The Vatican has given love a broader meaning

  • Sharif D Rangnekar
  • Updated: Oct 20, 2014 00:15 IST

The LGBT community across the world and in India is delighted with the significant shift in stance that the Vatican has taken on homosexuality and live-in relationships. The working paper, reportedly, focuses on ‘realism’ and ‘mercy’, suggesting that divorcees and homosexuals should receive compassion.

Even as certain religious groups, including factions of the church, try to play down the reports in the press, it is apparent that the Vatican is attempting to throw up a debate on the family as a unit and, therefore, society at large. This is exactly where the significance lies, particularly for the LGBT community, which is kept at a distance from any social structure in most parts of the world.

By bringing ‘family’ and ‘marriage’ into focus, the Vatican has sought to review the core factors of existence in society linked to responsibility towards children (if born of a marriage) and of property ownership. By doing this, the Vatican has pulled out the reality of history where family as a structure has evolved and at one time never existed.

Friederich Engels in The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State had stated that families came into being only over the past few thousand years.

According to published reports, families as units emerged with wealth creation. Economic growth then led to roles being defined, with the woman being often left to look after the home and rear children, who then take over the legacy. Prior to that, there was no wealth to pass on and so no need for a family.

Industrialisation and capitalism led to more defined families, with family planning, with procreation emerging as germane to building legacies. Markets grew, insurance and banking companies came into being and the future was always about the investment families made and left for the generations to come. This created a more cemented structure of heirs and security through law. This, however, left homosexuals out of the picture.

Even as the LGBT community was oppressed, it was the same capitalism and economic empowerment that allowed homosexuals to create their own space. Their ingenuity made it possible for them to meet at places and live a life outside of the family structure, observed Sherry Wolf of the ‘International Socialism Review’. “Capitalist society then sought to define and repress,” she adds in her paper on the roots of gay oppression. Corporations were always and are more comfortable in catering to a structure that is acceptable for a larger section of their consumer base.

Over the past decade, the family unit in India has changed, with single mothers, couples without children and adoption on the rise.
It is evident that there is no single structure for a family and the institution of marriage has been challenged and changed, impacting what the unit can look like. Of relevance is the emphasis on personal choices and love, all of which can encompass a family that is not always ‘joint’ or ‘nuclear’ in the way it was.

That being the case, the main points from the Vatican’s discussion document resonate with the dynamics of a changing world that should see the family unit amending and altering with the times.

It would be silly to assume that the homosexual world is averse to families. What they seek are marriage and similar ties with the option to adopt children. In essence, such relationships are more about love and giving.

So, when one views what the Vatican has said, it may have actually given the family unit a longer life with compassion, allowing for the inclusion of sexual minorities and live-ins.

Sharif D Rangnekar is CEO & Director, Integral PR
The views expressed by the author are personal

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