Italy's Plans to Recognize Cohabiting Couples Is Assailed

Cardinal Ruini Laments Idea of “Civil Solidarity Pacts”

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ROME, SEPT. 20, 2005 ( While public support in Italy for the family leaves much to be desired, lawmakers seem to be concerned almost exclusively about the legal recognition of cohabiting couples, laments a cardinal.

At Monday’s opening of the Permanent Council of the Italian bishops’ conference, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the Pope’s vicar for the Rome Diocese, assailed the proposals for legal recognition of these couples via “civil solidarity pacts.”

The president of the bishops’ conference recalled the words of Benedict XVI in his June 6 discourse to a congress of the Diocese of Rome.

The Holy Father stated that marriage and the family are not “casual sociological constructs, fruits of a particular historical and economic situation. On the contrary, the question of the right relationship between man and woman has its roots in the most profound essence of the human being, and can only find its answer in the latter.”

Cardinal Ruini emphasized the important social role that the family fulfills in Italy. He lamented: “The paradox of our situation is that, in contrast, public support for the family in Italy is lesser, less modern and organic, and even has a very serious and persistent crisis of birthrate which is already causing and will cause an even more enormous social problem in the future.”

“Therefore, support for the legitimate family should be the primary and true concern of the legislators,” the prelate insisted. His speech made headlines in today’s Italian newspapers.

On the increase

“Cohabitation is on the increase, especially among the youth, though the number has remained below statistics of other countries,” said Cardinal Ruini, 74.

He acknowledged that some cases of cohabitation are “provoked, at least in part, by the objective difficulties in beginning a family, difficulties which could be eliminated by adequate public intervention.”

Yet, he said, cases of unmarried couples living together “do not automatically suppose a petition for legal recognition.”

According to the bishops’ conference president, “For those couples who desire or need juridical protection, there is the path of common law which is wide and adaptable to the different situations.”

If, in spite of this, there were to emerge further demands for “eventual norms for guardianship,” the cardinal said, “this should not bring about a preconceived legislative model that tends to configure something similar to matrimony.”

Cardinal Ruini recalled that Article 29 of the Italian Constitution defines the family as “a natural society founded on matrimony” and recognizes its rights. Thus, the constitutional court has repeatedly affirmed that living together “more uxorio” — like spouses — cannot be compared to a family in such a way that it deserves equal legal treatment.

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