Friday, January 13, 2012

Getting past the headlines

"Pope says gay marriage threatens humanity!"
Did the headlines over the past week leave you, as a Catholic, wondering how to respond to questions (or perhaps upraised eyebrows)--or at least wondering what was going on? Here's an astute commentary that I am just copying in full from

Putting Words in the Pope's Mouth
Where Was the Real 'News' in the Speech to the Diplomatic Corps?

By Father John Flynn

ROME, JAN. 12, 2012 ( On reading the Jan. 9 Reuters report titled: "Gay marriage a threat to humanity's future: Pope," readers could be excused for thinking that Benedict XVI had made a major speech on the issue of same-sex "marriage."

The article was a report on the Pope's annual speech to the Holy See's diplomatic corps. He did indeed mention marriage, in the context of speaking about his World Day of Peace message, which had the theme of educating young people in justice and peace. It is in the family setting that these values are best taught, he said. A family, he mentioned, that is based on the marriage of a man and a woman.

That was it about marriage and he merely reiterated traditional Catholic teaching. By inference it could be seen as not approving same-sex marriage, but also single parenthood and cohabitation.

Moreover, the whole section on the family, including a reference to the European Union decision to prohibit the patenting of human embryonic stem cells, took up only 174 words of a speech which was 2,778 words long.

In its commentary on the Reuters article the very apt title of the Get Religion Web site's analysis was: "Gay marriage a threat to journalism's future."

It shouldn't really be news for a Vatican reporter to see that the Pope follows the Gospel teaching of Jesus that marriage is the joining of a man and a woman, the Get Religion commentary noted. It also pointed out that the second part of the article went way off tangent, talking about New York's Archbishop Timothy Dolan's support of Catholic teaching on marriage.

As Andrew Brown observed in his Guardian newspaper blog, the Pope also talked about important issues relating to the economy and ecology in his speech. So, why no report on these topics?

Brown commented that: "He did say that 'policies which undermine the family threaten human dignity and the future of humanity itself.' But there was no suggestion that gay marriage was the most important of these and he didn't mention it at all, whereas he did take up several other sexual issues."

Brown also said that the Pope is the most important European figure to be talking about the economic crisis in terms of insisting on instilling an ethical core into the economy. But it seems that is not news.

It is worth keeping this incident in mind when the next media articles come out about supposedly controversial statements by the Pope on matters of the family and sexual morality. Instead of believing what they said he said, it is always better to go and read what he actually did say.


In case you didn't read the linked posts, the Get Religion one includes the Pope's shocking (shocking!) and striking statement that inspired all the headlines:

Blessed John Paul II stated that “the path of peace is at the same time the path of the young”, inasmuch as young people embody “the youth of the nations and societies, the youth of every family and of all humanity”. Young people thus impel us to take seriously their demand for truth, justice and peace. For this reason, I chose them as the subject of my annual World Day of Peace Message, entitled Educating Young People in Justice and Peace. Education is a crucial theme for every generation, for it determines the healthy development of each person and the future of all society. It thus represents a task of primary importance in this difficult and demanding time. In addition to a clear goal, that of leading young people to a full knowledge of reality and thus of truth, education needs settings. Among these, 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. The family unit is fundamental for the educational process and for the development both of individuals and States; hence there is a need for policies which promote the family and aid social cohesion and dialogue. It is in the family that we become open to the world and to life and, as I pointed out during my visit to Croatia, “openness to life is a sign of openness to the future”. In this context of openness to life, I note with satisfaction the recent sentence of the Court of Justice of the European Union forbidding patenting processes relative to human embryonic stem cells, as well as the resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe condemning prenatal selection on the basis of sex.

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