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Catholic Church in fresh swipe at gay marriage plan

Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois (left) speaking with Luigi Ventura, the Apostolic Nuncio to France, on his way back from the Lourdes sanctuary, on Saturday. Photo: AFP

Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois (left) speaking with Luigi Ventura, the Apostolic Nuncio to France, on his way back from the Lourdes sanctuary, on Saturday. Photo: AFP

The Catholic Church in France took a fresh swipe on Sunday at the Socialist Government’s plan to authorise gay marriage and adoption, as far-right leader Marine Le Pen called for a referendum on the issue.

Polls suggest that up to two-thirds of French voters back homosexuals’ right to marry, but they are split on allowing them to adopt

Paris Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, who has led opposition to the project, told mass-goers in the pilgrimage town of Lourdes that children needed both a father and a mother to build their identities.

“When we defend the right of children to build their personality with reference to the man and the woman who gave them life, we are not defending a particular position,” he said.

“We are recognising what is expressed by the practices and the wisdom of all the peoples since the beginning of time and which modern specialists confirm,” said Cardinal Vingt-Trois at the Mass during an annual meeting of France’s Catholic bishops.

The gay marriage plan is to be presented as a draft Bill to President François Hollande’s Cabinet tomorrow.

Hollande has promised that the legislation will be on the statute books by mid-2013, and there is sufficient cross-party support to ensure that the Government will be able to push it through on schedule.

A number of European nations allow gay marriage and adoption, but not France, where only married couples and not civil union partners can adopt.

Belgium, Britain, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, The Netherlands, Norway, Spain and Sweden currently allow gay adoption.

Polls suggest that up to two-thirds of French voters back homosexuals’ right to marry, but they are split on allowing them to adopt.

But Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front, questioned the polls, noting that a survey in 2005 on the European Constitution found a majority of the population in favour.

But in a referendum, the majority – 55 per cent – voted against the basic law.

The gay marriage and adoption draft Bill should also be put to a popular vote, she said.

“Hold a referendum on issues such as these!” she said in an interview on BFM-TV.

“We cannot keep talking about dialogue and not agree to hold a real debate on the issue,” she said.

Jean-Francois Cope, one of two candidates to succeed former President Nicolas Sarkozy as the head of the UMP party, urged the Government to postpone the draft Bill.

This draft Bill was “incredibly badly prepared. There was no dialogue,” he said in a interview with France Inter, Le Monde and AFP.

“It is not just about homosexual marriage, it is about a complete reorganisation, deconstruction of the right of the family, with questions surrounding lineage, the removal of the reference to father and mother in the text,” Cope said.

“It’s probably the issue that most needs dialogue,” he added.

Some conservative and far-right politicians have also called for mass street protests to try and force the Government to back down.

Hundreds of French mayors or deputy mayors have signed a petition opposing the Government’s plans and Jewish leaders have joined Catholic bishops and the right-wing opposition to denounce the initiative.

Many of these mayors – whose job entails officiating at marriages – have warned they will not preside over same-sex ceremonies.

Pope Benedict XVI last month urged French bishops to oppose the Bill and defend marriage as the “foundation of social life”.

Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has insisted there will be no backtracking on the pledge Hollande made when he was campaigning for the presidency this year.

The text to be presented to Hollande’s Cabinet will redefine marriage to stipulate that it is “contracted between two persons of different sex or of the same sex,” Ayrault said last month.

The draft legislation will include a provision for married gay couples to adopt child-ren but the right will not be immediately extended to unmarried homosexuals, the premier added.

That question and the issue of gay couples’ access to medically-assisted conception will be addressed in secondary legislation at a later date.

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