The organization of faithful Catholics are reacting to a document published recently by the Bishops' Conference's Family and Society Committee, which says homosexual relationships could be given a strengthened legal recognition, while not going so far as to equate such unions with marriage.
While the Vatican teaches that "all Catholics are obliged to oppose the legal recognition of homosexual unions," the French Bishops' document states that "the Catholic Church calls the faithful to live a [homosexual] relationship in chastity, but it recognizes, beyond its sexual aspect, the value of solidarity, of attention and of concern for the other that can arise in a durable affective relationship. The Church intends to be welcoming regarding homosexual persons and will continue to make its contribution to the struggle against every form of homophobia and discrimination."
The document, entitled, "Extend marriage to people of the same sex? Open the debate!," also states that "the request to extend marriage to people of the same sex challenges society to seek new ways to live out our differences within a state of equality," and "an evolution of family law is always possible."
The Catholic Church repudiated by its own bishops?
According to Avenir de la Culture, the document seems to reflect the sentiments of Gerard Daucourt, bishop of Nanterre, and numerous other bishops who have made even more explicit statements insinuating the endorsement of homosexual unions, including an "improved" Pact of Civil Solidarity (PACS).
Prior to the Family and Society statement, Daucourt had told the news agency France Iter: "I, for my part, want to take heed of homosexual unions, I want to recognize them, accompany them. I have known a certain number of homosexual couples," adding: "I don't want it to be called marriage, that's all."
"So then, there is the PACS. I think that they could improve it. Look, I would be rather disposed to that (...) I myself have no desire for a direct opposition, but rather to dialogue, to explain," said Daucourt.
The Pact of Civil Solidarity (PACS) to which Bishop Daucourt refers is a contract, considered far less than a civil union, that can be granted both to homosexuals and heterosexuals, which can be dissolved at will by either party, and gives tax advantages to the couple as if they were married.
Daucourt also denounced the Catholic Church itself for what he regarded as "discrimination" against homosexuals.
"This has grave consequences, because we know that the people most directly concerned are homosexual persons, who have suffered so much and who have been condemned for centuries by the Church and by a certain number of people in the Church," the bishop said.
"I think that this is terrible for people who still suffer discrimination of which they have been the object on the part of the Church and by many others, and which they still suffer today."
Avenir de la Culture documents that numerous other French bishops have spoken similarly, expressing sympathy for homosexual unions and advocating legal protections for them, and denouncing what they regard as "persecution" of homosexuals historically, including Bishop Hippolyte Simon of Clermont-Ferrand (vice-president of the Episcopal Conference), Bishop Bernard Ginoux of Montauban, Bishop Michel Pansard of Chartres, Bishop Bruno Grua of Saint-Flour, Bishop Francois Fonlupt of Rodez, Bishop Philippe Gueneley of Langres, Bishop Jacques Blaquart of Orleans, Archbishop Armand Maillard of Bourges, Bishop Vincent Jordy of Saint-Claude, Bishop Jean-Charles Descubes of Rouen, Bishop Bernard Housset of La Rochelle.
The organization also notes that while Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, Archbishop of Lyon, has ringingly denounced homosexual "marriage" as potentially leading to the approval of incest, other bishops failed to support him when he was condemned in the press for the comments and some even rejected his words publicly.
In response to the bishops' statements, Avenir de la Culture asks: "Should one conclude that, for a homosexual person, it is preferable to live in cohabitation, a permanent occasion of sin?"
The organization notes that the bishops' Family and Society Committee has produced "six pages of unclear commentary to arrive at the same conclusion expressed in a more frank way by Bishop Daucourt: in place of marriage, we could agree to provide homosexuals with an 'improved PACS.'"
The organization also notes that "in 85 episcopal declarations regarding the 'marriage for everyone' bill, except for a few references (...) there is NOTHING, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING religious in the argumentation of the French bishops! Rather to the contrary, the majority have the obvious desire to emphasize that they are expressing themselves in strictly human terms."
The bishops contradict Pope Benedict XVI ... and even themselves
Avenir de la Culture observes that the bishops' approach is contrary to Pope Benedict XVI's clear rejection of all homosexual unions, made while he was the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith in 2003, and also seems to contradict the French bishops' own statements denouncing PACS in the late 1990s, when they were first proposed.
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, writing at that time with the authority of the Papal magisterium, declared in 2003 that "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.
Quoting the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Ratzinger noted that homosexual acts constitute "serious depravity" and "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."
He added that "all Catholics are obliged to oppose the legal recognition of homosexual unions."
In 1998, the bishops of France themselves warned that PACS would be "worthless and dangerous" and would create "a new status of relationship that risks the further destruction of the meaning of the couple and of the family."