At a time when the world needs wisdom and compassionate guidance from, both, our sacred and secular leaders, the Catholic Church instead doubles-down on its antiquated worldview regarding tolerance and equality with an announcement by the Pope that abortion and gay marriage are a danger to peace and justice. As reported by the Associated Press (via FoxNew.com), after 85-year-old Pope Benedict XVI lit the traditional Christmas tree in St. Peter’s Square in Rome, using the occasion to reference a time when “past atheist regimes” turned off the lights, he expounded on the issue of religion and freedom:
“And when in the past they tried to stamp out the light of God to instead turn on illusory and misleading glows, there were seasons of tragic violence against man,” he said. “And this is because when they tried to cancel God’s name from the pages of history, the result was a distortion, where even the most noble and beautiful words, like `freedom,’ `common good’ and `justice’ … lost their true meaning.”
Later, seeming to extrapolate on some of the verbiage of that statement – “freedom,” in particular – he released, on Friday, his seasonal “World Day of Peace Message 2013,” a sort of “State of the Vatican” address meant to express the spirit of the season, as well as his perspective on issues impacting the peace and harmony of the coming new year. Instead, in the midst of an otherwise thoughtful treatise on the topic of peace, he took the opportunity to perpetuate the Church’s regressive stance on marriage equality and a woman’s right to choose:
“Those who insufficiently value human life and, in consequence, support among other things the liberalization of abortion, perhaps do not realize that in this way they are proposing the pursuit of a false peace. The flight from responsibility, which degrades human persons, and even more so the killing of a defenceless (sic) and innocent being, will never be able to produce happiness or peace. Indeed how could one claim to bring about peace, the integral development of peoples or even the protection of the environment without defending the life of those who are weakest, beginning with the unborn. Every offence (sic) against life, especially at its beginning, inevitably causes irreparable damage to development, peace and the environment.
Neither is it just to introduce surreptitiously into legislation false rights or freedoms which, on the basis of a reductive and relativistic view of human beings and the clever use of ambiguous expressions aimed at promoting a supposed right to abortion and euthanasia, pose a threat to the fundamental right to life.
There is also a need to acknowledge and promote the natural structure of marriage as the union of a man and a woman in the face of attempts to make it juridically equivalent to radically different types of union; such attempts actually harm and help to destabilize marriage, obscuring its specific nature and its indispensable role in society. These principles are not truths of faith, nor are they simply a corollary of the right to religious freedom. They are inscribed in human nature itself, accessible to reason and thus common to all humanity. The Church’s efforts to promote them are not therefore confessional in character, but addressed to all people, whatever their religious affiliation. Efforts of this kind are all the more necessary the more these principles are denied or misunderstood, since this constitutes an offence against the truth of the human person, with serious harm to justice and peace. [Emphasis added.]
[To read the full statement, click here.]
As 2012 winds down and we look forward to a hopeful, if challenging, new year, it is particularly disappointing to hear the leader of one of the largest religions in the world use the discussion of peace to continue to proselytize intolerance. While certainly it is widely known that Church dogma mandates a rigid view of female reproductive freedoms and the civil rights of the LGBT community, it seems culturally counterproductive to continue to frame the debate in incendiary terms – such as “harms” and “irreparable damage” – that alienate, demonize and exclude.
But according to a report in The Huffington Post, this is not the first tine the Pope has used such controversial verbiage. Apparently earlier this year he declared gay marriage as “insidious and dangerous,” a “threat to humanity.”
What the world needs now is the opening of minds and hearts, the embracing of love, tolerance and an awareness of differing views of life and spirituality. What is not needed, particularly under the guise of promoting peace, is the limited and exclusionary thinking of a church antiquating itself out of a meaningful seat at the table of contemporary culture.