A Boston Globe Editorial
Overreaching by Rome

Boston Globe [Boston MA]
August 2, 2003

A PANICKY Vatican has issued a warning to Catholic politicians not to support growing efforts to allow gays the right to civil marriage. This intrusion of sectarian religion into American politics is as unwarranted as it is futile. No one is asking the Catholic Church to recognize or perform gay marriages if they are eventually approved by legal or political action in the United States -- the separation of church and state runs both ways. But to tell independently elected officials that voting even for such measures as civil unions or adoption by gay parents is "gravely immoral" is likely to backfire, as was evident in the indignant replies of several local Catholic politicians interviewed in the Globe last week.

The language in the document -- issued with the approval of Pope John Paul II -- is not just strong and committed but in some cases needlessly hurtful. Describing the distinction between heterosexual and homosexual unions, it reads: "Marriage is holy, while homosexual acts go againt the natural moral law." Such words can fuel attacks on gays, which persist even in Boston.

Particularly galling is the language regarding the adoption of children by gay people, which is already permitted in Massachusetts and elsewhere. The document declares that allowing such adoptions "would actually mean doing violence to these children" because they would be raised in an environment of "deviant behavior."

When it comes to doing violence to children, it seems obvious that the church has lost its moral authority, since it ignored, condoned, and covered up a generation of sexual assault -- which was not consensual and not loving -- of children by American parish priests.

Last week President Bush also waded into the debate over gay marriage, opining that "we're all sinners" and indicating that he would consider an amendment to the US Constitution banning gay marriage. This, sadly, would be the first time the Constitution was altered to restrict civil rights rather than expand them. The greatness of America is its pluralism, and neither president nor pope can impose his religious beliefs on the public realm.

In 1980, Cardinal Humberto Medeiros warned the 2 million Catholics in the Boston Archdiocese not to vote for Democrats Barney Frank or James Shannon because they supported keeping abortion legal under Roe v. Wade. His pastoral letter said that people who elect prochoice politicians "cannot separate themselves from the guilt which accompanies this horrendous crime and deadly sin."

The common sense of the voters in the Fourth and Fifth congressional districts -- many of them Catholics -- overruled the church's meddling, and both Frank and Shannon won. We expect the same independence from Catholic politicians and voters today.

This story ran on page A18 of the Boston Globe on 8/2/2003.


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