The Vatican’s representative to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva says a recent resolution on “sexual orientation and gender identity” is part of an agenda that could restrict the Church’s freedom.
“The resolution marks a change. It is seen as the beginning of a movement within the international community and the United Nations to insert gay rights in the global human rights agenda,” said Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, head of the Holy See’s Permanent Mission to the U.N. in Geneva, in a recent e-mail interview with CNA.
The archbishop noted that a U.S. State Department spokesperson had described the resolution as “a beginning of an international norm that will take hold gradually.” But “if norms are established,” Archbishop Tomasi wondered, “what provisions will be made for freedom of expression on the part of religious leaders?”
He spoke of a “genuine concern” that natural marriages and families “will be socially downgraded with the eventual legislation that puts homosexual “marriage” and the marriage between a man and a woman” on the same level. The Vatican representative also said marriage could be threatened by related measures that would mandate homosexual adoptions and introduce “compulsory sex education at school that clashes with Christian values.”
At a June 27 event co-hosted by the U.S. State Department and the Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies organization, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton credited a “major push by American diplomats” for the June 17 passage of what she described as “the first ever U.N. resolution recognizing the human rights of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) people worldwide.”
Clinton called the resolution a “huge step forward,” and stated that “so far as the United States is concerned and our foreign policy, and our values … gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights.”
The resolution, which expresses “grave concern at acts of violence and discrimination … against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity,” will not have an immediate effect on U.N. member states. Instead, it formally requests that the High Commissioner for Human Rights undertake an investigation into such acts, in preparation for further dialogue at the council during 2012.
Although the resolution will do little in the short term, the secretary of state described its passage – over the objections of numerous Arab and African counties, as well as Russia and Moldova – as one of the department’s “momentous achievements” on a matter of “high priority.”
In his remarks to CNA, Archbishop Tomasi reiterated that the Church does not support violence against those who engage in homosexual behavior, or any attempt by the state to punish an individual simply because of “feelings and thoughts.”
“I think that violence against homosexual persons is not acceptable and it should be rejected, even though this does not imply an endorsement of their behavior.”
“The terms ‘sexual orientation and gender identity’ are not defined in international law,” he noted.
“To the extent that they are not external behavior, but feelings and thoughts, they cannot be subjected to punitive laws.”
But “for some people,” he pointed out, “these words are a code phrase for types of conduct.”
The archbishop expanded on a point he has previously tried to impress upon the Human Rights Council, as he observed that all societies regulate sexual behavior to some extent – by forbidding practices like incest, pedophilia, or rape – for the sake of the common good.
He contrasted the “clear message” of God’s creation, which spells out the complementarity of the two sexes, with the U.N.’s contrived and vague terminology of “orientation” and “gender identity.”
“Instead of ‘gender,’” Archbishop Tomasi said, “the concept we should use is ‘sex,’ a universal term in natural law referring to male and female.”
“In fact, it seems that terms such as ‘gender’ or ‘sexual orientation’ are devised to escape reality and to accommodate a variety of feelings and impulses that then are transformed into rights.”
This use of “rights” language, to justify practices like same-sex “marriage,” may appear superficially harmless as long as the alleged rights seem to be confined to private life.
But Archbishop Tomasi warned that these impulse-driven claims of “rights” are in conflict with authentic rights – such as the free exercise of religion, and the education of one’s children.
He pointed to the “traditionally Catholic country” of Spain, as “an example of where the current trend may lead.”
In that country, “legislation has been passed in the last four or five years in favor of homosexual marriage, free abortion in the first 22 weeks of pregnancy, of compulsory education even for children aged 8 to 12 on such issues as masturbation, same-sex marriage, contraception and abortion.”
This arrangement prevails in Spain, “notwithstanding the fact that thousands of parents are opposing this policy that denies their fundamental right to decide on their children’s education.”
Archbishop Tomasi suggested that Catholics today have a responsibility “to clarify legal and moral aspects of the current culture” – by drawing a distinction between desires and rights, promoting the Catholic synthesis of faith and reason, and making it clear that a judgment against homosexuality is not a condemnation of homosexuals.
“There is confusion in some people’s mind,” he noted, “in combining a just respect and protection for every person – including homosexuals – and support for the indispensable role of the family, the parents right to educate their children, the support of the natural family for the common good.”
While the secular West may find this ethos increasingly incomprehensible, the Church will continues to promote it.
“The teaching of the Church is not conditioned by political consensus,” the archbishop noted.
“At times she is misunderstood and even becomes the target of reprisals and persecution.”
“Reason and natural law, however, support faith-inspired positions,” he stated, “and the convergence of faith and reason is exceptionally fruitful for the progress and well-being of the human family.”