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Voices Online Edition
Advent 2000, Volume XV, No. 4

Pontifical Council for the Family issues document
"Family, Marriage and 'de facto' Unions"

A document entitled "Family, Marriage and 'de facto' Unions" was published by the Pontifical Council for the Family on November 21. The document, issued in English, French, Spanish and Italian translations, was accompanied by an explanatory letter signed by Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo and Bishop Francisco Gil Hellin, respectively president and secretary of the council. Although the document is dated July 26, 2000, the Feast of Saints Joachim and Ann, parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary, it was released following the PCF's Jubilee for Families held in October.

The explanatory letter, excerpts of which were published by the Vatican Information Service and appear below, make it clear that "de facto unions" include homosexual "marriages" and "trial marriages".

"In recent years we have witnessed repeated attempts to confer legal validity on 'de facto' unions: These unions ignore or even refuse the very institution of marriage or at least defer it to an uncertain future. In doing so, these unions are not included in and protected by marriage law and, therefore, a pretended comparison involves a juridical hollowing out of the marriage institution. In fact, a number of times the same validity for unions of coexistence between two persons of the same sex has been requested, even with the possibility of being able to adopt children. One and the other ask to receive the same rights as the family founded on marriage. Pope John Paul II ... in his historic speech to politicians and parliamentarians on November 4, 2000, repeated what he has said in the past: 'Every law which damages the family and attacks its unity and indissolubility or gives legal validity to unions among persons, even of the same sex, which asks to be a surrogate with the same rights as the family founded on marriage between a man and a woman 'is not a law in conformity with the divine plan'.

"Aware of the serious repercussions involved in this situation of human and Christian incoherence for society and the Church, the Pontifical Council for the Family felt it was opportune to examine deeply and attentively such a delicate question.... The fruit of this initiative, after laborious studies, is the document 'Family, Marriage and "de facto" Unions' which we now present.

"In this document, after examining the social aspect of 'de facto' unions, their constitutive elements and the motives behind them, we then face the problem of their recognition and their juridical equalization in the first place with the family founded on marriage. Then, we take into consideration the family as a social good, the objective values to encourage and the duties that society should justly protect and promote, caring for its root, which is marriage. Following this we study more deeply several aspects which this claim presents in relation to Christian marriage. In addition, several general criteria of pastoral discernment, necessary for furnishing an orientation to Christian communities, are laid out.

"The Pope, on the occasion of the Jubilee of Families on October 14, affirmed that what is necessary is a commitment to defend 'the value of the family and respect for human life, from the very moment of conception. It is a question of values which belong to the basic "grammar" of dialogue and human coexistence among peoples. I truly hope that governments and national parliaments as well as international organizations, and the United Nations in particular, will not lose sight of this truth'.

"Pastors, who very often in their ministry find themselves welcoming and guiding persons who are living with such problems, will surely receive in this document opportune orientations for their pastoral activity.

"We hope that these pages will also be a useful instrument for politicians and legislators. As the Holy Father has affirmed: 'No human society can run the risk of permissiveness on the basic questions concerning the essence of marriage and the family! A similar moral permissiveness can only bring harm to the authentic exigencies of peace and communion among men.... It is therefore urgent ... to rediscover the existence of essential and native human and moral values, ... values, therefore, which no individual, no majority and no State can ever create, modify, or destroy, but can only recognize, respect, and promote'.

"In the face of any law which attempts to give legal validity to unions among persons, even of the same sex, which asks to be a surrogate with the same rights as the family founded on marriage between a man and a woman, 'Christian legislators may neither contribute to the formulation of such a law nor approve it in parliamentary assembly, although, where such a law already exists, it is licit for them to propose amendments which would diminish its adverse effects'. This is a question of unjust laws which are not in conformity with the divine plan".

The first three sections of the document examine social and cultural origins of sexual cohabitation and the grave consequences of these alliances. The subsequent sections "Justice and the Family as a Social Good", "Christian Marriage and 'de facto' Unions", further the exploration relative to Christian teaching; and the final section, "Christian Guidelines" provides a basis for application of authentic Christian teaching to the present situation, approaches to catechesis, and the importance of the witness of authentic marriages.

The complete page document is available on our web site by clicking here.

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