The Italian bishop’s conference has today released a statement saying that the government attempt to legally recognise civil unions is unacceptable.

The bishops called the idea that Catholic politicians might vote in favour of the proposals “incomprehensible.”

Italy has been gripped by the conflict between traditionalists and progressives since Romano Prodi’s government unveiled proposals to recognise same-sex partnerships last February.

Members of Parliament have been strongly lobbied by the Catholic Church, with Pope Benedict XVI calling the proposals “anti-church and anti-family.”

While the bishops did not suggest disciplinary action against lawmakers who supported the government proposals, they did stress a “moral duty” to vote against the legislation.

“Marriage is unique,” the bishops explain.

It would be dangerous to undermine marriage and “even more dangerous” to give equal legal status to gay unions, which they call, “unacceptable in principle, and presents a social and educational danger.”