Roman Catholic Church feels Europe slipping from its hands

The issue of gay rights is just one in which the church is losing its influence, and its privileged status is increasingly called into question.

March 10, 2013|By Henry Chu, Los Angeles Times

VATICAN CITY — The timing said it all.

A smiling Pope Benedict XVI had just wrapped up an official visit to Portugal in May 2010, during which he praised Catholic organizations striving to protect families based on "the indissoluble marriage between a man and a woman."

But barely 72 hours after the pontiff flew home, the president of Portugal declared that he would sign a bill allowing gay and lesbian couples to wed. With Spain having granted such rights five years earlier, the move turned the entire Iberian Peninsula, historically a Catholic stronghold, into an unlikely hitching post for homosexuals.

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"That shows the importance of the pope's views, of the Catholic Church's views, on same-sex marriage in terms of domestic politics," Paulo Corte-Real, a gay rights activist and economics professor, recalled wryly.

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