The Archbishop of Vienna has sharply criticized a new ruling by the Austrian Constitutional Court that paves the way for same-sex marriages, calling the decision a “denial of reality.”
Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, who is also the president of the Austrian bishops’ conference, said that the Court’s decision “ultimately harms everyone, including those it seeks to protect and who should be protected.”
“It is disturbing that even the justices of the Constitutional Court judges have lost sight of the special nature of marriage as a union of husband and wife,” the Cardinal said in a statement to Kathpress, an Austrian Catholic news agency.
“If the Court denies the uniqueness and thus the special legal status of marriage, which is built on the diversity of the sexes, it denies reality,” he said.
The Constitutional Court reached its decision on Dec. 5, marking an essential change in Austrian marriage law. The judges found that the distinction between marriage and civil unions was a violation of the principle of anti-discrimination enshrined in the Constitution and decreed that all legal distinctions between same-sex and diverse-sex couples will be eliminated as of December 31, 2018. From that point on, same-sex couples in Austria will be able to marry and civil unions will be opened to diverse-sex couples.
“I deplore the reinterpretation of an essential concept of the legal order, which is rooted in human nature and plays a decisive role for society,” the Cardinal said, while noting that the new ruling contradicts the European Court of Human Rights.
At the same time, the Cardinal voiced his hope that things would eventually return to an understanding of marriage based on the real differences of the sexes.
“I am confident that in the long term the insight into the order of creation will prevail again,” he said, “which man cannot ignore without suffering harm.”
The Cardinal’s words echoed a similar statement issued by the Austrian bishops’ conference last month, in which the prelates underscored the nature of marriage as it has been historically understood.
“The essence of marriage is the lasting union between a man and a woman and their openness to common children,” the bishops said. “This understanding of marriage is fundamental to the coexistence of people, and is reflected in the European Convention on Human Rights as well as in the current Austrian legal system,” they said.
In 2015, Pope Francis issued a lengthy teaching text on marriage and the family called The Joy of Love (Amoris Laetitia), in which he denounced modern efforts to impose same-sex marriage, based on a misunderstanding of human sexual identity.
The Pope wrote that the “legal deconstruction of the family” taking place in many countries cannot bode well for the future of society. It is unacceptable that “international bodies should make financial aid to poor countries dependent on the introduction of laws to establish ‘marriage’ between persons of the same sex,” he said.
Francis has been an outspoken critic of LGBT agitators’ efforts to impose same-sex marriage and theories of gender fluidity that separate gender from biological sexual differences.
In that same letter, Francis slammed gender theory for its denial of “the difference and reciprocity in nature of a man and a woman,” and for its dream of “a society without sexual differences.”
“An appreciation of our body as male or female,” he said, is “necessary for our own self-awareness in an encounter with others different from ourselves.” Efforts to cancel out sexual differences based in anatomy are a symptom of a sick society that “no longer knows how to deal with it,” he wrote.
With the new court ruling, Austria will become the 16th European country to permit same-sex marriage. Eleven other European nations allow same-sex civil unions.
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