were indeed a step forward.  No Vatican official had ever offered any words that could be construed as an alternative way to support lesbian and gay couples, as Paglia did.

In the second news story, DignityUSA Executive Director Marianne Duddy-Burke offered the real hope that sustains many pro-LGBT Catholics:

“. . . real hope on this front comes from the people, not the hierarchy,’ as Catholics ‘continue to grow increasingly supportive of civil recognition of same-sex couples’ relationships.’ “

Paglia’s affirmative comments, as well as those recently made by French bishops and British bishops, may indicate that the positive support of lay Catholics for LGBT people is, in fact, moving up the hierarchical ladder of the church.

Paglia’s comments may not have gone as far as many of us would have liked, but they certainly are a step in the right direction.  And it’s a good thing that he did not back away from that.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry






Vatican Continues to Respond to Marriage Equality Victories

On Saturday, Bondings 2.0 reported about a front-page article in the Vatican’s L’Osservatore Romano newspaper which continued the Holy See’s opposition to marriage equality in the United States and Europe.  It was significant that the article appeared only a few days after the U.S. witnessed four electoral victories for marriage equality.

The newspaper article is now joined by an editorial on Vatican Radio from Father Federico Lombardi, the main Vatican spokesperson. A Reuters article contained excerpts:

” ‘It is clear that in Western countries there is a widespread tendency to modify the classic vision of marriage between a man and woman, or rather to try to give it up, erasing its specific and privileged legal recognition compared to other forms of union,’ Father Federico Lombardi, said in a tough editorial on Vatican Radio. . . .

“Lombardi’s editorial on Vatican Radio, which is broadcast around the world in some 30 languages, called the votes myopic, saying ‘the logic of it cannot have a far-sighted outlook for the common good.’

“Lombardi, who is also the Vatican’s chief spokesman as well as director of Vatican Radio and Vatican Television, said there was ‘public acknowledgement’ that ‘monogamous marriage between a man and woman is an achievement of civilization.’

” ‘If not, why not contemplate also freely chosen polygamy and, of course, not to discriminate, polyandry?’ he said.”  [Polygamy refers to a man with multiple wives; polyandry refers to a woman with multiple husbands.]

According to a Vatican Radio news story about the editorial, Lombardi identified three recent stories which prompted the editorial:

“. . .in recent days there have been three worrying events concerning legislation on marriage. In Spain, the Constitutional Court has refused an appeal that challenged the existing law, which excludes all reference to the difference between a man and a woman and simply mentions spouse A and B; this remains then the situation. In France, the Government has presented a bill for the transformation of marriage, so as to include same-sex marriage. In the United States, some of the referendums held on the same day as the presidential elections in various States have, for the first time, delivered an outcome favourable to same-sex marriages.”

Obviously, there is a contradiction in Lombardi’s statements.  There can’t be “public acknowledgement” that heterosexual marriage is the desired norm if so many governments and voters are acknowledging that it is not.

Lombardi’s reference to polygamy and polyandry are inflammatory rhetoric which seems designed to incite fear rather than to argue the facts of the case.  None of the marriage equality initiatives in the U.S. or Europe–or anywhere, for that matter–have included any concession to polygamy or polyandry.  Why does that continue to be brought up as an argument?  It certainly should be below the integrity of such a high-ranking official to raise those specters.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry