Spain presented the papacy of Benedict XVI with its first big challenge yesterday when the Vatican and the Socialist government of the Roman Catholic country traded blows in a heated row over its plan to legalise homosexual marriage.
The dispute erupted after the government of Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero drove a bill through the Cortes on Thursday that will allow homosexuals to marry and adopt children.
The Vatican hit back yesterday by advising Spanish Catholic civil servants to refuse to officiate at homosexual wedding ceremonies, even if it meant risking losing their jobs.
Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, the head of the Pontifical Council on the Family, said the legislation was iniquitous.
"A law as profoundly iniquitous as this one is not an obligation, it cannot be an obligation. One cannot say that a law is right simply because it is law,'' he told the Corriere della Sera newspaper. Cardinal Trujillo said that municipal officials asked to perform homosexual marriage ceremonies should object on grounds of conscience.
"I am talking of every profession linked to implementation of the law,'' he said.