Italian Bishop Advocates Civil Unions
He’s not calling for civil marriage for same-sex couples, but for civil unions, presumably for heterosexual couples as well as same-sex couples. money quote:
When two people, even if they’re the same sex, decide to live together, it’s important for the State to recognise this fact, But it must be called something different from marriage.
The US bishops, recall, view the civil recognition of same-sex relationships as
a multifaceted threat to the very fabric of society, striking at the source from which society and culture come and which they are meant to serve. Such recognition affects all people, married and non-married…
To my knowledge, the USCCB has not spoken about civil unions for straight couples. (We’ve always just called it “civil marriage.”) So what we see here is two places to draw a line: Urso would have civil unions regarded as different from civil marriage, while the USCCB would draw the line between heterosexual and homosexual couples.
I’m interested in the distinction Urso (or anyone) would draw between civil unions and civil marriage. If civil unions are constructed so as to grant all the legal benefits of civil marriage, (as is the case here in CA,) then it seems to me that it’d be more straightforward just to call them all one thing or the other. Why two names for one institution and one legal status? Marriage in the Church, then, is one thing, and all couples are treated equally under civil law. This would cohere nicely with Catholic teaching, viz: “Every sign of unjust discrimination in…regard [to homosexual people] should be avoided.” (CCC 2358)
If civil unions are not the same as civil marriage, then we’ll all do well to heed the law of unintended consequences. France established civil unions in 1999, ostensibly for same-sex couples, but did not specify sex in the law. As of 2009, one-third of straight couples opted for civil unions, perhaps because they were more easily dissolved. Civil unions in France are overwhelmingly a heterosexual institution. (See Andrew Sullivan on this.)
As for the USCCB stance, that civil recognition of same-sex relationships threatens the human dignity of us all, that’s a harder case to make. It’s doubly hard to assert that gay folks in love threaten civilization itself and also say that such a stance does not amount to “unjust discrimination.” It is, at the very least, stunningly painful exclusionary language to use in reference to a large number of our fellow Catholics and Christians. So maybe some of our US bishops might heed the recommendation of their Sicilian brother-bishop, and recommend that all God’s children be regarded as having equal dignity under civil law.
HT: G. Parado