Last week, yet another predominantly Roman Catholic nation, Malta in western Europe, has voted to legalise same sex marriage. This has increased worries for the Catholic Church, which is facing tremendous pressure to change its opposition to same sex relationship and gay marriages. Only a fortnight back, the lower house of Parliament in Germany too had voted in favour of same sex marriage.
The passage of the bill became possible after Chancellor Angela Merkel relaxed her Christian Democrats party’s opposition to same-sex marriage and allowed her party’s lawmakers to vote on the issue according to their consciences. Significantly, Merkel herself voted against the proposal, but many of her party colleagues voted in favour.
Merkel’s refusal to support gay marriage is indicative of the dilemma faced by most conservative political leaders and also by the Roman Catholic Church in giving sanction to same sex marriage.
Significantly, many of the countries which have so far legalised gay relationship or gay marriages are predominantly of Roman Catholic or Christian population. These include United States, Spain, Ireland, Portugal, England, Canada, France and Denmark. It is possible that more and more nations will follow the suit and legalise gay marriages.
The Roman Catholic Church, which claims following of 1.2 billion people, cannot play the role of a mute spectator as more nations change their laws to allow same sex people to enter into matrimonial alliance.
Despite worldwide legislations legalising use of contraceptives and abortions, the Roman Catholic Church has continued to oppose them, describing them as ‘unethical’ and ‘immoral’. The Church’s many ardent followers have ignored these doctrines. But, the same cannot be held true in the case of movements launched by those seeking legalising same sex relationship and marriages. The canon law recognises only marriage between man and woman, which subsequently may lead to procreation. However, some Protestant Churches have allowed gay relationship and have even gone to the extent of blessing the same sex marriages in their churches. Some protestant clergies have even openly declared that they are gay.
Notwithstanding the Church’s stiff opposition to gay relationship, there are indeed some winds of change. For example, when quizzed by journalists about gay persons, Pope Francis had last year refused to condemn the behaviour of these persons. Instead, he had asked, “Who am I to judge?”
The issue of same sex relationship and marriage has been discussed by a Catholic writer Daniel Mattson in his new book, titled ‘Why I Don’t Call Myself Gay’. In this book, Mattson had dealt on the Church’s doctrine of marriage of man and woman, same sex attraction and how the Church’s stance is ostracising the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
Mattson points out that when Mother Teresa was asked about ‘homosexuals’ in an interview, she refused to refer to anyone with same-sex attraction as anything else but ‘a child of God.’ The book by the Catholic author has been welcomed by some high ranking church officials including Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles and Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments.
The question is how long will the Catholic Church be able to refuse blessing gay marriages in her churches? The Church can afford to ignore those same sex marriages of persons who are not part of her flock, but she cannot ignore pleas of the faithful members who want to enter into such matrimonial alliances. This is the predicament the Church is facing today and her theologians have not been able to find a solution which will be consistent with the Church’s doctrines.