A recent statement by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on homosexual "marriage" has been widely criticised in the media. Journalists targeted a section of the document addressed to Catholic politicians, which urged them to speak and vote against any such proposal.
The issue is a practical one: already, same-sex couples are allowed to get married in two Canadian provinces, as well as in Holland and Belgium, and there are similar proposals in a number of other Western nations. The Canadian Government is now intending to redefine marriage across Canada.
The Congregation's statement was simply a reaffirmation of the Catholic Church's traditional position on marriage: that it is a natural institution, ordered by God for the good of society - including fathers, mothers and their children - and that it is intended to be both exclusive and permanent.
At the same time, the Congregation reaffirmed that men and women with homosexual tendencies should be treated with respect and sensitivity, with every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard to be avoided.
What apparently upset the media was that Catholic politicians should be asked to accept their Church's teaching. A number of politicians echoed the media line, saying they would "follow their consciences", not a Vatican instruction. Yet to be a Catholic implies acceptance of Christ's words to his Apostles: "Whoever hears you hears me"; and, "Whatever you bind on earth will be bound also in heaven. Whatever you loose on earth will be loosed also in heaven."
In fact, the Church's position reflects the state of current Commonwealth law. Both the Marriage Act and the Family Law Act affirm that marriage is the union of a man and a woman, to the exclusion of all others, for life.
At a time when the breakdown of marriage is causing incalculable damage in society, and a significant number of young people seem to have lost faith in the institution of marriage, the Church has courageously reaffirmed the moral and social foundation on which society depends.
Peter Westmore is the publisher of AD2000.