The Cardinal Who Opposes the Supreme Court

For Camillo Ruini, the American decision against marriage only between man and woman is illusion that presumes to negate reality. The future belongs to those who are able to defend the authentic human being. Civil unions between homosexuals: a “useless and harmful” compromise

by Sandro Magister

ROME, July 1, 2013 – Five days after the bombshell decision of the Supreme Court of the United States against the creatural difference of sex between man and woman, the supreme pastor of the Catholic Church has as yet offered no word.

It is still possible that he might do so the day after tomorrow, during his weekly public audience on Wednesday, or on a subsequent occasion.

But given the personal reservation with which he has approached this and other similar issues in the first hundred days of his pontificate, as a rule Francis seems to prefer that the bishops of each nation should speak on these issues. In this case, first of all the bishops of the United States, well known to be among the most combative, as they have demonstrated from the first reactions to the decision.

That this may be the approach of the current pontificate, on principles that Benedict XVI called “nonnegotiable” because they were inscribed in the very nature of man, is for now more a hypothesis than a certainty.

In any case, in the enduring the silence of the see of Peter, some bishops and cardinals today feel more tempted than ever in the past to distance themselves from the magisterium of the Church on these issues, as expressed by the two previous pontificates, for example speaking out in favor of the legislation of unions between homosexuals:

> Vatican Diary / Six more votes for “gay” unions

And the fact that these should include the president of the pontifical council for the family, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, is indicative of how the Vatican curia is a serious problem much more because of the confusion of some of its members than because of the inadequacy of some of its structures.


Among the cardinals and bishops not of the United States, one who after the decision of the American supreme court on June 26 was not silent, but on the contrary expressed unequivocal critical judgments, is the Italian Camillo Ruini.

Ruini, 82, was for more than twenty years first secretary and then president of the Italian episcopal conference, and for seventeen years the vicar of the diocese of Rome, first with John Paul II and then with Benedict XVI.

With both of these popes he worked in full harmony. His leadership coincided with the affirmation of the Italian Church as an “exception” with respect to the yielding of many other national Churches to the advance of that neo-secular culture of which the decision of the American supreme court is an emblem.

A recent synthesis of his vision is the “lectio magistralis” that he gave at the Fondazione Magna Carta in Rome last May 6:

> Quale ruolo della fede in Dio nello spazio pubblico?

During the previous pontificate, comprehensive visions substantiated theologically and situated historically like the one expressed in this “lectio” of Ruini were daily bread, in the preaching and writing of pope Joseph Ratzinger.

Now they have become something more rare.

But it is precisely from a vision of this breadth that there emerge the clear judgments expressed in the following interview, granted by Cardinal Ruini to Matteo Matzuzzi for the opinion newspaper “Il Foglio” of June 28.



An interview with Camillo Ruini

“Equality understood as the negation of all difference is something that goes against reality,” Cardinal Camillo Ruini tells “Il Foglio” in commenting on the decision by which the Supreme Court of the United States has declared unconstitutional part of the “Defense of Marriage Act,” the law that defined marriage as an exclusive union between man and woman under federal jurisdiction.

“We are fooling ourselves if we think we can banish nature with a personal or collective decision of our own,” continues the former vicar of Rome and president of the Italian episcopal conference.

Q: The decision of the court seems to confirm that one finds oneself before an unstoppable avalanche in which every objection to the equating of heterosexual and homosexual marriage will be overcome. Is this the terrain on which the debate over the development of civilization in the 21st century will be carried out?

A: I think so. Naturally, the question of homosexual marriage is part of a wider problem of our conception of man, meaning what the human person is and how he must be treated.

One very important aspect of our being is that we are structured according to the sexual difference, of man and woman. As we well know, this difference is not limited to the sexual organs, but involves all of our reality. It is a primordial and evident difference, which precedes our personal decisions, our culture and the education we have received, although all of these things in turn have a tremendous impact on our behavior. Thus humanity, since its origin, has understood marriage as a bond possible only between a man and a woman.

In recent decades a different position has made progress, according to which sexuality should be attributed to our free decisions. As Simone de Beauvoir said, “One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.” Thus marriage should also be open to persons of the same sex. It is the theory of “gender,” now widespread at an international level, in culture, in the laws and in the institutions.

But this is an illusion, even if it is shared by many: our freedom, in fact, is rooted in the reality of our being, and when it is violated it becomes destructive, of ourselves first of all. We think, in concrete terms, of what can be a family in which there is no longer a father, a mother, and children who have a father and a mother: the fundamental structures of our existence would be overturned, with the destructive effects that we can imagine, but not entirely foresee.

Q: We are facing an activism of a juridical and social character. The concept of traditional marriage by now seems destined to become obsolete. Is there perhaps the illusion that by expanding the institution of marriage to every kind of union this problem may be resolved, making it possible to say that equality has been definitively attained?

A: This is precisely the illusion: banishing nature with a personal or collective decision of our own. This is why those hopes are vain according to which a compromise could be found that would satisfy everyone, for example by introducing alongside marriage, which would remain reserved for persons of the opposite sex, legally recognized civil unions to which homosexuals would have access as well.

These unions on the one hand would not satisfy the demand for absolute freedom and equality that is at the basis of the claim of homosexual marriage, and on the other would be a duplicate of marriage, useless and harmful.

Useless because all of the rights that it is claimed are intended to be protected can very well be protected – and to a great extent already are – by recognizing them as rights of persons, and not of couples.

Harmful because a near-marriage, with lesser commitments and obligations, would bring even more into crisis authentic marriage, without which a society cannot maintain itself.

Q: How do you view the fact that a divisive decision like the one adopted by the American supreme court has been made by a tribunal, and not by a parliament?

A: I view it negatively: the supreme court, as also for example the constitutional court in Italy, in fact has a democratic legitimacy that is highly mediated and derivative. In my estimate it is much better to entrust decisions of this scope to organisms that have a direct democratic legitimation, like the parliaments.

Q: Do you not believe that at the root of this progressive dismantling of what has always been considered “traditional” is the fact that equality is becoming ever more a dogma? Is there not the risk that tradition is destined to come up against a complete reformulation?

A: I would distinguish the concept of equality. Understood as equal dignity among all human beings, equality is a sacrosanct principle. Understood instead as the negation of every difference and therefore as the presumption to treat different situations in the same way, equality is simply something that goes against reality.

Q: What can the Church do in the face of all of this? At times it seems to plod along, incapable of making its voice heard. In recent decades, moreover, it has related to these changes by going beyond the historical dualism between progress and tradition. It comes to mind, however, that after this twofold framework has been surpassed, much more serious problems are opened before which the answers can be perceived as ambiguous or unclear. What perspectives are on the horizon?

A: The Church cannot help but fight for man, as John Paul II wrote in his first encyclical – “On this way leading from Christ to man, on this way on which Christ unites himself with each man, nobody can halt the Church” – and as Benedict XVI also repeated in the address to the Roman curia for the Christmas greeting of 2012: the Church must defend with the greatest clarity the fundamental values constitutive of human existence.

It does not seem to me, then, that the Church is plodding along. Taking the case of France, the bishops and Catholics, together with many other citizens, have been defeated for now at least, on the legislative level, but have demonstrated a vitality and a cultural and social power greater than that of their adversaries.

This is only apparently a matter of dualism between progress and tradition: in reality, the true challenge is between two conceptions of man, and I remain convinced that the future belongs to those who are able to recognize and accept the human being in his authentic reality. The illusions, instead, sooner or later collapse, often after having done great damage.

Q: There is also the question of the relationship that Catholics have with the great issues that touch upon the sphere of ethics and morality. Specifically with regard to the case of marriage, do you not believe that in recent years the active contribution to the defense of what has always been a millennial symbol has become weak and watered down?

A: Catholics must be more aware of the cultural and social significance of their faith. When this awareness becomes weak, the faith becomes insipid and has little impact not only in the public sphere, but also in the capacity to draw persons and lead them to Christ. From this point of view, a certain way of understanding the secularism of culture and politics risks depriving the faith of its importance.

Q: The battle for equality feeds on emotional reasons. There is an idea of love that goes beyond the differences of gender, of the distinction between man and woman. It is love that makes itself an institution and a perfectly equal right. Is this an irreversible decline?

A: Love is a beautiful word, but it can have many meanings. States cannot, evidently, command or prohibit that one person should to love another, and in this sense the laws cannot directly concern themselves with love.

They can and must, however, seek to regulate in the way most useful and most in keeping with reality the behaviors that are born from love but have a public significance.


The newspaper that published the interview:

> Il Foglio


The address of Benedict VI of December 21, 2012 cited by Cardinal Ruini in the interview:

> The Pope and the Rabbi Against the Philosophy of “Gender”

And the case of the opposition of the French Church (although it is not alone in this) to the legalization of homosexual marriage:

> The Reawakening of the Church of France


English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.

About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas