Vatican expert warns against "criminalisation of religious opposition" to gays

Noted US Vaticanologist John L Allen has warned against a trend towards "criminalisation of religious opposition to homosexuality" following a UK Government decision to refuse to allow Catholic adoption agencies to bar services to gay couples.

In his regular column for the National Catholic Reporter this week, Mr Allen says that the Blair government decision last week is a trend that poses deep challenges to the Catholic Church.

"Not only in terms of legal exposure, but its capacity to articulate a positive message on sexuality and the family," he said.

The ruling by the British Blair government means that government-funded Catholic adoption agencies in the UK will not be exempted from complying with proposed new rules allowing gay adoption.

Mr Allen characterises the story as part of a "cultural 'mega-trend' in the affluent North" involving "a collision between the irresistible force of the gay rights movement, and the immovable object of religious commitment to traditional 'family values'".

Citing recent court battles in Sweden, Canada, France and the US, Allen warns that courts may increasingly be asked to hear appeals from Christians who believe they're being discriminated against for their views on gay rights.

"It's not much of a stretch", Mr Allen continues, "to imagine pastors being fined or even imprisoned for statements opposing the rights of homosexuals to marry or adopt."

Recognising Pope Benedict's efforts to present Catholic teaching on sexual morality in a positive, non-confrontational manner, Mr Allen asks whether "the train-wreck of a church/state crisis be avoided".

"Benedict XVI is, among other things, a musician, and he has tried to strike the right tone; the question is whether he or anyone else can complete the score, while also managing to stay out of jail," Mr Allen concludes.

Religious opposition to homosexuality increasingly a question of law (NCR Cafe, 2/2/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
National Catholic Reporter
John L. Allen (Wikipedia)

British Church to defy ruling on gay adoptions (CathNews, 31/1/07)
Cardinal warns British govt over gay adoptions (CathNews, 24/1/07)
Family institution under attack, says Vatican document (CathNews, 6/6/06)
Pell prepares for fight on gay adoption (CathNews 1/5/06)
Scottish Catholics seek opt-out on adoption laws (CathNews 18/1/06)
Church concerned for adopted children of same-sex couples (CathNews 25/7/05)

5 Feb 2007