Getting the story right - the pope on gay marriage

He may well be against marriage equality for LGBT persons, but Pope Benedict XVI wasn't as vitriolic as he was recently made to seem.

In a speech given Monday to the diplomatic corp at the Vatican, the pope said

It thus represents a task of primary importance in this difficult and demanding time. In addition to a clear goal, that of leading young people to a full knowledge of reality and thus of truth, education needs settings. Among these, pride of place goes to the family, based on the marriage of a man and a woman. This is not a simple social convention, but rather the fundamental cell of every society. Consequently, policies which undermine the family threaten human dignity and the future of humanity itself.

This was all he said about marriage in all of the speech's 2700+ words. He spent the rest of the time pontif(f)icating other matters. Yet Reuters managed to wring the following headline out of it:

Gay marriage a threat to humanity's future: Pope

...leading us to wonder which precise acrobatics are required to make such leaps in logic.

(News organ Catholic Online made a similar jump, but in the world of being held to account, Reuters would be the larger plum.)

GetReligion notes:

So if he made such “strong” comments against same-sex marriage, why don’t any of the quotes mention same-sex marriage? Isn’t that odd? It is certainly true that he reiterated the words of Jesus from the Gospel of Matthew: marriage, between one and one woman, is important. But I’m pretty sure it’s not news that Pope Benedict XVI agrees with Jesus that marriage is the joining of one man and one woman. Or, at least, it shouldn’t be news for a Vatican reporter. The rest of the article goes somewhat non-sequitur, talking about Archbishop Timothy Dolan and his support of Catholic teaching on marriage.

From Andrew Brown:

Nor was it the main or the most important part of his retrospective. What he said was the most important event of last year was the global economic and financial crisis. So far as I know, he is the most significant European political figure to be saying things such as: "The crisis can and must be an incentive to reflect on human existence and on the importance of its ethical dimension, even before we consider the mechanisms governing economic life: not only in an effort to stem private losses or to shore up national economies, but to give ourselves new rules which ensure that all can lead a dignified life and develop their abilities for the benefit of the community as a whole."

Not that homophobia isn't alive and well, El Pais reports.

The Spanish Catholic Church is also concerned about homosexuality. During his Boxing Day sermon, the Bishop of Córdoba, Demetrio Fernández, said there was a conspiracy by the United Nations. "The Minister for Family of the Papal Government, Cardinal Antonelli, told me a few days ago in Zaragoza that UNESCO has a program for the next 20 years to make half the world population homosexual. To do this they have distinct programs, and will continue to implant the ideology that is already present in our schools."
Comments (7)

I'm not a fan of Ratzinger by any means, but Reuters should be ashamed of itself for fabricating such a headline out of thin air.

Morris Post

I was among the folks taken in by the Reuters story, so my apologies.

And when will the pope instruct his bishops to advise their flocks not to vote for politicians who oppose "new rules which ensure that all can lead a dignified life and develop their abilities for the benefit of the community as a whole"?

June Butler

I believe Reuters reported this story accurately, including the headline.

The pope said: "pride of place goes to the family, based on the marriage of a man and a woman .... Consequently, policies which undermine the family threaten human dignity and the future of humanity itself."

This is very familiar rhetoric to LGBT people. He defines family as meaning heterosexual marriages exclusively; he characterizes the existence of other marriages (i.e. of gay people) as a "threat"; and he asserts that the target of the threat is "the future of humanity itself," i.e. children.

Of course there is no logic to this. Babies are still being born in Spain, Massachusetts, Iowa, and other places with marriage equality. But logic is never the point of prejudice.

The pope used the same rhetoric that convinced Iowans to remove several justices from the Iowa Supreme Court after they recognized the right to marriage equality. It's the same rhetoric that convinced Californians to vote for Proposition 8. And here in California, the Roman Catholic bishops took a leading role in organizing support of Proposition 8, up to and including having priests shill for votes from the pulpit using pastoral letters employing exactly the same rhetoric.

The headline "Gay marriage a threat to humanity's future: Pope" is accurate.

Christopher Hayes

Regardless of what was said or not said, this man's opinion is just that for us who are not Roman Catholics---- his opinion. I do not share his views on many things and that's perfectly acceptable for me as an Episcopalian. I wish the PB's opinions were as highly publicized.

Come now. In 2012, the phrase "the family, based on the marriage of a man and a woman" is as much a short-hand for anti-gay, as "Jim Crow" was for anti-black.

JC Fisher

Ratzinger implied rather than stated that civil marriage equality and civil unions threaten the future of humanity. I agree, Christopher, this is the standard bigotry one expects from the Vatican. The Associated Press and Reuters merely connected the dots. Concern is warranted about his statement because the Vatican has a long history of making politicians write civil laws which reflect religious bigotry. Ratzinger links his stand against any state recognition of same-sex couples and their families on the view that because sex-discordant couples can reproduce they must be encouraged to have children. Prohibiting recognition of same-sex couples is supposed make sex-discordant couples raise babies.

What I find particularly interesting in this speech is his avowal and disavowal that marriage is a social convention: "This is not a simple social convention." The negative enables him to state the fact that marriage is a convention. He is wrong when he claims that marriage is "the fundamental cell of every society." He has presented no evidence for this claim, if it is a claim. The sentence reads:
"This is not a simple social convention, but rather the fundamental cell of every society."

Gary Paul Gilbert

For those who want to check it out themselves, here is the link to the full speech:

http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/speeches/2012/january/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20120109_diplomatic-corps_en.html


Blessed John Paul II stated that “the path of peace is at the same time the path of the young”,[1] inasmuch as young people embody “the youth of the nations and societies, the youth of every family and of all humanity”.[2] Young people thus impel us to take seriously their demand for truth, justice and peace. For this reason, I chose them as the subject of my annual World Day of Peace Message, entitled Educating Young People in Justice and Peace. Education is a crucial theme for every generation, for it determines the healthy development of each person and the future of all society. It thus represents a task of primary importance in this difficult and demanding time. In addition to a clear goal, that of leading young people to a full knowledge of reality and thus of truth, education needs settings. Among these, pride of place goes to the family, based on the marriage of a man and a woman. This is not a simple social convention, but rather the fundamental cell of every society. Consequently, policies which undermine the family threaten human dignity and the future of humanity itself. The family unit is fundamental for the educational process and for the development both of individuals and States; hence there is a need for policies which promote the family and aid social cohesion and dialogue. It is in the family that we become open to the world and to life and, as I pointed out during my visit to Croatia, “openness to life is a sign of openness to the future”.[3] In this context of openness to life, I note with satisfaction the recent sentence of the Court of Justice of the European Union forbidding patenting processes relative to human embryonic stem cells, as well as the resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe condemning prenatal selection on the basis of sex.

More generally, and with particular reference to the West, I am convinced that legislative measures which not only permit but at times even promote abortion for reasons of convenience or for questionable medical motives compromise the education of young people and, as a result, the future of humanity.

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