It was reported earlier this week that a top Vatican official voiced support for gay and lesbian couples. Yesterday, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, head of the Pontifical Council for the Family, backtracked from that statement, and blamed the media for "derailing" his words.
On February 4, Archbishop Paglia suggested that countries could find "private law solutions" to help offer protections for unmarried couples, including gay and lesbian couples. However, Archbishop Paglia was sure to strongly voice his opposition to marriage equality. Currently, marriage equality efforts are underway in several states in the United States, as well as national efforts in England and France. Roman Catholic bishops are opposing all of these efforts.
Archbishop Paglia also condemned discrimination, including countries with laws that criminalize LGBT people. He said that gay people “have the same dignity as all of God’s children.”
“In the world there are 20 or 25 countries where homosexuality is a crime,” he said. “I would like the church to fight against all this.”
In reality, 87 countries criminalize LGBT people.
Still, his comments were widely reported, giving hope to the millions of LGBT people and Catholics who already strongly support LGBT people around the world. Francis DeBernardo of New Ways Ministry commented on the evolution, saying:
"Despite the continued intransigence on marriage equality, I think it is important to note that the archbishop’s comments represent a giant step forward in terms of Vatican recognition of same-gender couples."
However, after seeing the reporting and interpretation of his statement, Archbishop Paglia backtracked, stating that the reporting of his statement was much more than a misunderstanding. He went further to say that they were deliberately "derailed". Religion News Service reported his "clarification":
For the archbishop, recognizing that “norms that protect individual rights” can find their place in “existing (legal) systems” is “completely different” from approving same-sex marriage.
The move to backtrack disappointed several Roman Catholic LGBT advocates. Religion News Service quoted Marianne Duddy-Burke, Executive Director of Dignity USA. While calling Archbishop Paglia's backtracking "disheartening", Duddy-Burke reminded us all that everyday Catholics have the ability to work for protections for LGBT people. Indeed, in the last election, Washington, Maryland, and Maine all granted marriage equality by public referendum, while Minnesota defeated a constitutional amendment that would limit marriage protections. In all these instances, Catholics voted on the side of marriage equality.
Statements and retractions like these have continued to demonstrate how the Roman Catholic hierarchy is out of step with regular, everyday Catholics who support LGBT equality, including marriage equality. GLAAD will continue to highlight Catholics who are working for LGBT equality, both in the church and within the wider society.