A Threat to Our Humanity

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

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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10 Responses to A Threat to Our Humanity

  1. Kevin Sweeney says:

    Yes, the laws of human justice and fairness should never be discarded in favor of specious, albeit traditional theological musings by those in authority. I am ready to see another Pope John XXIII be elected to once again bring people together, not divide them.

  2. Megan says:

    Thank you, Francis, for this thoughtful response that brings out the best of Catholic Social Teaching. Your argument from research reminds me of Gaudium et Spes, The Pastoral Constitution of the Church in Model World that argues for an openness to what we can learn from a wide range of disciplines, not just theology.
    One suggestion, please spare us the photo of B XVI. How about a happy gay Catholic family.

  3. David J Martin says:

    Benedict XVI himself is a threat to human compassion, understanding, kindness. He has NEVER pastored a flock, being immersed in the minutiae of Catholic theoligical academia. He repeatedly makes addresses – which he admits are solely his own – without counsel from his colleagues or advisors. He insults and injures persons only to have to retrench in followup addresses or explanations. There is little wonder that Catholics in general do not accept his or other bishops guidance, for they have lost credibility. The Church – the mystical Body of Christ united with the people – will survive these times even as the old order passes on. The Faithful will lead the Church as recorded in Acts by the Apostles that they must always take their lead – inspiration – from the people of God – for it is with them that the Holy Spirit dwells, guides, renews the Church.

  4. Bill Welch says:

    Amidst the hype, hyperbole and rhetoric of the presidential campaigns and caucuses; the actions and rhetoric of some Roman Catholic bishops and state bishop conferences supported by millions of dollars being spent to deny or overturn marriage and/or civilian unions to committed same gender couples, and the recent musings by Pope Benedict XVI on the deleterious effects of same-sex civil marriage or unions on humanity, I have yet to hear or read from the real world of the presidential aspirants or the general populous if same-gender committed relationships —especially those of 5- to 50-years duration— including civil unions and marriages, adversely affected or damaged their marriage or marriages and marital civil rights. If so, how?

    Bill

  5. gay ex catholic says:

    Bill, didn’t you read the testimony of the Prop 8 proponents, at the CA trial which resulted in their hateful proposition being overturned on the trial court level? When asked how they were harmed by same sex unions the answer was “I don’t know”.

  6. […] DignityUSA’s Marianne Duddy-Burke is interviewed on a local radio show about the pope’s recent anti-marriage equality statement.  For excerpts and to listen to an audio file of the interview, visit “Gay Catholic Group […]

  7. Kim says:

    It is interesting to see that more time and effort has been spent by the pope in changes to the language of Mass, his vestments and placement of altar candles than has been done on advancing human love and dignity. What would Jesus do?

  8. Alt er meget åben med en meget klar beskrivelse. Det var informativt. Din hjemmeside er meget nyttigt . Tak for deling!

    Translation from Danish via Google Translate: Everything is very open with a very clear description. It was informative. Your website is very helpful. Thanks for sharing!

    • Kim says:

      The traditional family system has been in decay FAR LONGER than gay marriage has even been considered a possibility. This pope is shirking responsibility and scapegoating gays. The Church has failed in the area of family and of course we gays are now to blame. How convenient. Traditional marriage has been decaying for decades. The Church has lost the abortion battle in the civil sector and now is trying to avoid losing the marriage battle in the civil sector. Benedict needs to turn the Church back to loving our neighbor.

  9. […] Pope Benedict opens the year by stating that new models of family are a threat to “human dignity and the future […]

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