Benedict XVI: Gay Marriage “Obstacle On the Road to Peace”

Jim Burroway

December 12th, 2007

Pope Benedict XVI has issued his Message for the Celebration of World Peace Day, titled “The Human Family, A Community of Peace.” In this traditional January 1 message (issued in advance of 2008), he discusses “the one human family’s” importance for world peace:

6. The social community, if it is to live in peace, is also called to draw inspiration from the values on which the family community is based. This is as true for local communities as it is for national communities; it is also true for the international community itself, for the human family which dwells in that common house which is the earth. [All emphasis in the original]

There is so much to appreciate in this statement:

  • A call for people to treat each other as family (“We do not live alongside one another purely by chance; all of us are progressing along a common path as men and women, and thus as brothers and sisters.”),
  • responsible stewardship of the earth’s energy resources and the environment (“sustainable development capable of ensuring the well-being of all while respecting environmental balance”),
  • the “prudent use of resources and an equitable distribution of wealth,”
  • laws “which would foster true freedom rather than blind caprice, and protect the weak from oppression by the strong,”
  • concerns over wars and conflicts in Africa and the Middle East, and continuing arms races in countries all over the world.

In many ways, it is a beautiful and well-considered document. It’s the sort of document I often appreciated during my Catholic days. Except this time, there’s this that’s buried in the text:

…[E]verything that serves to weaken the family based on the marriage of a man and a woman, everything that directly or indirectly stands in the way of its openness to the responsible acceptance of a new life, everything that obstructs its right to be primarily responsible for the education of its children, constitutes an objective obstacle on the road to peace.

If I were in a flippant mood, I might say that he’s not talking about same-sex marriage because the ability for gays and lesbians to enter into marriages does nothing to weaken anyone else’s family. But of course we all know better; we know exactly what he’s talking about.

Arms races, Conflicting economic interests, dwindling resources, not being able to see each other as brothers and sisters in the “one human family” — these are all serious impediments to world peace, no question about it. And framing these conflicts as disruptions inside the human family is a useful way of looking at things.

But gay marriage? An objective obstacle on the road to peace?

I think Benedict missed another important obstacle to peace: efforts by some world leaders to scapegoat a few members of that one human family for the problems suffered by other members of that family. I’m sure it’s just an oversight. Maybe he’ll pick up that theme for 2009.

Ben In Oakland

December 13th, 2007

I just don’t understand how I could have left this off my radical homosexual agenda. I’ll add it now:

Item 23: Destroy the nuclear family


Item 24: Destroy Christianity

There. All better now. Better to reign in hell than to serve in heaven.


December 13th, 2007

Ben you forgot “ITEM 23B: cocktails”


December 13th, 2007

Goodness, I forgot to destroy a couple of marriages yesterday and I’m way behind on my quota.

Timothy Kincaid

December 13th, 2007

I’ve been so busy causing sectarian hatred in Muslim countries, ethic hatred in Western Europe, and famine in Africa that I just haven’t had time to use force for the equitable distribution of wealth. Who knew that destroying the family stucture was so much work.

Ken R

December 13th, 2007

Who knew that destroying the family stucture was so much work.

Who knew we had so much power?

With statements like Pope Benedict XVI and others that are inline with his thinking it’s really hard to take anything they say very seriously.

Funny, at one time Popes were more respected and powerful than kings and queens of countries. Nowadays I am not so sure.

Ben In Oakland

December 13th, 2007

Despite my power to destroy western civilization, for some reason, I still can’t a reservaytion at the French Laundry this weekend.

Emily K

December 13th, 2007

All jokes aside, at least the Pope is MENTIONING war, arms races, protecting the weak, and respecting the environment. The only “destructive” and “dire” thing conservatives in THIS country are talking about is gays, gays, and gays. Also, gays.


December 13th, 2007

“Better to reign in hell than to serve in heaven”

Ben quoting Milton – AWESOME!

Suricou Raven

December 14th, 2007

Oh, he has a plan for world peace – its really very simple. All he has to do is somehow make the Catholic church a superpower capable of oppressing the entire world. That should be enough to keep everyone peaceful. Of cours, anyone who stands in the way of that objective is a threat to world peace.


December 14th, 2007

More disturbing to me than his insistence that alternative family arrangements to the 1 man-1 woman “norm”, is the Pope’s insistence in points 12 and 13 that

… it is necessary to go back to the natural moral norm as the basis of the juridic norm


Knowledge of the natural moral norm is not inaccessible to those who, in reflecting on themselves and their destiny, strive to understand the inner logic of the deepest inclinations present in their being. Albeit not without hesitation and doubt, they are capable of discovering, at least in its essential lines, this common moral law which, over and above cultural differences, enables human beings to come to a common understanding regarding the most important aspects of good and evil, justice and injustice.

Note: Emphasis in original.

The latter half of point 13 pushes one’s thinking over to universal human rights, but the emphasis on natural moral law rather than human civility is unsettling for me. Several of his points (2, 6, 12) indicate family arrangements other than those with a married man-woman nucleus are Less Than in his eyes, and in Point 13, it seems like he might even be endorsing a Catholic version of ex-gay therapy: “If you work hard enough and have faith, you can overcome your desires and carnal urges.” Not quite deliverance ministry, but it’s the same tune ultimately.

John Cole

December 16th, 2007

“the ability for gays and lesbians to enter into marriages does nothing to weaken anyone else’s family”

Never mind that the definition of marriage does indeed affect the state of every marriage that exists in the country, and radically changing the definition would radically affect them all. Your statement is akin to saying “the ability to call down up does nothing to weaken the status of the category ‘up'”.

You’re wrong. The Pope is right. But he’s a professional philosopher, and you’re clearly not, so it wasn’t a fair contest.


December 16th, 2007

Sorry John, I thought you were going to provide some evidence; rather than just make a baseless statement based on definitions of words.

How? Exactly. Explain the mechanism.

The status of “up” and “down” will not alter, regardless. Those are merely descriptive, comparative, and have not changed in the history of the Universe, nor across any culture or religion.

Quite unlike the word “marriage”.

Also not sure why you imagine describing someone as a “professional philosopher” should inspire confidence, of itself. Surely you would be better served pointing to Benedict’s vast, intimate and personal experience with a pair-bonded relationship, willing responsibility and commitment for that other, child-rearing and family life.

Oh, silly me, forgot…

Q: why is it that the equally important definition of marriage mentioned — completely open to pregnancy, ie no contraception — is ignored by the vast majority of Catholics, whenever possible?

Try to tackle both these “changing definitions” — same-sex and contraception-ed marriage — at the same time.

You won’t make any more sense, and you’ll lose near all of your audience, but at least you’ll be consistent.

John Cole

December 16th, 2007

“make a baseless statement based on definitions of words.”

If a “baseless statement” is “based” on something, how can it be “baseless”?

Or maybe X can be non-X too, in the philosophical world of grantdale. Just like the institution fundamentally about the production and nurturing of children in every society in which it has ever existed can be an affair of two men. X and non-X.

You should read the Pope sometime. He’s very smart and you could learn something.


December 17th, 2007

John Cole,

While I’m 100% in favour of committed gay relationships being legally recognized, I have yet to be convinced that they should be called marriages. As far as I’m concerned, a gay relationship is perfectly good and fine precisely for what it is and doesn’t need to be “validated” by calling it a marriage.

But the question is this: if Peter and Paul (or Pam and Mary) down the road have their committed relationship legally recognized – whether you call it marriage, or whether you call it something else – how exactly will that weaken the marriages of heterosexual people? If you can’t or won’t tell us, a mere appeal to Uncle Joseph’s credentials as a philosopher will not answer the case.

John Cole

December 17th, 2007

“The case” has been answered elegantly and at length in many places by many people. Look into it.

Ben In Oakland

December 17th, 2007

troll alert/


December 17th, 2007

John, it’s called alliteration: part of the Irish poetry that remains in Australian speech, particularly when we are trying hard not to suppress that other Irish artefact (sarcasm).

Instead of going round and round in circles (John to self: that makes no sense, what else would one go “round” in… a square?), perhaps you might like to answer the question about contraception. Or perhaps the new one: why your definition of marriage is one that basically hasn’t applied for several hundred years. People marry for all sorts of reasons: you’ve named only one.

Rash assumption on your part, too. Rather than you telling people to read JR’s missives; why don’t you, instead, read anyone else but. For a change.

He may well be, as you think, “very smart” but I seriously doubt all wisdom resides in an old cloistered virgin; particularly with regard to family life. If you think it does, feel free to follow his instructions.


December 17th, 2007

agree Ben. And I count 3 strikes.

Jim Burroway

December 17th, 2007


Actually, it hasn’t. Or they (and I) wouldn’t be asking you to provide an explanation. I’ve looked at many different explanations, and they all have failed miserably to draw the line between same-sex marriage and a threat to anyone else’s family, let alone world peace.

Let me phrase two questions specifically:

1) You seem to think that same-sex marriage is a threat to the marriages and families of heterosexual couples. You’re not alone. But nobody has been able to explain how my marriage could be a threat to someone else’s. And so far, neither have you. So please explain. I’m all ears.

2) Do you honestly believe that same-sex marriage is “an obstacle to peace?” The Pope made that blanket assertion without backing it up either with evidence or logic. If he had made that claim here in a comment, he’d be in violation of our Comments Policy. We don’t accept blanket statements without evidence.

If you care to try to take a crack at either of these two questions, you’re more than welcome to do so. But be prepared to defend your assertions with facts and evidence backed by sources. Drive-by comments may suffice for other websites and forums, but they don’t work here.


December 17th, 2007

John Cole,

You say ‘“The case” has been answered elegantly [sic – eloquently?] and at length in many places by many people. Look into it.’

I have heard and read a great many condemnations of the legal recognition of same-sex relationships based on the premise that such recognitiom will somehow be deleterious to traditional heterosexual marriage and to the family (including Uncle Joseph’s exhortation to politicians on the subject a few years ago when he was still Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith). I have yet to come across any serious attempt to explain why this should be so; all that I have found is repeated affirmation in place of explanation.


December 17th, 2007

“Never mind that the definition of marriage does indeed affect the state of every marriage that exists in the country,”

Please explain how, and why, and the significance of that change. Marriage has been in a state of flux since it’s inception. Culturally, marriages had different definitions, different criteria, different ceremonies, etc. It has only recently come to mean “one man and one woman.” A condition of Utah gaining statehood was the abolition of polygamy, for example.

To be blunt, marriage has been ever changing, please describe exactly how one more change is going to undermine the entire institution, especially since that change is not to the basic structure — “a relationship”, or to it’s other qualifications —(age, non-related, voluntary) or to it’s terms — (till death or divorce). Since same-sex marriage exists in other cultures, please provide evidence of societal collapse — because as far as I know, Canada still stands, as do the other nations that have legalized same-sex marriage.

Saying it will become less valuable is nothing more than an insult. It’s basically saying that the only thing that made marriage special was that gays could not have it. It also suggests that our relationships are less valuable, which is entirely subjective. Considering the size of the gay community, and the number of gays who would actually enter into marriages would hardly make a dent. Please explain how a relatively small group of people are going to wreck a centuries old institution merely by participating in it.

“and radically changing the definition would radically affect them all.”

Please describe in what way. Is it monetary, archetectural? economical? In what way would this radically alter the institution, and again, please explain how this change would be soley, completely negative for all parties.

Timothy Kincaid

December 17th, 2007

The argument that gay marriage would devalue marriage as a whole is based on the premise that heterosexuals considering marriage would see it as having less importance because it was also available to same-sex couples.

This argument falls apart, though, when inspected. There is no evidence that heterosexuals do or have considered marriage to have less cachet as a result of gay inclusion. There is no demonstrated causal relationship in the countries in which full marriage exists.

There were some claims that Scandanavian countries showed a devaluing of marriage, but when the statistics were reexamined and trends observed it turned out that gay marriage may more closely correlate with a reversal in an existing trend of devaluing of marriage.

Interestingly, there is not even a single anecdotal instance that can be pointed to in which a heterosexual couple decided to forego marriage because it is also offered to same-sex couples.

However, while there is not a body of statistical evidence that shows that same-sex marriages encourage heterosexual marriage, there is a growing body of anecdotal evidence of heterosexuals who feel guilty of entering into marriage when their gay friends cannot. This is most visible in Hollywood power-couples, but as an article in the Chronical illustrated, this “waiting til my friends can too” decision is also occuring among plain ol’ regular people.

Because these instances seem to be occurring at increasing rate, it might be evidence that there is a growing dissatisfaction with marriage – one might say a devaluing – based on its exclusionary nature among some heterosexuals.

While there is nothing whatsoever to substantiate the notion that same-sex marriage absolutely will devalue marriage for those who see gay persons as lesser, there is some evidence that same-sex marriages may well revalue the institution for those who see gay persons to be equal to themselves.

John Cole

December 17th, 2007

“a growing body of anecdotal evidence of heterosexuals who feel guilty of entering into marriage when their gay friends cannot. This is most visible in Hollywood power-couples…While there is nothing whatsoever to substantiate the notion that same-sex marriage absolutely will devalue marriage for those who see gay persons as lesser, there is some evidence that same-sex marriages may well revalue the institution for those who see gay persons to be equal to themselves.”

[Editor’s Comment: John Cole omits part of the quote to make it seem to say something other than it does. See the full quote above]

There is no evidence of such a phenomenon beyond a few perpetually morally confused actors–and if you look to them to tell you how to organize a society, you are well advised to look for better role models. Fully adult and cvilized human beings don’t live their lives like the people in Hollywood do.

You should also do some more study of the argument you purport to summarize here, because you obviously don’t know it and you haven’t summarized it. You have summarized the argument that homosexuals would very much like their opponents to be making, because it is a foolish argument (what homosexuals don’t realize is that their own argument about their ‘unions’ is founded on the same foolish premises).

The actual argument has not been dealt with in the homosexual world, and I don’t imagine it ever will be, because it is an argument that does not take as its fundamental premise the radical separateness of human beings, nor does it depend on the unrealistic vision of human freedom and autonomy that is at the very core of the modern sexual libertarian perspective. You might read some Catholic social theory if you are actually interested in knowing the case made against you; alternatively, you can continue to imagine you have destroyed your opponents without having the slightest understanding of what they are saying.

Either way, we will still be here.

“Blanket statements without evidence”–you’ve already made it clear that you will define any evidence provided (e.g., the entire history of the family as an institution in the world, which, whatever the homosexual activist who has read an anthropology textbook written by some hack at a third-rate tech school and thus believes himself the holder of the ‘truth’ thinks, is overwhelmingly on the side of the Pope) as ‘non-evidence.’ Just as you will redefine ‘marriage’ to suit your purposes, ignoring the fact that the huge majority of the world for the huge majority of the time humans have been on the planet have defined it in a way you don’t like.

So the Pope would not be permitted to post on your site? By all means, ban me as well–I should like to be in that company.

John Cole

December 17th, 2007

“Rather than you telling people to read JR’s missives; why don’t you, instead, read anyone else but.”

Because we are talking about him and his writing (that *was* the topic of the original post, was it not?). And because you have made it so very clear that you haven’t any idea at all what he thinks on the matter.


December 17th, 2007

John, if you’re just going to come on here and insult people without supporting evidence (I have yet to see you post a link) you’re pretty much not going to get anywhere. The people who post to this site are interested in a healthy debate, so long as people show up having done their homework, and ready to present their case in a logical, direct, respectful, and well-cited way.
Suggesting that the “entire history of the
family” supports your case is nonsense unless you tell us what book you got this information from. You cannot make the fallacious argument of “everybody knows” here. It will be seen for what it is, a logical fallacy.

I, however, have evidence that the “entire history of the family” does not support your claim. Here is an article on St. Sergius and St. Bacchus, lovers who were married in the church. There is even a photo of an ancient artifact showing what appears to be Jesus as their best man:

If you want us to read the pope’s writing, provide links, or publisher/date/etc information on the specific works you are referencing.

“Just read his work” won’t wash here. If you’re going to make a counter argument, make it, and support it, but don’t expect us to do your homework for you.

John Cole

December 17th, 2007

Ah, a link to the Journal of Experimental Spirituality, citing the long-discredited Boswell. THAT PROVES IT!

I don’t need you to do my homework, thanks. However, you are required to do your own.

Jim Burroway

December 17th, 2007

This happens from time to time. Someone comes along and doesn’t like a post. So je voices his opinion about it. This we not only allow, but encourage. We have some regulars here who often show up to voice their displeasure over something they read.

What we won’t tolerate is when someone decides to ignore our Comments
, specifically when that policy has been pointed out to them and they’ve been asked to follow it.

This forum is for civil debate. When someone by their behavior shows that they aren’t interested in civility, they are put on moderation. John Cole is now on moderation. He can continue to post comments, but I will only release those which actually attempt to further the debate as others have on this thread. Oh, and some substantiation would help.

Timothy Kincaid

December 17th, 2007

In re: whether straights are finding exclusionary marriage to be less valuable:

See here

Emily K

December 17th, 2007

John, for the real deal on marriage and how it is and has been defined, turn no further than the book “Marriage, A History: How Love Conquered Marriage” by Stephanie Coontz.
As far as the ideal Biblical marriage, I choose to look to the wisest of Hebrew kings, Solomon, son of David. Not only was he born of David’s concubine, he had many himself. God got mad at him for taking on pagan women as lovers, but other than that, he had His fullest blessings upon him. He lived a very fulfilling life, dispensing much wisdom to his subjects.


December 19th, 2007

okay, admittedly not the best of all scholarly endeavors on my part, so here’s a non-boswell bit of evidence…
“Also from our Tradition, it is right there in the Patrologia Graeca, that the
relationship between the martyrs Ss. Sergius and Bacchus was described using
the term “o glykys hetairos kai erastes” (sweet companion and lover; erastes
is derived from eros and has the expected meaning) (P.G. 115:1024B; i.e.
paragraph 15, which begins with “O synathlos de Sergios…”)”

Before we get too off topic, suffice to say that history has all sorts of evidence that marriage has not stayed exactly the same throughout time. Whenever a change is proposed(interracial marriage, interfaith marriage, limiting the number of wives, making men and women equal, divorce, no-fault divorce, etc) people always toss up the notion that it will destroy marriage. It hasn’t happened, nor have any of the slippery slope arguments such as people marrying dogs, or toasters marrying elephants.
The institution still exists despite these changes. The only thing that really hurts marriage is those who enter into it lightly and treat their spouses badly.

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