Friday, December 14, 2007
The Pope's Message of Peace
Above: My Response back to him
The Pope has published his annual remarks for World Peace Day, to be officially spoken on January 1st. This year's theme is family:
'At the beginning of a New Year, I wish to send my fervent good wishes for peace, together with a heartfelt message of hope to men and women throughout the world. I do so by offering for our common reflection the theme which I have placed at the beginning of this message. It is one which I consider particularly important: the human family, a community of peace...'
Pope Benedict XVI focuses on two families, the 'stable union' of the singular family and the metaphor of the larger community of mankind, and uses those two families to guide his remarks. First the human family:
'...in a healthy family life we experience some of the fundamental elements of peace: justice and love between brothers and sisters, the role of authority expressed by parents, loving concern for the members who are weaker because of youth, sickness or old age, mutual help in the necessities of life, readiness to accept others and, if necessary, to forgive them. For this reason, the family is the first and indispensable teacher of peace. It is no wonder, therefore, that violence, if perpetrated in the family, is seen as particularly intolerable. Consequently, when it is said that the family is “the primary living cell of society” something essential is being stated. The family is the foundation of society for this reason too: because it enables its members in decisive ways to experience peace. It follows that the human community cannot do without the service provided by the family. Where can young people gradually learn to savor the genuine “taste” of peace better than in the original “nest” which nature prepares for them? The language of the family is a language of peace; we must always draw from it, lest we lose the “vocabulary” of peace. In the inflation of its speech, society cannot cease to refer to that “grammar” which all children learn from the looks and the actions of their mothers and fathers, even before they learn from their words...'
These are wonderfully lovely and articulate sentiments. Unfortunately they are preceded by this:
'...The natural family, as an intimate communion of life and love, based on marriage between a man and a woman, constitutes “the primary place of ‘humanization' for the person and society”, and a “cradle of life and love”...' [boldface mine]
Sigh. Here we go again. For purposes of clarity, I eliminated the footnotes in the quotes above, but the footnote to the statement of marriage being defined as between a man and a woman refers to the Second Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, 48. It's important to remember that Catholic teachings and beliefs are based on scripture indirectly, through 2,000 years of written biblical interpretation. Sort of like how our laws are based on court interpretations of the Constitution. This is why Catholic doctrine usually refers to documents such as these, rather than chapter and verse from the Bible.
I wont quote at length from part 48 of the Pastoral Constitution, but it's fair to say that the only justification that it gives for limiting marriage to between a man and a woman is the old procreation chestnut:
'...By their very nature, the institution of matrimony itself and conjugal love are ordained for the procreation and education of children, and find in them their ultimate crown...'
The rest of part 48 discusses issues such as the role of the family to nurture children - and it doesn't even talk about how one needs both a man and a woman to do that. Actually it spends more time talking about nurturing than procreation. But since Kathy and I can't have kids through procreation, I guess we're a hindrance to world peace.
Though it seems like shooting fish in a barrel to argue about the idiocy of the procreation argument, I can't help but point out the utter lack of compassion and squandering of opportunities that are the hallmarks of such an approach to families. The Pope is arguing that Kathy and I, despite being a man and a woman, are incapable of educating kids in a solid nurturing way simply because we can't pop them out ourselves, not to mention arguing that queer couples we know are apparently more likely to lock their kids in a hot car than Mr. and Mrs. Joe and Mary Crackhead.
To be fair, this is not the only issue that the Pope's message covers. Sections on the environment (Prompting the Daily Mail to post an article entitled 'The Pope condemns the climate change prophets of doom.' - a rather unfair characterization of what he actually says), the importance of moral law (one could quibble, but he's Catholic after all, so it would be churlish to do so) and the last section: Overcoming conflicts and disarmament:
'...At a time when the process of nuclear non-proliferation is at a stand-still, I feel bound to entreat those in authority to resume with greater determination negotiations for a progressive and mutually agreed dismantling of existing nuclear weapons. In renewing this appeal, I know that I am echoing the desire of all those concerned for the future of humanity...'
While I applaud such sentiments, it is a rather rich statement to come from someone who has yet to address the issue of his immediate predecessor giving a peace medal to Samuel Cohen, because of his invention: the Neutron Bomb. In fact most of the talk in the Vatican about Pope John Paul II is about his impending sainthood.
Pope Benedict XVI is famous for having a profound intellect, which I don't doubt. He is amazingly articulate and a formidable scholar. But unless those qualities are subject to a strong compassion and introspection they are going to be more of a harm to world peace than the 'costs of environmental protection.' If he wants to exercise true leadership in arguing for change for the cause of World Peace, then the best place for him to begin is to enact change at home.