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Vatican opposes UN Declaration on decriminalisation of homosexuality

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William Crawley | 18:43 UK time, Friday, 12 December 2008

_41353811_hangingap203b.jpgHomosexuality is illegal in nearly half of the world's nations. In most of those countries which ban consensual adult same-sex relationships, the penalties range from a few years in jail to life imprisonment. But in the case of seven countries, all governed by Islamic law, the sentence is death. Two of those countries, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria, will sit on the U.N. Human Rights Council in 2009. The picture here shows two young gay men about to be hanged in Iran. In May, Britain granted asylum to a gay Iranian teenager studying in London who feared execution by Iranian authorities after his boyfriend was hanged for 'sodomy'. Iranian human rights campaigners say more than 4,000 gay people have been executed in their country since 1979.

The United Nations appears now increasingly minded to end the criminalisation of homosexuality, and later this month the UN General Assembly will issue an historic declaration calling for the decriminalisation of homosexuality across the world. It's historic because the General Assembly has never before considered the rights of the global gay and lesbian population in any convention, declaration or humanitarian law.

Why, then, is the Vatican opposing this new Declaration?

The official position of the Catholic Church is that same-sex sexual activity is sinful. The church also claims that adultery is sinful, but it is not suggesting that wayward husbands should be put in prison. So, does the Vatican support the criminalisation of gay and lesbian people?

That's how this story is being run in some press outlets following an interview given to the French media by Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Vatican's permanent observer at the United Nations. The pope's press officer, Fr Federico Lombardi, is now engaged in something of a damage-limitation exercise. Fr Lombardi is emphasising that the church has an outright opposition to the death penalty and, in respect of lesbian and gay people, the church re-asserts its opposition to "all forms of penal legislation that are violent or discriminatory towards homosexual persons". In plainer language, the Catholic Church is opposed to laws which criminalise consensual same-sex relationships.

Why, then, is the Vatican also opposing a UN Declaration that calls on the world's nations to strike down those laws? The Vatican is concerned that the new Declaration could result in "control mechanisms according to which, norms (not only legal, but also relative to the life of social and religious groups) that do not place each sexual orientation on the same level, would be considered contrary to respect for human rights." In other words, the church is worried that its theological opposition to same-sex sexual acts, gay marriage and same-sex civil unions, could be portrayed as an attack on human rights and make the church and its agencies liable to "discrimination" byb state or international bodies in the future.

Supporters of the UN Declaration regard that logic as "grotesque".

Incidentally, in the Vatican City State itself homosexual acts are not technically illegal, for historical reasons I don't have time to go into, but which involve the laws of Italy when the city state was created in 1929. For similarly arcane reasons, the age of consent in the Vatican City State is 12 years.


  • Comment number 1.

    it is sad that the vatican will opposes the un declaration.....

  • Comment number 2.

    Strange that the Vatican should be so opposed to homosexuality when it has been giving gainful employment to homosexuals for years.

  • Comment number 3.

    Again I have an annoying question regarding rights. The UN declares people should have the right to be gay. I agree. But on what basis do they think so? How about, "People should have the right to any consensual, adult sexual activity?"

  • Comment number 4.

    John I agree with you on sexuality rights generally. I suppose the UN has to start the journey somewhere, and declaring that gay and straight people should not go to jail for expressing their sexuality is a good place to start.

  • Comment number 5.

    "Strange that the Vatican should be so opposed to homosexuality when it has been giving gainful employment to homosexuals for years."

    I really shouldn't laugh, but that's one of the funniest things I've ever read on here!


  • Comment number 6.

    Hi John Wright

    response to your question is now on Advertising Watchdog thread.

    best regards

  • Comment number 7.

    The vatican's opposition to this UN convention is nothing less than shameful.

    This is not about whether Christians believe homosexuality is a sin or not, it's about whether people should be sent to prison or executed for having a relationship which is disapproved of by the church.

    I believe the role of the church is not to send people to prison.

  • Comment number 8.

    Hmmm .... Iris Robinson .... Vatican .... strange bedfellows .... Sainthood .... Unthinkable ?!!

  • Comment number 9.

    Does not true homosexuality abound within the UN walls? Is behind many promotions? Has been a qualification to get on? Not to mention what goes on within the Catholic Church! Given the hard facts I think it would be expedient not to even discuss this matter. Let it lie under carpets. Everything depends on thought processes: what aspect of homosexuality each of us dwells upon is of the essence and explains simply why so many loathe it. Man and man make two. Men and Women make many.... and the church is all for making as many children as possible.

  • Comment number 10.

    joypattinson, what a nonsense contribution you've made here. "Given the hard facts"? What about the fact that some countries execute or imprison gay people? Doesn't that anger you in any way? Don't you regard that as unjust?

  • Comment number 11.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 12.

    smasher explain more what you mean. You say we should make homosexuality illegal but with no penalty at all? that would be a strange offence.

    You are avoiding the issue here, which is this - should we campaign to change laws around the world that send gay people to jail or discriminate against them in other ways?

  • Comment number 13.

    The photograph at the top of this article says it all. Two young men being hanged because they are gay. What savagery! What inhumanity!

    The whole world should condemn such inhumane actions and should boycott the countries which murder gay and lesbian people.

    The Vatican is morally bankrupt. It has no authority to pronounce on any matters of morality, having been found guilty of conspiring to hide paedophiles from justice and allowing them to commit more crimes. In a world where AIDS and overpopulation are causing misery for millions of people, the actions of the Vatican to prevent supplies of condoms where they are needed is not only morally obtuse, it is also criminally stupid.

    The UN is right to take action and the sooner, the better. Not only should it lay down the basic principle that adult consensual sex is no crime, but it should also ensure that any state which does criminalise homosexuality has no seat on the UN Human Rights Commission. The rest of the world must show the fundamentalist Islamic states that their homophobic bigotry is not acceptable and is contrary to the very concept of human rights.

  • Comment number 14.

    Jovial - I'm saying it should be possible to remove criminal penalties without opening the floodgates of homosexualist ideology.

    As for saying the UN is taking action - there is no UN apart from the states who make it up and they haven't taken action until a non-binding resolution is passed. They'd be better placed urging countries to decriminalise being unborn.

    Les Reid - you should get a job doing replica voiceovers for old events - you sound like the commentator when the Hindenburg exploded.

    Then we have your lies and libels - when has the Vatican been found guilty of conspiring to hide paedophiles. Firstly it hasn't happened and secondly it couldn't since there is no court with jurisdiction.

    As for Aids - almost laughable to mention this in the context of support for homosexual activity. Vatican has been consistent - sexual activity should only take place in marriage -how can this possibly cause Aids? You liberal idiots continue pretending that there are scenarios in which people completely ignore Church teaching on fornication, prostition, adultery, sodomy, but cravenly follow the Church teaching on contraception. Would you wise up. If people did as the Church suggested there would be no Aids.

  • Comment number 15.

    I have to agree with everything Les said in post # 13. The Vatican is one of the greatest sinks of evil to blight the face of the globe. The institutional Roman church throughout history perverted the gospel of Christ and oppressed the flock they should have fed. Popes, Cardinals and Bishops gathered wealth beyond measure for self aggrandisement and forbade to their people those pleasures and vices with they shamelessly indulged themselves. The organisation is morally and spiritually bankrupt and it is astonishing that anyone could even dream of taking any of its pronouncements seriously.

    I thought no modern figure so encapsulated the truth of Hamlet's assertion "That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain" as the late Pope John Paul II. His reassertion of mediaeval nonsense and failure to provide genuine leadership represented an evil beside whose scope and scale that of the Rev Ian Paisley pales into insignificance.

  • Comment number 16.

    Portwyne, I guess that's why so many people turned up for his funeral and so many States have ambassadors accredited to the Holy See, and so many people have read his books and even more are reading the books of Pope Benedict XVI and attending his audiences in greater numbers than ever before.

    John Paul the Great was the individual most responsible for the defeat of communism in central and Eastern Europe. His record on human rights is second to none.

    It is absolutely laughable to think the UN has more credibility than the Catholic Church.

  • Comment number 17.

    smasher-lagru writes: "It is absolutely laughable to think the UN has more credibility then the Catholic Church/"

    What world are you living in, Smasher? The UN helps to feed children in the developing world, the Catholic Church's heirarchy participated in a worldwide conspiracy to cover up the abuse of children. Credibility?

  • Comment number 18.

    Jovial - what world are you living in? The Catholic Church cares for more Aids victims than any other organisation, provides more schools and hospitals in the developing world. I'm not totally down on the UN but get some perspective.

    And good luck at finding evidence of a "worldwide conspiracy to cover up the abuse of children". Suppose the Vatican bombed the Twin Towers and faked the moon landings as well.

  • Comment number 19.


    A google search on "Paedophile priest cover-up" brings up cases from all over the world. Ireland, England, France, USA, Canada .... In every case the same story: victims told to keep quiet and the paedophile moved on to another parish. The bishops did the moving on and they take their orders from the Vatican. Therefore the trail of guilt leads right to the Vatican.

    The official line has always been secrecy. The top priority is to protect the reputation of the church, not to help the victims, nor to punish the molesters. Ratzinger laid down strict rules on secrecy when he was head of the Inquisition.

    Read https://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/apr/15/aprayerfortheprey

    Extract: "As David France reported in his book Our Fathers: The Secret Life of the Catholic Church in an Age of Scandal, any accusation against a priest for paedophilia, as long as the alleged crime wasn't more than 10 years ago, would trigger a church trial. The rub, however, was that the lawyers and jurors would all be priests sworn to secrecy. "Appeals," France wrote, "would go directly to an ecclesiastical tribunal in Rome, under Ratzinger's authority." More damning, priests that took part in the proceedings could not talk about them, the Irish Examiner reports, until 10 years after the child abused reached adulthood."

  • Comment number 20.

    Les - oh well that proves it then, cos you've googled it. Try googling "ufo sightings" - that'll prove that as well. and that other great source on the Catholic Church - the Guardian!

    No one doubts that a tiny minority of priests abused children and that in many cases this was covered up - including in many cases by the parents of the victims. However, this does not translate into a Vatican inspired conspiracy. Bishops are not given operational directions from Rome - there's no "move Fr X to parish Y".

    As for secrecy, in other contexts such as family courts we call this privacy or confidentiality.

  • Comment number 21.

    smasher, be real. The cover up of abuse cases is not just legendary, it's been documented in court cases and media investigations across the world, from australia to america and back.

    Boston Globe did a massive investigation:


    Catholic press have done exposes on it:


    Read the vatican's own documents itself, which reveal a cover up:

  • Comment number 22.

    Jovial - you're making this too easy. Have you read the links you've given? Here's a quote from the second one - from your own source, not mine:

    "When a federal report, ordered by Congress and chartered by the U.S. Department of Education, exposed rampant sexual abuse in PUBLIC SCHOOLS throughout the country, politicians and the mainstream secular press corps all but ignored it. Though the media ran daily stories about old allegations involving Catholics, the federal report estimated that 422,000 California public school students would be victims of sexual misconduct by educators before graduation – a number dwarfing the state’s entire Catholic school enrollment of 143,000.

    By contrast, during the first half of 2002, the 61 largest newspapers in California ran 1,744 stories about sexual abuse in Catholic institutions, referring almost entirely to decades-old allegations. During the same period, those newspapers ran four stories about federally exposed sexual abuse in public schools."

    Jovial - if there's a conspiracy, it's not a Catholic one.

  • Comment number 23.

    smasher it is depressing that you are still in denial about the cover up of child sexual abuse by the catholic hierarchy. All you do iN that last post is point out that the media in the US failed to report on secular abuse cases as much as they reported on church abuse.

  • Comment number 24.

    I am in denial about nothing. The Boston Globe did an excellent job revealing the extent of the problem in Boston, and was brave enough to also give coverage to priests who had been falsely accused. But you have alleged a worldwide conspiracy and there is no evidence to back this up. My point about the article you quoted was that it showed the way in which the media had highlighted each and every case many times over involving the Catholic Church but has failed to cover other abuse. This had contributed to the situation in which people believe, erroneously, that abuse is prevalent and more likely in the Church than any other organisation.

    And of course a complete reluctance by all concerned to face the fact that, numerically, the real problem has been homosexual priests, not paedophiles. Do you want to talk about homosexuals in the priesthood?

  • Comment number 25.

    Smasher, this is ridiculous. The worldwide conspiracy to cover up abuse cases is the Vatican's coordinated strategy to deal with these cases in private. Cild abuse has nothing to do with homosexuality OR heterosexuality. We may even agree in theology about sexual issues, but the really important thing to say about child abuse is that it is not an expression of sexuality, it is about abuse, power and humiliation. I am not arguing that celebacy is the cause of the high numbers of child abusers in the priesthood. I just wish we would accept that this tragedy happened and stop trying to pretend otherwise.

  • Comment number 26.


    The 1962 Vatican document was specifically about solicitation in the confessional. The levels of confidentiality involved were for that reason - it had nothing to do with child abuse in general and did nothing to prevent anyone reporting to civil authorities. And don't pretend it had a "chilling effect" since hardly anyone knew of its existence.

    I agree that paedophilia is not homosexuality - it's a very specific disorder in which someone is sexually attracted to children qua children. My point was that the vast majority of cases did not involve paedophilia but homosexuality - all be it of adults with teenagers, all be it criminal. I'm not saying it's not an offence, but from a psychologists point of view they are very different. It's one of the reasons why psychologists actually contributed to the problem - because priests who were sent for counselling were told there was essentially nothing wrong with them but poor judgement about age.

    And of course these things are about power and its abuse - but they are about sex as well. The "it's about power not sex" argument is routinely wheeled out to prevent liberals being asked awkward questions about where the sexual revolution has taken us.

    The reason I continue to argue is that, while accept the fact that abuse took place and was covered up - you don't accept the fact that it is slanderous and untrue to say as you have said that there is a "high number of child abusers in the priesthood". There is in fact a tiny number. That's a fact which you can find if you read genuine studies and not tabloid headlines.

  • Comment number 27.

    The photo shows the execution of two young men whom the Iranian authorities had convicted of male rape (of a minor) - so not exactly a simple case of sodomy. That being the case, they were both probably too young to die for this crime, and a lengthy prison sentence would have been a better course.

    The crime of sodomy has been punished by death for several centuries and in various places - it's true to say that gay rights would be a relatively new and strange concept in human history (the concept of "a homosexual" or "gay person" is completely new and less than 150 years old). Until very recently, whether "tolerant" of same-sex sex, or not, no culture had a concept of a sexuality which was distinct from "the norm" of just being human (one is born, one marries, one dies). In fact, during times of financial success and peace many states and places have been more lenient towards the (to use modern jargon) homosexually inclined person (without being fully aware of acting in this way), an example being the fact that same-sex friends could "marry" (for want of a better word) at certain times during the middle ages in Europe. Reactions to this tolerance always come about - and I would not be surprised at all if this were to happen in the West during its final decline (probably in the next 50 years or so). During times of crisis people tend to revert to what is natural to them - and a revulsion towards homosexuality and the protection of the family / need to procreate seem to have been (for the majority of human history) an ingrained natural default position. The human family unit (mother, father, children) and "straight" sex becomes far more important when survival is threatened.

    I really believe that a State should be allowed to create its own laws, and that an anti-sodomy law is perfectly rational - in that it seeks to protect the young and vulnerable, the family structure, and society (from disease, etc), and to conform to religious, philosophical or moral teachings which have been generally accepted. There are far too many rights, and not enough responisbilities around. The idea of sin / wrong-doing has been undermined - as what was once a serious crime is now promoted (sodomy), if this can happen so quickly many lawyers would fear that "laws" are seen to be cheap, and that important values (such as the right to life) could also be undermined in the same way. Many people, probably the majority of the world's population, believe that homosexuality is wrong - either morally or in terms of some form of psychosexual malajustment...so why can't these people have the right to legislate against it?

    Which is the greatest right? The right of people to create laws according to their culture, social needs, beliefs, traditions and consciences...or the right of the West to impose its liberal agenda on "the Third World"? Is it right for a country to create its own laws, as best it can - or should other nations force change? Are the rights of a minority (such as homosexually inclined people) of greater value than the majority of religiously inclined people? If so, why? If the people of a nation want to execute / imprison those charged with sodomy, who are we to tell them they can't? If there is enough public opinion against these laws in the countries concerned then the laws will change (surely it's the responisbility of the people of that place to bring about change?).

    I think the Vatican is doing well to stick to the beliefs it has always held, as a Catholic Monarchy...Needless to say, like everything in life, what might seem unpopular today will be all the rage again tomorrow...and that goes for Catholic (or faith-based) teaching on human sexuality. As with the economy, with stocks and shares - "rights" can go down as well as up!

  • Comment number 28.

    Benedict, that logic is astonishing. Presumably you would also uphold the right of the Nazi German legislature to impose laws to kill Jewish people, because in times of crisis, picking on a minority group as a convenient scapegoat, particularly when religiously sanctioned, is a natural human behaviour?

    The locus of human rights is the human individual, not "legislatures" or "religious groupings" or "countries", despite the disgusting behaviour of the IWC in the UN, in their attempts to undermine the Declaration on Human Rights, or the pathetic charade in the Republic, constructing legislation criminalising blasphemy.

  • Comment number 29.


    "I think the Vatican is doing well to stick to the beliefs it has always held."

    Like the earth is flat, etc... etc... etc... ??!! As Henry stated about the Church with regard to consistent teaching, "She is a whore who will open her legs to the highest bidder."

    There are actually no such things as rights, only "temporary privileges" which are nearly always removed at the very moment you need them. (120 thousand American citizens of Japanese descent banged up in internment camps in the 1940s would testify to that.)

    You have the right to decide which sandwich you would like. That's about it.


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