A few days after same-sex marriage supporters scored significant victories in both the U.S. and Europe, the Vatican has opposed suggestions that it has been defeated in its quest to preserve traditional marriage as union between one man and one woman.
"One might say the church, at least on this front, has been defeated," said the leading Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano. "But that's not the case."
On Election Day last week, four U.S. states officially approved adding same-sex couples to the definition of marriage, the first time that has happened by voter referendum. While the majority of U.S. states still uphold traditional marriage, gay marriage is now legal in 11 states – and trends suggest that support for the movement is rising.
Last week, France also made it clear that it will legalize same-sex marriage by early next year, while Spain,another country boasting a large number of Catholics, firmly upheld it's gay marriage laws.
Regardless of these developments, the Roman Catholic Church, which has been at the forefront of advocating for traditional marriage, has said that it is not giving up the fight, and insisted that traditional marriage is a "privilege" of civilized society.
"It is clear that, in Western countries, there is a widespread tendency to modify the classic vision of marriage between a man and woman, or rather to try to give it up, erasing its specific and privileged legal recognition compared to other forms of union," said Father Federico Lombardi on the Vatican Radio.
The Vatican spokesman continued: "In short, preserving a vision of the human person and of human relationships where there is a public acknowledgment of monogamous marriage between a man and woman is an achievement of civilization. If not, why not contemplate also freely chosen polygamy and, of course, not to discriminate, polyandry? It is not expected, then, the Church will give up proposing that society recognize a specific place for marriage between a man and a woman."
Polyandry, the practice of a man or a woman marrying multiple partners, has surfaced in the past in some societies but is currently illegal in Europe and the U.S. The Mormon Church in the U.S. also allowed polygamy for a time, but the practice was discounted in 1890.
The relationship between the Vatican and the White House has somewhat soured in the past year, notably with President Barack Obama's endorsement of same-sex marriage back in May, and the introduction of the HHS Mandate supported by his administration that some Roman Catholics say infringes on their religious freedom.
After Obama's re-election on Nov. 6, Pope Benedict XVI sent him a congratulatory letter, but used the occasion to remind the president of the big differences between his administration and the Vatican.
"In the message, the Holy Father sent his best wishes to the president for his new term and assured him of his prayers that God might assist him in his very great responsibility before the country and the international community," the Vatican said in a statement.
The Vatican also insisted that the issues related to the HHS Mandate, which forces religious employers to provide contraceptive insurance to employees, cannot be swept under the rug.