A Threat to Our Humanity

January 11, 2012

It’s not news that Pope Benedict XVI opposes marriage equality for lesbian/gay couples.  Yet his recent comment on the topic has made headlines because of the harsh image he used.

Reuters reports:

“[The pope] told diplomats from nearly 180 countries that the education of children needed proper ‘settings’ and that ‘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,’ he said.”

As in the past on this topic, the pope has it wrong, but this time he has it diametrically wrong: the threat to “human dignity and the future of humanity” comes not from marriage equality but in opposition to it. Let’s take his points one by one.

1) Threat to human dignity:  As Catholics who support marriage equality have expressed, opposition to marriage equality goes against the Catholic principle of the inherent dignity of every human being by declaring that some human beings  are “second class citizens,” not equal to the majority.  (For a full explanation of this idea, you can read New Ways Ministry’s short book, Marriage Equality: A Positive Catholic Approach, which can be downloaded in PDF format from our website; the relevant section is chapter 5:  “Why do Catholics support marriage equality?)

2) Children need proper settings:  Indeed children do need proper settings to be raised well, but research consistently shows that the most proper settings have nothing to do with the gender of the parents, and everything to do with love and stability in the family structure.  Marriage equality laws provide stability to families headed by lesbian or gay couples, and this stability benefits the children who are part of those families.

3) Threat to the future of humanity, part 1: Destabilizing family units through not providing legal protections to all families is a greater threat to humanity than a couple’s biological inability to procreate through sexual intercourse.  If the pope is correct, then he would also have to say that infertile couples and celibates also pose a threat to humanity.  The larger threat to humanity comes from unstable social conditions which breed crime, violence, and hate.  Protecting all families  offers the  greatest possibility for humanity’s healthy future.

4) Threat to the future of humanity, part 2:  Opposition to marriage equality also poses a threat to “humanity” in another sense:  the sympathetic love and kindness that people feel for one another.  Choosing the path of prejudice and injustice erodes this sense of humanity which we all naturally have.  When we actively work to prevent justice for others or we treat others as less than human, we harm not only them, not only ourselves, but the sense of humanity which holds the world together.  Homophobia destroys our humanity.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

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