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Media reports widely misrepresented Bishop Daniel Reilly’s testimony before the legislature Oct. 23 on the Church’s position on several bills relating to same-sex unions.
The media was quick to grasp any hint that the Church had varied from its consistent position and moved towards extending rights for cohabiting homosexual partners. Headlines such as the one in the Oct. 24 Boston Herald, “Catholic bishops support benefits for gay couples,” or the even bolder “Church opens to gay rights” that appeared in the Newton Daily News Tribune, distorted the Church’s position on this issue, leading to great confusion among the public.
The issue is particularly distressing because it may also create confusion among legislators who may, in fact, believe that the Church has actually changed her position.
Legislators and lobbyists rest assured: Nothing has changed in the position of the Church in regard to same-sex marriage. As Nov. 12 approaches, a key day on which legislators are scheduled to vote on a measure that would begin the process of defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman in the state constitution, it is important to understand that the Church continues to fully support that constitutional amendment.
It has been the constant teaching of the Church that homosexual acts can never be approved. Whether a casual encounter or a long-lasting relationship, those acts are intrinsically disordered.
The recent document by the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, “Considerations regarding proposals to give legal recognition to union between homosexual persons,” clearly opposes granting rights based on those relations. It warns anyone inclined to do so, saying, “Those who would move from tolerance to the legitimization of specific rights for cohabiting homosexual persons need to be reminded that the approval or legalization of evil is something far different from the toleration of evil.”
The media’s misrepresentation of Bishop Reilly’s statements seems to show either ignorance of Church’s teachings or a media sympathy for the “gay rights agenda.”
Any public comment by a Church official has to be put into its proper context. The context in this case is that the Church is always open to discuss the appropriateness of expanding individual rights, regardless of the morality of the lifestyle of that individual.
The Vatican’s “Considerations” supports this notion when it states that homosexual persons “can always make use of the provisions of law – like all citizens from the standpoint of their private autonomy – to protect their rights in matters of common interest.”
Bishop Reilly clearly expressed that same idea in his testimony, “If the goal is to look at individual benefits and determine who should be eligible beyond spouses, then we will join the discussion.”
So, if legislators find it necessary to begin a debate on expanding individual benefits “beyond spouses,” they will find the Church ready to “join that discussion,” without a pre-determined outcome. However, there was no mention, no hint that the Church would agree on extending marital rights for unions or partnerships of gays and lesbians, much less that the Church would be “open to gay rights.”
Arline Isaacson, of the Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus, probably without realizing it, confirmed that there has been no change in the Church’s position, when she called Bishop Reilly’s testimony “same old, same old.” The Gospel teachings and 2000 years of tradition inform the Church’s position on same-sex marriage. The “same old” indeed.