By Peter J. Smith and John-Henry Westen

Cardinal McCarrickWASHINGTON, D.C., June 8, 2006 ( – “And it’s 5:00 p.m. here in Washington. Does a Catholic cardinal agree with the Catholic Church, certainly against gay marriage? You might be surprised to see how he feels about same-sex civil unions.” That was the teaser CNN’s Wolf Blitzer used prior to airing his interview with Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the outgoing Archbishop of Washington D.C.

Cardinal McCarrick appeared last night on Blitzer’s Situation Room in support of homosexual civil unions, while insisting that the definition of marriage itself be left alone. However, as the CNN host indicated before the interview, the Cardinal’s support for the possible recognition of same-sex civil unions does indeed step out of line with the Church’s often-reiterated position that there can be no public recognition of homosexual civil unions in society.

In the June 7th CNN interview, the Archbishop of Washington said, “we really have to continue to define marriage as we’ve defined marriage for thousands of years as a union between a man and a woman”, and supported the Constitutional Amendment protecting marriage as between a man and a woman, which was recently defeated in the Senate. However, the Cardinal followed up his statement by saying, ” I think the legislation as it is proposed would not throw out the possibility of a civil union. And I think we can—we can live with that if this is what—if this is what the Constitution will provide for.”

Blitzer followed up the Cardinal’s statement by asking him to clarify whether the Cardinal would indeed support recognized civil unions between homosexual couples.

According to the CNN transcript Blitzer asked, “So just explain. You think that you could live with—you could support civil unions between gays and lesbians, but you wouldn’t like them to get formally married, is that right?”

Cardinal McCarrick replied, “Yes.”Â

He added, “I think basically the ideal would be that everybody was—was able to enter a union with a man and a woman and bring children into the world and have the wonderful relationship of man and wife that is so mutually supportive and is really so much part of our society and what keeps our society together. That’s the ideal.

“If you can’t meet that ideal, if there are people who for one reason or another just cannot do that or feel they cannot do that, then in order to protect their right to take care of each other, in order to take care of their right to have visitation in a hospital or something like that, I think that you could allow, not the ideal, but you could allow for that for a civil union.”

In a June 8th interview with, the Cardinal’s spokeswoman Susan Gibbs denied that the Cardinal supported homosexual civil unions. When asked “wouldn’t support for homosexual unions run the risk of actually trivializing marriage?” She responded by saying, “He [McCarrick] didn’t say that he supported homosexual unions. He has not said that.”

When asked whether McCarrick said it was acceptable for government to allow civil unions of gay and lesbian couples, Gibbs responded saying, “The Cardinal said he supports marriage, and we cannot change the definition of marriage.”

The Cardinal’s statements as transcribed by CNN are at odds with the official Catholic teaching on the matter. In his famous November 4, 2000 address to the world’s politicians, then-Pope John Paul II counselled them, “with regard to all laws which would do harm to the family, striking at its unity and its indissolubility, or which would give legal validity to a union between persons, including those of the same sex, who demand the same rights as the family founded upon marriage between a man and a womanâEUR¦Christian legislators may neither contribute to the formulation of such a law nor approve it in parliamentary assembly.”
The same point was made in the 2003 Vatican document put out by the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith (CDF) which was, at the time, headed up by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the current Pope. That document, “Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions between Homosexual Persons”, stated that “under no circumstances can they [homosexual civil unions] be approved.”

When Gibbs was presented with pertinent quotes from the CDF document, she responded: “The Cardinal is very committed, the Cardinal is Catholic all the way through”

Gibbs defended the Cardinal saying that the context of the Cardinal’s statement was with the Government addressing legal issues not related to the Sacrament of marriage that even single persons face, citing medical and other legal concerns.