The “Relatio” and the Rights of Children

The mid-term report issued by the Synod directly contradicts and undermines what the CDF has said about children being raised by homosexual couples

In a previous article I suggested, “Perhaps the unique gift the Synod will give us is the grace to suffer the Cross well in order to give patient and effective witness to the truth about marriage and family.”

This seems like a colossal understatement in light of the bishops’ midterm report. While there are many problematic ideas put forth in the Relatio, I will focus on a particularly egregious example.

One would think that in light of the awful priest and prelate sexual abuse scandals, the one mistake a synod on the family would conscientiously avoid is the suggestion that any form of child abuse could somehow be licit.

Yet in an audacious paragraph that is meant to affirm the positive aspects of same-sex couples — even going so far as to declare their “mutual aid . . . a precious support in the life of the partners” — the bishops state: “The Church pays special attention to the children who live with couples of the same sex, emphasizing that the needs and rights of the little ones must always be given priority.” It is a glaring instance of wanting to have it both ways.

In the 2003 document, “Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons,” promulgated by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), the Church definitively stated that allowing children to be “adopted by persons living in such unions would actually mean doing violence to these children…” On the one hand, the Church declares that allowing children to be raised by same-sex couples means permitting a sort of violence to be done to them. Yet, somehow the Synod—or at least some bishops within the Synod—proposes that we protect these children from violence by encouraging the faithful to recognize the “precious” aspects of same-sex couples, even those who are raising children?

Here’s the full quote from the CDF document:

As experience has shown, the absence of sexual complementarity in these unions creates obstacles in the normal development of children who would be placed in the care of such persons. They would be deprived of the experience of either fatherhood or motherhood. Allowing children to be adopted by persons living in such unions would actually mean doing violence to these children, in the sense that their condition of dependency would be used to place them in an environment that is not conducive to their full human development. (par 7)

How can the CDF declare so clearly that being raised by a same-sex couple means being raised in an environment that is not conducive to a child’s full development, yet at the same time the Relatio of the Synod on the Family suggests that we “accept” and “value” the homosexual orientation, acknowledging the “precious” aspects in such couplings?

The CDF provides an additional example of how adopting a positive view of same-sex unions damages children: “Lifestyles and the underlying presuppositions these express not only externally shape the life of society, but also tend to modify the younger generation’s perception and evaluation of forms of behavior” (par 6; emphasis mine).

As faithful sons and daughters of the Church, we should voice our strong concerns about, even objections to, the Relatio—particularly as it relates to the promotion of ideas and sentiments the Church has already definitively declared to be harmful to children. We cannot sit back and silently accept another abuse scandal, one that would place children in situations in which their “full human development” could be thwarted or damaged. In fact, as the CDF stated, this really is a matter of authentic justice: “The denial of the social and legal status of marriage to forms of cohabitation that are not and cannot be marital is not opposed to justice; on the contrary, justice requires it” (par 8).

I understand these are strong words, and it pains me to have to direct such criticism against bishops, mindful that the Relatio is not an authoritative or magisterial text, and that many revisions and corrections are to come Yet, at the same time, bishops must be held accountable for promoting safe environments for children. The Church has definitively declared that being raised by a same-sex couple is a clear example of not being raised in a safe environment. The bishops, then, must not equivocate on the intrinsic disorder of same-sex attraction, the grave immorality of same-sex unions, and the harm such equivocation visits on children.

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About Bill Maguire 20 Articles
Bill Maguire earned his Master's in Theological Studies from the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Washington, D.C. He served for two years as the managing editor of Communio: International Catholic Review and has worked with youth and youth adults in various capacities: youth minister, campus minister, and adjunct professor of theology.