In 2006, when he was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal William J. Levada authored “The Family in the Catechism of the Catholic Church,” in which he states that The Catechism of the Catholic Church affirms that “The vocation of marriage is written in the very nature of man and woman as they came from the hand of the Creator” (1603) and that “In creating man and woman, God instituted the human family and endowed it with its fundamental constitution” (2203). Levada writes:
Since marriage and family have their basis in the created order, confirmed by the explicit Revelation of God, the Church necessarily opposes the adoption of human laws that would abandon or overturn this order, such as is the case with laws that would recognize same-sex or polygamous “marriage.” Human laws and judicial decisions that fail to respect this fundamental and perennial teaching are contrary to God’s law, and are rightly considered unjust.
And yet Pope Francis is praising a children’s book celebrating homosexual parenting and same-sex families.
Rosie Scammel reports for The Guardian, Aug. 28, 2015, that the Italian children’s book is titled Piccolo Uovo (Little Egg), with a cover adorned by cute hippos, kangaroos and penguins. While following the adventures of an egg may seem harmless enough, its discovery of different family types – including same sex – has prompted a backlash by conservatives who accuse Italian author Francesca Pardi of promoting a pro-homosexuality gender theory.
Pardi is a lesbian in a same-sex relationship with her business partner, Maria Silvia Fiengo. The two women traveled to Spain to be legally married and adopted four children in the Netherlands.
In the book, the egg encounters a pair of gay penguins, lesbian rabbits successfully bringing up a family, as well as other family models, including a single parent hippo, a mixed race dog couple, and kangaroos that have adopted polar bear cubs.
The book was met with disapproval by Venice’s new mayor, Luigi Brugnaro, who in June banned Piccolo Uovo and about 50 other titles from schools. The decision led more than 250 Italian authors to demand their own books be removed from the city’s shelves, a move one writer described as a “protest against an appalling gesture of censorship and ignorance”.
Now Pardi has found an unlikely supporter in Pope Francis, who through his staff has written to the author praising her work. Peter B. Wells, a senior official at the Vatican secretariat of state wrote in a July 9 letter to Lo Stampatello, the publisher of Piccolo Uovo, commending the book for spreading “Christian values”:
“His holiness [Pope Francis] is grateful for the thoughtful gesture and for the feelings which it evoked, hoping for an always more fruitful activity in the service of young generations and the spread of genuine human and Christian values.”
Msgr. Peter Brian Wells was born in Oklahoma, was ordained a Presbyterian minister in 1991, and is now the number 3 man in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State.
Wells’ letter was a response to a parcel of children’s books sent by Pardi to the pontiff in June, all published by Lo Stampatello. In addition to Piccolo Uovo, 7 or 8 books also deal with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues (LGBT). Pardi accompanied the books with a letter bemoaning the attacks she has come under in recent months:
“Many parishes across the country are in this period sullying our name and telling falsehoods about our work which deeply offends us. We have respect for Catholics … A lot of Catholics give back the same respect, why can’t we have the whole hierarchy of the church behind us?”
Pardi said she had not expected a reply and was surprised to receive the letter at her Milan home.
The Vatican said the closing blessing of the private letter was addressed to Pardi and not in support of teachings which went against church doctrine on ‘gender theory’.
The Vatican deems homosexual relationships “intrinsically disordered” and “contrary to natural law”, preaching that gay people must live a life of chastity in order to be good Catholics. While such a doctrine has effectively excluded people in same-sex relationships from the church, Pope Francis has adopted a more welcoming approach during his papacy. “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” he said in 2013. The same year, a gay man in France told his local newspaper he had received a reassuring phone call from the pope – a claim the Vatican denied.
As in the United States, attitudes on homosexual marriage in Italy are changing, with recent polls showing the majority of voters are in favor of “gay” marriage and adoption. Italy’s prime minister, Matteo Renzi, has pledged to legislate for same-sex unions this year. He has come under growing pressure to fulfil the promise following a decision by the European court of human rights, which ruled that Italy failed to protect same-sex couples.