Pope Francis hit the headlines last week when he supported “civil unions of homosexual people”.

There has been much consternation among Catholics I have spoken to. The main concerns are: is the pope changing Catholic teaching? Will this cause a split in the Church? What are non-Catholics saying about it?

Cardinal Leo Burke, a prominent American cardinal, said that it is a source of deepest sadness and pressing pastoral concern that the private opinions attributed to Pope Francis do not correspond to the constant teaching of the Church. Equally sad and concerning is the turmoil, confusion and error they cause among the Catholic faithful.

The former head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, called the pontiff's statement "a purely private expression of opinion, which every Catholic can and should freely contradict". He also warned against slavishly thinking that what the pope says is always right.

From the Catholic point of view, Cardinal Burke confirmed that people with a homosexual inclination must be received with respect, compassion and sensitivity, avoiding any unjust discrimination.

Franklin Graham, a prominent US evangelical leader, criticised the pope’s comments as an attempt to normalise homosexuality.

Tony Perkins, of the American Family Research Council, has said that, in discussions of homosexuality, it is important to be precise in our language. You should not call someone a homosexual person because sexuality does not define an individual but gender does, as our gender as male or female is written into every cell in our body in our chromosomes.

Sexual orientation is an umbrella term for three quite different things: sexual attraction, sexual conduct and sexual identity. Scientific research in human sexuality has shown that these three aspects of sexual orientation are not always held together by an individual. They have to be addressed individually.

Same sex attraction may be experienced by individuals as an involuntary feeling, especially during puberty. Cardinal Burke says that Catholic tradition has always held, however, that it is homosexual acts that are wrong. They are contrary to natural law; they cannot produce new life and they do not represent true affective or sexual complementarity.

Homosexual acts are not only harmful to the individuals who engage in them but also to society at large.

Same sex attraction may be experienced by individuals as an involuntary feeling, especially during puberty- Fr Patrick Pullicino

Those who actually identify as homosexual often argue that it is important gay people are treated equally. Conservatives, however, believe that people who identify as homosexual should and do enjoy all the same rights as any other citizens.

Debate is mostly about whether homosexual conduct or relationships should be discouraged, treated as private or actively protected.

LGBT activists are those who have a social and political agenda to force the public affirmation and celebration of homosexuality.

Having been married myself, a major problem I see about supporting same-sex unions is that they undermine marriage and marriage has been the bedrock of society for thousands of years. Not only does it ensure that the cycle of life continues, but marriage creates a safe haven for children to grow and mature.

Research (Regnerus and others) has shown that children brought up in same-sex relationships are disadvantaged.

This is something that those who push for ‘equality’ ignore. Children should be top of our agenda not treated as possessions that are used to affirm our lifestyle choices.

The Catholic Church teaches that it is Our Lord who made our bodies and designed the rules for them and we must obey them. Malta has always been a haven for the family and for children and Catholics should be proud of their rules that protect and nurture the wonderful institution of marriage.

Catholic parents should be vocal in protecting that which gave them the benefits of love and security when they were young but that now is being attacked from all sides, both from within and outside the Church.

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