When will most politicians who are Roman Catholics start voting like true Catholics? By informed accounts, that question has been batted around in Rome with increasing frequency-and frustration for Pope John Paul II and Vatican officials.
Twice this year the Vatican has issued written directives to Catholic politicians. The first time was in January, when Rome released guidelines that called on lawmakers to oppose abortion and euthanasia, and to promote laws that safeguard marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman.
The second time was last week, when the Vatican issued a 12-page document, specifically appealing to Catholic politicians around the world to be true to their religion and reject the legalization of same-sex marriage. To support it, the document said, would be "gravely immoral."
No wonder. The pace toward widespread legal acceptance of gay "marriage" has only quickened since January, thanks in part to many politicians who profess to be Catholics. In Canada, Catholics are by far the largest religious group (43.2 percent of the population), and they dominate politics from Prime Minister Jean Chretien down. Parliament recently drafted a bill that redefines marriage to include same-sex couples and, before a final vote, sent it to the supreme court for review.
Some Catholic bishops in Canada said the new document from Rome might influence the consciences of "a few" lawmakers, but they sounded less than optimistic. A spokesman for Justice Minister Martin Cauchon, one of many Catholics in Parliament, said Mr. Cauchon will base his vote on equality rights, not on his "personal religious beliefs."
Same-sex marriage already is legal in Belgium and The Netherlands. France, Germany, Croatia, and Argentina-all with large Catholic populations-as well as some U.S. states are headed in that direction, having made marriage-like concessions to same-sex partners.
If Catholic lawmakers fail to block gay-marriage legislation, the Vatican said they still have "the duty to bear witness to the truth" and publicly declare their opposition.