US bishops denounce Rhode Island civil union bill

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The U.S. Catholic bishops have expressed their disapproval with a civil unions bill likely to be signed into law after passing Rhode Island's state senate on June 29.

“In no way can civil union measures be considered a permissible compromise or a step in advancing the common good, said Bishop Salvatore J. Cordileone, Chairman of the U.S. bishops' Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, in a July 1 statement. “Instead, they directly violate principles of justice and accelerate the push to redefine marriage itself.”

The bill, likely to be signed by Governor Lincoln Chafee, would allow same-sex couples to enter into a “legal union” with “all the rights , benefits, protections, and responsibilities” as those of people who are married,” according to a statement released by the Senate. The bill passed with a vote of 21-16.

Speaking on behalf of the U.S. bishops, Bishop Cordileone said that marriage, “the communion of husband and wife,” is a unique reality that has no equivalent. He also noted that the legalization of civil unions in Rhode Island would harm the unique status and meaning of marriage, and promote the “crossing of moral boundaries.”

“The exclusive and permanent bond of a man and woman joined in marriage offers to the couple, and to society, a preeminent value that should not be eclipsed by governmental attempts to redesign fundamental realities by legal dictate,” the bishop stated.

Allowing civil unions for homosexual couples, he continued, is unjust – “because now the government is treating as similar two different realities that cannot be considered as analogous or equivalent in any way.”

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin, head of the Diocese of Providence, also denounced the bill and said that he was “deeply disappointed” by the establishment of civil unions in the state. He encouraged Catholics to pray for “God’s patience, mercy and forgiveness in these distressing times.”

“The concept of civil unions is a social experiment that promotes an immoral lifestyle, is a mockery of the institution of marriage as designed by God, undermines the well-being of our families, and poses a threat to religious liberty,” Bishop Tobin said June 30.

He emphasized the Church’s “respect and love” for those who experience same-sex attraction. But he explained that homosexual activity was “contrary to the natural law and the will of God.”

Governor Chafee has said he supports the bill because it is an “incremental step” toward allowing homosexual “marriage.” House Speaker Gordon Fox also supports gay “marriage,” but indicated that civil unions were introduced as a compromise because of insufficient support for a redefinition of marriage.

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