Catholic Church on Homosexual Acts: ‘Under No Circumstances Can They Be Approved’

By Michael W. Chapman | March 5, 2014 | 3:47pm EST

Pope Francis. (AP)

(Editor's note: This story was updated on March 6.)

( – Although Pope Francis in a March 5 interview seemed to leave open the possibility of approval for same-sex civil unions, the official teaching of the Catholic Church, from the Catechism, says that homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered” and “under no circumstances can they be approved.”

(Updated): The Catechism further states that, outside of marriage between one man and one woman, persons are called to chastity and that "among the sins gravely contrary to chastity are masturbation, fornication, pornography and homosexual practices." (2396)

In an interview published in the Italian daily Corriere della Sera on March 5, as translated by Catholic News Service,  Pope Francis says that, “Matrimony is between a man and a woman” but moves to “regulate diverse situations of cohabitation [are] driven by the need to regulate economic aspects among persons, as for instance to assure medical care.”

When asked how the Church could address the issue, Pope Francis said, “It is necessary to look at the diverse cases and evaluate them in their variety.”  The Pope did not say that civil unions – “diverse situations of cohabitation” – were impermissible, but that the “diverse cases” could be evaluated “in their variety.”

(Updated): The Catholic News Service headlined its article, "Pope, in Interview, Suggests Church Could Tolerate Some Civil Unions." The complete question and answer from the Holy Father were published and translated into English by the independent news agency Zenit, also sometime on March 5.   The question and answer are as follows:

"Many countries have regulated civil unions. Is it a path that the Church can understand? But up to what point?   Holy Father: 'Marriage is between one man and one woman. The secular States want to justify civil unions to regulate different situations of coexistence, spurred by the need to regulate economic aspects between persons as, for instance, to ensure healthcare. Each case must be looked at and evaluated in its diversity.'"

In addition, the Catholic News Agency translated into English the Pope's response on March 5 as follows: "Marriage is between a man and a woman. Secular states want to justify civil unions to regulate different aspects of cohabitation, pushed by the demand to regulate economic aspects between persons, such as ensuring health care. It is about pacts of cohabitating of various natures, of which I wouldn't know how to list the different ways. One needs to see the different cases and evaluate them in their variety."

From either translation, the Pope reaffirms Church teaching on marriage between one man and one woman but also states that, when it comes to civil unions, they need to be reviewed and evaluated in their "variety" or "diversity." The Pope does not endorse same-sex civil unions or heterosexual civil unions but apparently is saying the different cases would need to be evaluated.

(AP Photo)

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that “homosexual persons are called to chastity.” (2359)  The Catechism further says, “Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.’ They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.” (2357)

As for civil unions, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) published a Q & A document in 2007. Question 9 asks, “What is the church’s position on legislation to allow civil unions or domestic partnerships?”  (See USCCB and Marriage.pdf)

(AP Photo)

The USCCB answers, “On two different occasions, in 2003 and 2006, the USCCB Administrative Committee stated: We strongly oppose any legislative and judicial attempts, both at state and federal levels, to grant same-sex unions the equivalent status and rights of marriage – by naming them marriage, civil unions, or by other means.”

The USCCB also answers, “In 2003 a statement from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith stated: ‘Every humanly-created law is legitimate insofar as it is consistent with the natural moral law, recognized by right reason, and insofar as it respects the inalienable rights of every person. Laws in favor of homosexual unions are contrary to right reason because they confer legal guarantees, analogous to those granted to marriage, to unions between persons of the same sex.’” (Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions between Homosexual Persons, n.6).  (See  USCCB and Marriage.pdf)

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