The Vatican is worried its opposition to abortion, embryonic stem cell research and gay marriage could one day land it before an international court of justice, a senior Vatican official said in an interview published Wednesday.
Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, who heads the Pontifical Council for the Family, reiterated traditional Roman Catholic Church positions and criticized some European countries, including Belgium, the Netherlands and France, for giving legal recognition to civil unions.
"We worry especially that, with current laws, speaking in defense of life and the rights of families is becoming in some societies sort of a crime against the state," Lopez Trujillo told the Catholic news magazine Famiglia Cristiana for its issue scheduled to hit the stands Thursday. The remarks were posted online on Wednesday.
"The church is at risk of being brought before some international court if the debate becomes any tenser, if the more radical requests get heard," the cardinal said, speaking ahead of the Roman Catholic Church's World Meeting of Families in Valencia, Spain from July 1-9.
Lopez Trujillo did not comment further about any legal problems the Vatican could face, but his words touched upon a concern among religious organizations everywhere: the right of religious freedom versus countries' anti-discrimination laws.
Chai Feldblum of Georgetown University's Law Center said the chances of the church being punished for stating its beliefs were slim to none, at least in the United States, though its stances could lead to Catholic organizations losing state funding.
"I cannot fathom a religious organization being punished for speaking its belief against abortion or gay marriage," said Feldblum, a veteran gay rights advocate."What is illuminating is not the reality of the legal penalties they face, but an acknowledgment that public morality is shifting under their feet," Feldblum said.
In recent years, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and Canada legalized same-sex marriage, while Britain and several other European nations now give such couples the right to form partnerships that entitle them to most of the same tax and pension rights as married couples - laws the church is firmly against.
In the interview, Lopez Trujillo reiterated that according to church rules, women who have abortions, the doctors and nurses who help them and the father, if he is going along with it, are excommunicated.
The same goes for embryonic stem cell research.
"It's the same thing. Destroying the embryo is equivalent to abortion," Lopez Trujillo said.He also criticized what he described as a movement to impose new human rights."It's happening for abortion, which is a crime, and instead it's becoming a right," the cardinal said.
He also compared gay marriage to "absolute emptiness," saying the only possible couple is made up of a man and a woman.
Earlier this month, the Pontifical Council for the Family issued a 57-page document in which it said that the traditional family has never been so threatened as in today's world.
It also lashed out against contraception, abortion, in vitro fertilization and same-sex marriage.
The Vatican's document did not break any new ground, but marked the first sweeping comment on the issues during Pope Benedict XVI's papacy.
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