Vatican calls for decriminalizing homosexuality

VATICAN CITY -- The Vatican on Friday (Dec. 19) called for the decriminalization of homosexuality, but said a proposed United Nations declaration on gay rights is vague and excessively far-reaching.

The statement by the Holy See's UN delegation was a response to the "Declaration on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity," presented to the UN General Assembly on Thursday.

"The Holy See appreciates the attempts made in [the declaration] to condemn all forms of violence against homosexual persons as well as urge states to take necessary measures to put an end to all criminal penalties against them," the statement said.

But the Vatican said that the UN declaration "goes beyond this goal and instead gives rise to uncertainty in the law and challenges existing human rights norms."

The Vatican specifically objected to the declaration's use of the terms "sexual orientation" and "gender identity," which it said had no established meaning in international law.

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According to an editorial in the official Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, these terms "imply that sexual identity is defined only by culture," and their use in the declaration are part of an attempt to "equate same-sex unions with marriage and to give homosexual couples the chance to adopt or `procreate' children."

The paper argued the declaration would endanger "other human rights," such as "liberty of expression ... thought, conscience and religion," since it might limit religions in their freedom to teach that homosexual behavior is morally wrong.

The non-binding declaration, which was sponsored by France and backed by the 27-member European Union, received 66 votes in the 192-member UN General Assembly on Thursday. Aside from the Holy See, opponents included China, Russia, the United States, and the 56-member Organization of the Islamic Conference.

Homosexual behavior is against the law in dozens of countries, and punishable by death in several.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, homosexual acts are sinful and "contrary to the natural law," but persons with "deep-seated homosexual tendencies ... must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity" and "every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should avoided."

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