Each year in December it is customary for the Pope to share his personal opinions on what he considers to be pressing issues facing the world. This year Pope Benedict XVI considers same gender couples and their civil rights to be the most pressing threat to humanity. For the Reuters article:
Not global warming and the damage to the world's Eco-system, which many scientist have warned us about. Not the proliferation of nuclear arms and the threat this presents of a "limited" nuclear war against Israel, which could draw the whole of the Middle East and the world into war. Not international terrorism by religious zealots which threatens global security. Not the international financial crisis which could itself contribute to most of the aforementioned items and to widespread human misery. No, what causes Benedict XVI greatest concern is same sex marriage and civil rights. Evidently, it is not only grace which is "Amazing!"
What does a Catholic do with such a statement from a sitting pope? First, we need to consider the context and weight of the statement. This statement simply represents the personal insights of the man who happens to be the current pope. This is not an encyclical or a "de fide" statement. Read the encyclical Rerum Novarum issued by Pope Leo XIII on 15 May 1891 which stated:
"Let it be taken for granted that workman and employer should, as a rule, make free agreements, and in particular should agree freely as to wages; nevertheless, there is a dictate of natural justice more imperious and ancient than any bargain between man and man, that remuneration should be sufficient to maintain the wage-earner in reasonable and frugal comfort. If through necessity or fear of a worse evil the workman accept harder conditions because an employer or contractor will afford him no better, he is made the victim of force and injustice."
Then read the Syllabus of Errors issued by Pope Pius IX on 8 December 1864. Statements the encyclical condemned as FALSE include the following:
• "human reason , without any reference whatsoever to God, is the sole arbiter of truth and falsehood, and of good and evil" (No. 3) "All the truths of religion proceed from the innate strength of human reason;hence reason is the ultimate standard by which man can and ought to arrive at the knowledge of all truths of every kind." (No. 4)
• "in the present day it is no longer expedient that the Catholic religion should be held as the only religion of the State, to the exclusion of all other forms of worship." (No. 77)
• "Protestantism is nothing more than another form of the same true Christian religion, in which form it is given to please God equally as in the Catholic Church" (No. 18).
• "the Church ought to be separated from the State, and the State from the Church." (No. 55)
• "every man is free to embrace and profess that religion which, guided by the light of reason, he shall consider true." (No. 15) and that "it has been wisely decided by law, in some Catholic countries, that persons coming to reside therein shall enjoy the public exercise of their own peculiar worship." (No. 78)
• "the Roman Pontiff can, and ought to, reconcile himself, and come to terms with, progress, liberalism and modern civilization." (No. 80)
We could look at both of these documents and wonder if they had been issued by the same institution, by two men who held the same office. Today, Rerum Novarum is considered a jewel in Catholic social teaching and the Syllabus of Errors is embarrassingly swept under the carpet and universally ignored. Even Cardinal Ratzinger himself (now Pope Benedict XVI) approvingly called Vatican II a "counter-syllabus", in a gesture of frankness.
Sadly, many Catholics have a very limited understanding of their faith and believe that anything which a pope utters was written on the tablets carried down from Mount Sinai by Moses. Statements such as this by Benedict XVI fuel the bigotry which leads to hate crimes against LGBT persons. Statements like this will one day be buried in the dust bin of history along with the Syllabus of Errors and the various papal errors for which the late Pope John Paul II apologized to Jews, Muslims and the scientific community. Today, however, Benedict's words increase the suffering of LGBT persons, divide families and inspire hatred. That this should be done in the name of God is appalling. That it should be done on the Eve of Christmas is lamentable.
The first Christmas conjures up all sorts of romantic images. The Gospel informs us that Mary in an advanced state of pregnancy and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem to comply with civil law. Mary gave birth to Jesus in a manager surrounded by animals because there was no other place for them. Think about that scene. St. Ignatius Loyola tells us to employ the gift of our imagination when reading the Sacred Scriptures. Imagine what it was like in that stable, what it smelled like, the cold of the night. Imagine it through the eyes of St. Joseph, of the Blessed Mother giving birth under those circumstances.
God revealed the incarnation of his only begotten son to shepherds. The testimony of shepherds would be inadmissible in a court at that time. God reveals the incarnation not to the Emperor in Rome nor to the High Priest in Jerusalem, but to people who were considered to be unholy and who's word was considered worthless by society. God seems to favor those despised by "polite society." The baby in the manger would grow up to eat with sinners and prostitutes. He would himself be seen as an undesirable and condemned by those in positions of high religious authority. Things that make you go, "HMMM." Keep the spirit of that first Christmas in your hearts. Like the shepherds, we too are called to announce the news of liberation to the world.
- Boycott the Knights of Columbus
- A wedding sermon.
- An open letter to my parish community.
- Why was a college student in the car of drunken Archbishop-elect Cordileone at 12:26 AM, when Cordileone was arrested for a DUI?
- When the Church married Same-Sex couples.
- How It All began
- The Supreme Court’s Decisions and the New Mason-Dixon Line
- What the Vatican & American bishops DO NOT want you (and Politicians) to know.
- The Morality of Sex, gay & straight.
- San Francisco in archbishop Cordileone’s sight