This was released by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2003. Will I be investigated one day for either posting this or teaching this:
Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons
1. In recent years, various questions relating to
homosexuality have been addressed with some frequency by Pope John Paul
II and by the relevant Dicasteries of the Holy See.
Homosexuality is a troubling moral and social phenomenon, even in those
countries where it does not present significant legal issues. It gives
rise to greater concern in those countries that have granted or intend
to grant – legal recognition to homosexual unions, which may include the
possibility of adopting children. The present Considerations do not contain new doctrinal elements
they seek rather to reiterate the essential points on this question and
provide arguments drawn from reason which could be used by Bishops in
preparing more specific interventions, appropriate to the different
situations throughout the world, aimed at protecting and promoting the
dignity of marriage, the foundation of the family, and the stability of
society, of which this institution is a constitutive element. The
present Considerations are also intended to give direction to
Catholic politicians by indicating the approaches to proposed
legislation in this area which would be consistent with Christian
Since this question relates to the natural moral law, the arguments
that follow are addressed not only to those who believe in Christ, but
to all persons committed to promoting and defending the common good of
I. THE NATURE OF MARRIAGE
AND ITS INALIENABLE CHARACTERISTICS
2. The Church’s teaching on marriage and on the
complementarity of the sexes reiterates a truth that is evident to right
reason and recognized as such by all the major cultures of the world.
Marriage is not just any relationship between human beings. It was
established by the Creator with its own nature, essential properties and
) No ideology can erase from the human spirit the certainty that marriage exists solely between a man and a woman
who by mutual personal gift, proper and exclusive to themselves, tend
toward the communion of their persons. In this way, they mutually
perfect each other, in order to cooperate with God in the procreation
and upbringing of new human lives.
3. The natural truth about marriage was confirmed by the
Revelation contained in the biblical accounts of creation, an
expression also of the original human wisdom, in which the voice of
nature itself is heard. There are three fundamental elements of the
Creator’s plan for marriage, as narrated in the Book of Genesis.
In the first place, man, the image of God, was created “male and female” (Gen 1:27).
Men and women are equal as persons and complementary as male and
female. Sexuality is something that pertains to the physical-biological
realm and has also been raised to a new level – the personal level –
where nature and spirit are united.
Marriage is instituted by the Creator as a form of life
in which a communion of persons is realized involving the use of the
sexual faculty. “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and
clings to his wife and they become one flesh” (Gen 2:24).
Third, God has willed to give the union of man and woman
a special participation in his work of creation. Thus, he blessed the
man and the woman with the words “Be fruitful and multiply” (Gen 1:28). Therefore, in the Creator’s plan, sexual complementarity and fruitfulness belong to the very nature of marriage.
Furthermore, the marital union of man and woman has been
elevated by Christ to the dignity of a sacrament. The Church teaches
that Christian marriage is an efficacious sign of the covenant between
Christ and the Church (cf. Eph 5:32). This Christian meaning of
marriage, far from diminishing the profoundly human value of the marital
union between man and woman, confirms and strengthens it (cf. Mt 19:3-12; Mk 10:6-9).
4. There are absolutely no grounds for
considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely
analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family. Marriage is holy, while
homosexual acts go against the natural moral law.
acts “close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from
a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances
can they be approved”.
Sacred Scripture condemns homosexual acts “as a serious depravity… (cf. Rom
1:24-27; 1 Cor
6:10; 1 Tim
This judgment of Scripture does not of course permit us to conclude
that all those who suffer from this anomaly are personally responsible
for it, but it does attest to the fact that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered”
) This same moral judgment is found in many Christian writers of the first centuries
) and is unanimously accepted by Catholic Tradition.
Nonetheless, according to the teaching of the Church,
men and women with homosexual tendencies “must be accepted with respect,
compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided
) They are called, like other Christians, to live the virtue of chastity.
) The homosexual inclination is however “objectively disordered”
) and homosexual practices are “sins gravely contrary to chastity”.
II. POSITIONS ON THE PROBLEM
OF HOMOSEXUAL UNIONS
5. Faced with the fact of homosexual unions, civil
authorities adopt different positions. At times they simply tolerate the
phenomenon; at other times they advocate legal recognition of such
unions, under the pretext of avoiding, with regard to certain rights,
discrimination against persons who live with someone of the same sex. In
other cases, they favour giving homosexual unions legal equivalence to
marriage properly so-called, along with the legal possibility of
Where the government’s policy is de facto
tolerance and there is no explicit legal recognition of homosexual
unions, it is necessary to distinguish carefully the various aspects of
the problem. Moral conscience requires that, in every occasion,
Christians give witness to the whole moral truth, which is contradicted
both by approval of homosexual acts and unjust discrimination against
homosexual persons. Therefore, discreet and prudent actions can be effective; these might involve: unmasking
the way in which such tolerance might be exploited or used in the
service of ideology; stating clearly the immoral nature of these unions;
reminding the government of the need to contain the
phenomenon within certain limits so as to safeguard public morality and,
above all, to avoid exposing young people to erroneous ideas about
sexuality and marriage that would deprive them of their necessary
defences and contribute to the spread of the phenomenon. Those who would
move from tolerance to the legitimization of specific rights for
cohabiting homosexual persons need to be reminded that the approval or legalization of evil is something far different from the toleration of evil.
In those situations where homosexual unions have been legally
recognized or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to
marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty. One
must refrain from any kind of formal cooperation in the enactment or
application of such gravely unjust laws and, as far as possible, from
material cooperation on the level of their application. In this area,
everyone can exercise the right to conscientious objection.
III. ARGUMENTS FROM REASON AGAINST LEGAL
RECOGNITION OF HOMOSEXUAL UNIONS
6. To understand why it is necessary to oppose legal recognition of homosexual unions, ethical considerations of different orders need to be taken into consideration.
From the order of right reason
The scope of the civil law is certainly more limited than that of the moral law,
) but civil law cannot contradict right reason without losing its binding force on conscience
) Every humanly-created law is legitimate insofar as it is consistent with the natural moral law
, recognized by right reason, and insofar as it respects the inalienable rights of every person.
in favour of homosexual unions are contrary to right reason because
they confer legal guarantees, analogous to those granted to marriage, to
unions between persons of the same sex
Given the values at
stake in this question, the State could not grant legal standing to such
unions without failing in its duty to promote and defend marriage as an
institution essential to the common good.
It might be asked how a law can be contrary to the
common good if it does not impose any particular kind of behaviour, but
simply gives legal recognition to a de facto
reality which does not seem to cause injustice to anyone. In this area, one needs first to reflect on the difference between homosexual behaviour as a private phenomenon and the same behaviour as a relationship in society
, foreseen and approved by the law, to the point where it becomes one of the institutions in the legal structure. This second phenomenon is not only more serious, but also assumes a more wide-reaching and profound influence
and would result in changes to the entire organization of society,
contrary to the common good. Civil laws are structuring principles of
man’s life in society, for good or for ill. They “play a very important
and sometimes decisive role in influencing patterns of thought and
Lifestyles and the underlying presuppositions these express not only externally shape the life of society, but also tend to modify the younger generation’s perception
and evaluation of forms of behaviour. Legal recognition of homosexual
unions would obscure certain basic moral values and cause a devaluation
of the institution of marriage.
From the biological and anthropological order
7. Homosexual unions are totally lacking
in the biological and anthropological
elements of marriage and family which would be the basis, on the level
of reason, for granting them legal recognition. Such unions are not able
to contribute in a proper way to the procreation and survival of the
human race. The possibility of using recently discovered methods of
artificial reproduction, beyond involving a grave lack of respect for
) does nothing to alter this inadequacy.
Homosexual unions are also totally lacking in the conjugal dimension,
which represents the human and ordered form of sexuality. Sexual
relations are human when and insofar as they express and promote the
mutual assistance of the sexes in marriage and are open to the
transmission of new life.
As experience has shown, the absence of sexual
complementarity in these unions creates obstacles in the normal
development of children who would be placed in the care of such persons.
They would be deprived of the experience of either fatherhood or
motherhood. Allowing children to be adopted by persons living in such
unions would actually mean doing violence to these children, in the
sense that their condition of dependency would be used to place them in
an environment that is not conducive to their full human development.
This is gravely immoral and in open contradiction to the principle,
recognized also in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the
Child, that the best interests of the child, as the weaker and more
vulnerable party, are to be the paramount consideration in every case.
From the social order
8. Society owes its continued survival to the family, founded on marriage. The inevitable consequence of legal recognition of homosexual unions would be the redefinition of marriage,
which would become, in its legal status, an institution devoid of
essential reference to factors linked to heterosexuality; for example,
procreation and raising children. If, from the legal standpoint,
marriage between a man and a woman were to be considered just one
possible form of marriage, the concept of marriage would undergo a
radical transformation, with grave detriment to the common good. By
putting homosexual unions on a legal plane analogous to that of marriage
and the family, the State acts arbitrarily and in contradiction with its duties.
The principles of respect and non-discrimination cannot
be invoked to support legal recognition of homosexual unions.
Differentiating between persons or refusing social recognition or
benefits is unacceptable only when it is contrary to justice.
denial of the social and legal status of marriage to forms of
cohabitation that are not and cannot be marital is not opposed to
justice; on the contrary, justice requires it
Nor can the principle of the proper autonomy of the
individual be reasonably invoked. It is one thing to maintain that
individual citizens may freely engage in those activities that interest
them and that this falls within the common civil right to freedom; it
is something quite different to hold that activities which do not
represent a significant or positive contribution to the development of
the human person in society can receive specific and categorical legal
recognition by the State. Not even in a remote analogous sense
do homosexual unions fulfil the purpose for which marriage and family
deserve specific categorical recognition. On the contrary, there are
good reasons for holding that such unions are harmful to the proper
development of human society, especially if their impact on society were
From the legal order
9. Because married couples ensure the succession of
generations and are therefore eminently within the public interest,
civil law grants them institutional recognition. Homosexual unions, on
the other hand, do not need specific attention from the legal standpoint
since they do not exercise this function for the common good.
Nor is the argument valid according to which legal recognition of
homosexual unions is necessary to avoid situations in which cohabiting
homosexual persons, simply because they live together, might be deprived
of real recognition of their rights as persons and citizens. In
reality, they can always make use of the provisions of law – like all
citizens from the standpoint of their private autonomy – to protect
their rights in matters of common interest. It would be gravely
unjust to sacrifice the common good and just laws on the family in order
to protect personal goods that can and must be guaranteed in ways that
do not harm the body of society
IV. POSITIONS OF CATHOLIC POLITICIANS
WITH REGARD TO LEGISLATION IN FAVOUR
OF HOMOSEXUAL UNIONS
10. If it is true that all Catholics are obliged to oppose the legal recognition of homosexual unions, Catholic politicians are obliged to do so in a particular way,
in keeping with their responsibility as politicians. Faced with
legislative proposals in favour of homosexual unions, Catholic
politicians are to take account of the following ethical indications.
When legislation in favour of the recognition of
homosexual unions is proposed for the first time in a legislative
assembly, the Catholic law-maker has a moral duty to express his opposition clearly and publicly and to vote against it. To vote in favour of a law so harmful to the common good is gravely immoral. [gravely immoral]
When legislation in favour of the recognition of homosexual unions is already in force, the
Catholic politician must oppose it in the ways that are possible for
him and make his opposition known; it is his duty to witness to the
. If it is not possible to repeal such a law completely,
the Catholic politician, recalling the indications contained in the
Encyclical Letter Evangelium vitae,
“could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done
by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level
of general opinion and public morality”, on condition that his “absolute personal opposition” to such laws was clear and well known and that the danger of scandal was avoided
This does not mean that a more restrictive law in this area could be
considered just or even acceptable; rather, it is a question of the
legitimate and dutiful attempt to obtain at least the partial repeal of
an unjust law when its total abrogation is not possible at the moment.
11. The Church teaches that respect for homosexual
persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behaviour or to
legal recognition of homosexual unions. The common good requires that
laws recognize, promote and protect marriage as the basis of the family,
the primary unit of society. Legal recognition of homosexual unions or
placing them on the same level as marriage would mean not only the
approval of deviant behaviour, with the consequence of making it a model
in present-day society, but would also obscure basic values which
belong to the common inheritance of humanity. The Church cannot fail to
defend these values, for the good of men and women and for the good of
The Sovereign Pontiff John Paul II, in the Audience
of March 28, 2003, approved the present Considerations, adopted in the
Ordinary Session of this Congregation, and ordered their publication.
Rome, from the Offices of the Congregation for the
Doctrine of the Faith, June 3, 2003, Memorial of Saint Charles Lwanga
and his Companions, Martyrs.
Joseph Card. Ratzinger
Angelo Amato, S.D.B.
Titular Archbishop of Sila
) Cf. John Paul II, Angelus Messages
of February 20, 1994, and of June 19, 1994; Address to the Plenary Meeting of the Pontifical Council for the Family
(March 24, 1999); Catechism of the Catholic Church,
Nos. 2357-2359, 2396; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration Persona humana
(December 29, 1975), 8; Letter on the pastoral care of homosexual persons
(October 1, 1986); Some considerations concerning the response to legislative proposals on the non-discrimination of homosexual persons
(July 24, 1992); Pontifical Council for the Family,
Letter to the Presidents of the Bishops’ Conferences of Europe on the
resolution of the European Parliament regarding homosexual couples
(March 25, 1994); Family, marriage and “de facto” unions
(July 26, 2000), 23.
) Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Doctrinal Note on some questions regarding the participation of Catholics in political life
(November 24, 2002), 4.
) Cf. Second Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes,
) Catechism of the Catholic Church,
) Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration Persona humana
(December 29, 1975), 8.
) Cf., for example, St. Polycarp, Letter to the Philippians,
V, 3; St. Justin Martyr, First Apology,
27, 1-4; Athenagoras, Supplication for the Christians,
) Catechism of the Catholic Church,
No. 2358; cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter on the pastoral care of homosexual persons
(October 1, 1986), 10.
) Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church,
No. 2359; cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter on the pastoral care of homosexual persons
(October 1, 1986), 12.
) Catechism of the Catholic Church,
) Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Evangelium vitae
(March 25, 1995), 71.
) Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae,
I-II, q. 95, a. 2.
) John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Evangelium vitae
(March 25, 1995), 90.
) Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction Donum vitae
(February 22, 1987), II. A. 1-3.
) Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae,
II-II, q. 63, a.1, c.
It should not be forgotten that there is always “a danger that
legislation which would make homosexuality a basis for entitlements
could actually encourage a person with a homosexual orientation to
declare his homosexuality or even to seek a partner in order to exploit
the provisions of the law” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Some considerations concerning the response to legislative proposals on the non-discrimination of homosexual persons
[July 24, 1992], 14).
) John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Evangelium vitae
(March 25, 1995), 73.