B16: Save the rainforests, stop gay marriage

Pope Benedict XVI used an annual end of the year address to say that the protection of the environment is directly linked to defending “traditional” marriage against gay rights, especially gay marriage.

A Reuters headline says "Pope likens "saving" gays to saving the rainforest" but what he is really saying that if you want to save the rainforests, stop acid rain and clear cutting, and if you want to save humanity, stop gay rights.

James Allen at National Catholic Reporter summarizes:

“Because faith in the Creator is an essential part of the Christian creed, the church cannot and must not limit itself to transmitting only the message of salvation to its faithful,” Benedict said. “It has a responsibility for creation, and must express this responsibility in public.”

At the same time, Benedict clearly distinguished the church’s approach from secular environmental movements – insisting that concern for tropical rain forests and the church’s traditional pro-life commitments, including sexual morality, are indissolubly linked.

“[The church] must defend not only the earth, water and air as gifts of creation that belong to all,” he said. “It must also defend the human person against its own destruction. What’s needed is something like a ‘human ecology,’ understood in the right sense. It’s not simply an outdated metaphysics if the church speaks of the nature of the human person as man and woman, and asks that this order of creation be respected.”

“Here it’s a question of faith in creation, in listening to the language of creation, disregard of which would mean self-destruction of the human person and hence destruction of the very work of God,” the pope said. “That which is often expressed and understood by the term ‘gender’ in the end amounts to the self-emancipation of the human person from creation and from the Creator. Human beings want to do everything by themselves, and to control exclusively everything that regards them. But in this way, the human person lives against the truth, against the Creator Spirit.”

“Yes, the tropical forests merit our protection, but the human being as a creature merits no less protection – a creature in which a message is written which does not imply a contradiction of our liberty, but the condition for it,” the pope said.

On that basis, Benedict offered a defense of traditional marriage and Catholic sexual morality.

“Great Scholastic theologians defined marriage, meaning the lifetime bond between a man and a woman, as a sacrament of creation, which the Creator instituted and which Christ – without changing the message of creation – then welcomed into the story of his covenant with humanity,” the pope said. “This witness in favor of the Creator Spirit, present in the nature of this bond and in a special way in the nature of the human person, is also part of the proclamation which the church must offer. Starting from this perspective, it’s important to re-read the encyclical Humanae Vitae : the intention of Pope Paul VI was to defend love against treating sexuality as a kind of consumption, the future against the exclusive demands of the present, and the nature of the human being against manipulation.”

The Australian reports that the Vatican's view is connected to their opposition to "gender theory:"

Gender theory, which originated in the United States, explores sexual orientation, the roles assigned by society to individuals according to their gender and how people perceive their biological identity.

The Catholic Church has repeatedly spoken out against gender theory, which gay and transgender advocacy groups promote as a key to understanding and tolerance.

"If tropical forests deserve our protection, humankind ... deserves it no less,'' the 81-year-old pontiff said, calling for "an ecology of the human being''.

It is not "outmoded metaphysics'' to urge respect for the "nature of the human being as man and woman'', he told scores of prelates gathered in the Vatican's sumptuous Clementine Hall.

David Gibson at dotCommonweal says:

The Vatican (among others) is a great champion of human rights, and rights like religious freedom, the right to life, etc. But it often seems that when it comes to rights they don’t like, natural law is suddenly invoked. What is the relationship between these two? Are human rights “limited” to those that conform to faith’s view of natural law? Or is natural law like a natural revelation, a natural theology understandable (supposedly) to all that is the true human rights “charter”?

Comments (5)

Gee, I recycle 'n' everything; I compost and put in those funny lightbulbs, I don't drive if I can help it, I don't waste anything; now I find out my sexuality has some magic power to kill the rainforests and destroy the universe.

Should I go to confession or a comedy club?

It is not "outmoded metaphysics" to urge respect for the "nature of the human being as man and woman," saith Ratz. But it is, precisely. Male and Female he did not create he them, as Genesis avers. We know from biology that mammals, including humankind, all start out basically female in form and about half are programmed to develop in a masculine direction as they grow. There is no Platonic ideal of masculine that some fall short of -- we just develop in different ways, different degrees. Some people develop physically to have genitals between masculine and feminine standard; others show their differences by same-sex attractions. But, yes, the idea that we are all simply male or female IS outmoded metaphysics, as much as seeing the sky as a dome or different creatures as separate creations. (This little globe was touched with the spark of life and all life that has developed since is related; you and a carrot have a common ancestor.) Even the metaphors of Genesis are unreliable.

Natural law appeals to appearances and common understanding, but it has nothing to do with "natural" or "law." The earth LOOKS flat, the sun SEEMS to move across the sky. Neither is a fact. Paul asserts something like this as the basis for his theology in his letter to the Romans: "For the invisible things of [God] from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made." In other words, one can clearly understand the purposes of God by contemplating the natural order. But this isn't true.

People from the beginning have contemplated the natural order and come up with a myriad of understandings, of which Paul's was unique until he pressed it upon his followers. The sort of error Paul made is shown by his chief example: he assumes that we are all male or female, and only attraction between male and female is natural, so that when the men leave the natural use of the women and burn with lust toward one another, they abandon knowledge of God and become subject to three or four verses of vicious name-calling.

We now realize that six percent or so of mammals and birds (haven't seen any numbers on reptiles) exhibit same-sex attraction -- humankind included. The only reason for denying this fact is outmoded metaphysics. Evidently sexuality functions to create relationships and community, into which eighty percent or so of its members bring children to be nurtured. Aunts, uncles, and single parents are part of this picture, not aberrations.

In his first letter to Corinth, Paul comes close to demanding that his followers ignore experience and evidence and swallow his supposed Gospel whole. But as far as we know, Paul didn't know Jesus. He deals little with what Jesus taught, instead conceiving him as a kind of Greek demigod to be worshiped. Paul was a great phrase maker, or Tyndale makes him seem so. Nevertheless, I think that reason and experience are better guides for us today than Paul's heated rhetoric.

Murdoch Matthew / husband of Gary

When news of these statements came to me I was dumbfounded.

I give great thanks that I grew up in the church and good people showed me something of the love of Christ in community because when I see statements like these I wonder why anyone would want anything to do with the church.

Where is the Love of God made manifest through the Incarnation, Ministry, Death and Resurrection of Christ in these statements?

I know I have my own blinders about some things, but REALLY...? REALLY, is this what the Vatican needs to be spending time on?

I pray for the Church,

Peter Carey+

It is the "Scholastic theology" that is at the root of the problem. For all of his Scriptural references, when it comes to anthropology Aquinas relies as much on "the Philosopher" (i.e, Aristotle). This is precisely where the outmoded metaphysics comes in. Not only outmoded (lots of old fashioned things are just fine!) but wrong. Just factually wrong, erroneous, mistaken. And any theology based on falsehoods cannot claim to be in keeping with the one who is the Perfect Truth.

Of course, Ratzinger also had defended the church's action in re Galileo; continuing to affirm the authority of the magisterium over against the insufficiencies of mere secular science.

Infallible? Sed contra.

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