Archbishop Vincent Nichols is being attacked by some conservative catholics for remarks he made regarding civil unions for same-sex partners, according to a report at vatican Insider.
This is silly. The Archbishop did not endorse civil unions, which are already the law of the land, but he insisted that they allow some of the objectives sought by those seeking same-sex marriage in the UK and are, in his estimation, a preferable alternative to changing the legal definition of marriage. More importantly, how is what Abp Nichols said different from what then-Abp, now Cardinal, William Levada endorsed when, as Abp of San Francisco, he worked out a compromise with the city government regarding the extension of health care and other benefits to same sex partners? Levada and the city agreed that those who work at agencies that receive government funds can name anyone they want to receive benefits, provided that person lives with them legally. It can be an unemployed cousin, a retired aunt, or a same sex partner.
The beauty of this solution is that is allows the Church to avoid acting against any of its teachings. If Levada had drawn a line in the sand and decided the archdiocese would not give health care benefits to anyone, that would have contradicted the Church's teaching that health care is a basic human right. And, the solution he worked out does not require the Church to acknowledge any relationships which it might find morally objectionable. It was brilliant and, not unimportantly, theologically bullet-proof, signed off on at the time, and in subsequent iterations, by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.