The Vatican has slammed same-sex unions as "deviant" and a threat to society in a controversial document. The move has been stridently decried by gay rights activists and campaigners across Europe.
In the eye of the storm -- Pope John Paul II with German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.
The Vatican has stepped up its campaign to stamp out growing legal recognition of same-sex unions. On Thursday, it published a 12-page document in seven languages, urging Catholics and non-Catholics alike to unite in campaigning against homosexual marriages and gay adoptions.
The strongly-worded paper issued by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith headed by German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and approved by Pope John Paul, renews calls to Catholic lawmakers and politicians to oppose same-sex marriage and make a concerted effort to repeal laws recognizing same-sex unions that exist in certain countries.
"Immoral" and "threat to society"
"Marriage exists solely between a man and a woman... Marriage is holy, while homosexual acts go against the natural moral law," the document stated.
The document is meant to give politicians a direction when it comes to decisions on the recognition of homosexual relations. "Legal recognition of homosexual unions or placing them on the same level as marriage would mean not only the approval of deviant behavior...but would also obscure basic values which belong to the common inheritance of humanity," according to the document. "To vote in favor of a law so harmful to the common good is gravely immoral," it added.
The Vatican’s staunch line against the adoption of children by gay couples is also spelled out in the paper. "Allowing children to be adopted by persons living in such unions would actually mean doing violence to these children."
"A cardinal mistake to fight love"
The latest Vatican diatribe against same-sex unions has run into a storm of protest and outrage among gay rights advocates across Europe.
In Germany, Volker Beck, parliamentary manager of the Greens, the junior partner in the government coalition, described the Vatican paper as a "sad document of narrow-minded fanaticism." Since 2001 German law has granted gay couples similar rights to those of heterosexual married couples.
Christopher Street Day in Cologne, July 2003
For the country which hosts large annual Christopher Street Day parades (photo) and where openly gay politicians and mayors are a given fact, the right to a legally recognized homosexual marriage is a fundamental civil right. Along with Belgium and the Netherlands, Germany is considered at the forefront in the battle for gay rights. Beck, who was one of the driving forces behind Germany's same-sex union laws, said, "it’s a cardinal mistake to fight love" and added "if Rome does begin a crusade against the civil rights of lesbians and gays, it’s a sure step to the self-isolation of the Catholic Church in Germany."
The Green politician called on all democratic counterparts to "whole-heartedly tackle" discrimination and stressed the Vatican was far-removed from reality in its latest attack.
Catholic Church out of touch with reality?
The reaction was equally virulent in the Netherlands, which has recognized gay partnerships since 1998. The Netherlands also passed laws in December 2000 allowing same-sex couples to marry and adopt children.
Henk Beerten, chairman of the Federation of Dutch Associations for the Integration of Homosexuality told news agency Reuters the Vatican was fighting a losing battle. "This just shows the Church is way, way behind developments in society," he said.
In Sweden, where the gay festival Stockholm Pride is currently underway, the event’s president Nicke Johansso called the 83-year-old pope "irrelevant" to the modern world. "He’s not only old, he’s very old-fashioned," he said.