A note on Relatio post disceptationem 51
I do not know exactly at what point understatement becomes platitude, and where platitude descends into patronizing, but those points were reached and passed on the Synod’s way to informing Catholics “that unions between people of the same sex cannot be considered on the same footing as matrimony between man and woman.” Relatio 51.
For starters, by definition, no mere “union” between human beings can be on the ‘same footing’ as “marriage” because marriage is that unique human relationship wherein there is established a permanent consortium of the whole of life ordered to, among other things, the procreation and education of children. Canon 1055. Obviously, if there is only one of something, nothing else can be on the ‘same footing’ with it.
But if by the term same-sex “union”, the Relatio really has in mind “same-sex marriage” (and various reasons suggest that is what it intended to address), then, to leave Catholics with the impression that such “unions”, while not on the ‘same footing’ as “marriage”, nevertheless approach marriage, is pastorally irresponsible: The Church teaches with infallible certainty that two persons of the same sex cannot enter marriage. The only, highly technical at that, question on the table regarding that teaching is whether it is infallibly proclaimed as “an object of belief” or as “a doctrine to be held”, a question this Synod seems ill-equipped to consider.
But, regardless of how that technical question is answered, whatever “union” results from the coming together of two persons of the same sex, that relationship cannot be analogized to natural or Christian marriage—at least not without risking serious harm to settled Church teaching and needless confusion among those who depend on that teaching.