B16: Save the rainforest–Stop gay marriage!

Interesting linkage (or wild leap, to some) that Pope Benedict XVI made in his annual address to the Roman Curia earlier today.
The address is usually a look back at the highlights of the past year–or what the pontiff would like seen as the highlights–along with a meaty idea or two that the pope tosses out to give the chattering classes something to do over the holiday break. In 2005 it was a brief for the “hermeneutic of reform” (which is his way of saying a “hermeneutic of continuity,” i.e., nothing’s changed, just move along) school of Vatican II interpretation–no surprise–and in 2006 it was a comment regarding Islam’s need to integrate lessons of the Enlightenment (as the church has, he said)–an important observation I think has received too little notice.
There will likely be no such oversight this year, as the pope talked about World Youth Day and also about the protection of the environment–and then linked that last topic to the importance of defending “traditional” marriage and, it seems, against gay rights, especially gay marriage. Over at America’s blog, where I first saw this, Jim Martin links to the Reuters story, which is provocatively headlined, “Pope likens ‘saving’ gays to saving the rainforest.” As Father Martin noted, what Benedict was actually saying is that “it is humanity…that requires ‘saving’ from homosexuality.”
John Allen has the best tranlsation of the relevant passages that I’ve found:

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 It’s not simply an outdated metaphysics if the church speaks of the nature of the human person as man and woman, and asks that this order of creation be respected.”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.”

In one respect, the Pope could simply be seen as putting the “nature” in natural law. He didn’t sing Cole Porter, but his theme seems to be along the lines of, “Birds do it, bees do it, even educated fleas do it…” The danger, of course, lies in examples like those flaming Central Park Zoo penguins, Roy & Silo, and those peace-loving bonobo monkeys, and such. Just look the other way, kids…
The pontiff’s comments, coming amid the hullaballo over the Vatican’s rejection of a new U.N. move against discrimination (like execution) against gays, or the elevation of gay rights, if you like, is likely not coincidental. The focus on the issue perplexes me, but that’s for another time.
All comments are welcome, but my central question (apart from why the Pope has to give talks like this right before Christmas–“Happy Holidays, Homosexuals!”) is what seems to be a problematic difference between human rights and natural law. 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”?

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Albert the Abstainer

posted December 23, 2008 at 7:04 am

The Pope must be careful as he may find that he commits a naturalistic fallacy. Homosexual relations tend to occur much less frequently than heterosexual relations in mammal populations. However, they do occur, and are not aberrant. As the article referenced here shows, homosexual relations within a species can be beneficial and adaptive.
What needs to be asked from a moral perspective with respect to gay marriage is not: “Are homosexual relations natural? What needs to be asked is: “Are extensions of civil union and marriage to gay couples consistent with the moral good?”
At the risk of offering a personal definition of the moral good let me suggest some of the following:
1) Inhibits or restrains behaviors which are dangerous and harmful to the individual, society, the species and the ecology.
2) Encourages behaviors which are beneficial to the individual, society, the species and the ecology.
3) Engages individuals and collectives in the process of giving serious consideration to ethical questions, including examining the ethical shorthand of law and axiom to insure that laws and axioms are consistent with 1) and 2).
4) Encourages inclusion through active engagement, and extends to vest individuals and groups in the greater good of the whole.
5) Leads to healthy societies that can disagree while respecting those differences that do not impinge on 1).
No doubt these can be expanded upon, and many pathways and structures within societies are possible based on this view. In other words a particular form of society is not dictated by these axioms.

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Fr. Guy Selvester

posted December 23, 2008 at 11:45 am

I couldn’t begin to wade into the complexities of this issue in a small space like this. However, I did just want to comment on one question you pose, David. Why does the Pope have to give talks like this right before Christmas? That’s easy. It’s one of the only times of the year (the other being Easter) when the world at large deigns to pay attention to what he has to say. When people are listening that’s no time for pious platitudes about angels, stars, wise men and shepherds. THAT’S the time really to say something. St. Paul exhorts Timothy to teach the truth both “in season and out of season”.

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Ian Clarke

posted December 23, 2008 at 6:03 pm

Who is the ‘Pope’ to say what is right and what is wrong, especially regarding ‘gay marriage.’ Does the Bible not state that man is made in God’s own image? Is the ‘Pope’ about to condemn the fact that there are a lot of other animals that indulge in ‘homosexual’ activities? The Roman Catholic Church, and many of the Protestant ones, and many others need to look at themselves really closely. How often, for instance, do we see reports of the ‘gay’ activities of priests and so-called other holy men? How often, in recent years, have we seen priests and other religious ‘leaders’ castigated for their ‘sins against humanity?’ including paedophelia?!!!!
Comments from a man who struts around wearing clothes that are extremely costly to produce, are gaudy and outrageous and he walks around like a peacock, yet, according to his high office, is precluded from any sexual activity whatsoever, is content to proclaim what man shall do with man/woman. Give me strength.
Added to all this, has he forgotten that the Bible is a book that is far more closely akin to a history book rather than the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? Has he forgotten that it was one of his predecessors who decided which of the gospels and books of both the old and new testaments were acceptable? Has he forgotten that the Bible was made to be interpreted by man and that, not only does man change the meaning of what is written in order to make a point according to what his mood is at the time, but, much of the original meaning(s) have been lost through inaccurate translations, often because a word or phrase has changed in it’s meaning? To take an example, a very short word, ‘GAY.’ It’s original meaning is someone who is happy, jolly, and outgoing – now it refers to men who prefer the company, and sexual activities, with other men. Gay sex has been around since time immemorial and was, particularly in Latin countries, considered the normal thing for men, and to a lesser extent, women, to indulge in, and was seen as harmless release of sexual needs etc. In fact, it was often considered to be normal to have relationships where there were 2 men and a woman, or 2 women and a man and the only time that ‘normal’ sex took place was for procreation of a new life.
Is the ‘Pope’ so infallible that his own early background would stand up to complete, honest and truthful scrutiny? I very much doubt it. I would never hesitate to believe that this incredibly vain man has many a skeleton in his cupboard and that, when they come to light, probably after his death, we will see that he is, to all intents and purposes, a charlatan and a fraud. Have we, so soon, forgotten that there were suggestions and claims about his closeness to various organisations, such as the Nazis? Obviously, the ‘Pope’ and his sycophants hushed that up very quickly, even, probably, stating that this was in the past and he has now seen the light and realizes that these views were wrong. How do we know that, in the back of his mind, he does not still believe in all the things that these evil men did and, although largely hidden, still do? We do NOT know.
It is time for Christians, of all denominations, to get rid of these overbearing and overly pompous individuals who change their minds about what is right and wrong as often as hey change their underwear. Also, please do not forget that these men do NOT actively work for a living. They merely sponge off all those who do, often demanding a tithe of substantial amounts, just so they can have brand new cars every year, fine furnishings and clothes. Whatever happened to the vows of poverty and chastity?. They also refer regularly to eternal damnation etc, yet, they live lives in such rich surroundings that, if they were all sold off, the poor would all benefit and begin to have a better life.
Who are these ‘MEN’ who condemn those less well off for not giving generously in order to allow them to have rich foods and living conditions in warm, even hot, palaces and mansions? Talk about hypocrisy, they are the best examples of “Don’t do what I do, do what I tell you to do!!!!!!!’
Christmas should be a time for forgiveness, not condemnation. Hypocrisy is a ‘SIN’ in the true meaning of the word.
Merry Christmas everyone.

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Your Name

posted December 24, 2008 at 1:20 pm

wow there are alot of upset people here lol….gay men only see there gayness…the life style has so many crazy attachments….they act like they are the saving force in the world….sex dominates 95 % of there thought process….

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Mark from PA

posted December 24, 2008 at 7:17 pm

This is so sad. I actually feel sorry for Pope Benedict that he had to say unkind things about gay people. One must remember that the society in which he was raised (Nazi Germany) saw gay people as sub-human. Gays were seen as little better than Jews. Many people do not know that a lot of German homosexuals ended up in concentration camps and many, including homosexual priests, were even murdered. They were deemed unfit and thus paid with their lives for their sexual orientation. I think that Pope Benedict might have had different views about gay people if he had been raised in a democratic society that had respect for many different kinds of people.
Merry Christmas – Mark from PA

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posted December 29, 2008 at 7:14 am

Your equating the pope with Hitler is quite a stretch.

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posted December 29, 2008 at 7:29 am

To address the question posed, I believe natural law is like a natural revelation understandable to all. Evil is something which obscures it and the Pope’s role is to help make the distinction.
We can be all abstract about it, but the fallout is confusing a new generation of young people. I read today that in Los Angeles, students can inform their teachers which gender they choose to be today. This new relativism has to stop somewhere.

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Your Name

posted December 31, 2008 at 11:11 am

I did featured a except from a NY Times article about the Nazis agenda against homosexuals in my latest post of my blog site, Curtis’ Expectations. The author is credited and there are additional images, contributed videos and statistics.
The posting is part two of a three part series questioning the rightfulness of homosexuality. A number of key issues were noted including family and children of gay adults and sex education. Please feel free to visit and comment if you wish.

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