Controversy about the Pope’s Message of Peace

The Holy See has released the Message of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace (1 January 2013) — BLESSED ARE THE PEACEMAKERS. The Message relates peace, interior and exterior, to living a moral life, a life of love of God and neighbor.

“Peace concerns the human person as a whole, and it involves complete commitment. It is peace with God through a life lived according to his will. It is interior peace with oneself, and exterior peace with our neighbours and all creation.” (n. 3)

The message proposes that the whole Gospel message and the whole moral law is closely related to true peace in its fullest form. There’s nothing wrong with that idea. It is a concept entirely consonant with the preaching of Christ Jesus himself.

The controversy is that the Pope dared to contradict the ‘secular dogmas’ of modernity by relating true interior and exterior peace to a rejection of grave sins against the human person, as understood by natural law as well as Divine Revelation.

“The path to the attainment of the common good and to peace is above all that of respect for human life in all its many aspects, beginning with its conception, through its development and up to its natural end. True peacemakers, then, are those who love, defend and promote human life in all its dimensions, personal, communitarian and transcendent. Life in its fullness is the height of peace. Anyone who loves peace cannot tolerate attacks and crimes against life.

“Those who insufficiently value human life and, in consequence, support among other things the liberalization of abortion, perhaps do not realize that in this way they are proposing the pursuit of a false peace. The flight from responsibility, which degrades human persons, and even more so the killing of a defenceless and innocent being, will never be able to produce happiness or peace.” (n. 4)

Abortion and euthanasia are contrary to human life itself, contrary to the common good, and therefore entirely incompatible with true peace and the eternal moral law. But so too is same-sex marriage.

“There is also a need to acknowledge and promote the natural structure of marriage as the union of a man and a woman in the face of attempts to make it juridically equivalent to radically different types of union; such attempts actually harm and help to destabilize marriage, obscuring its specific nature and its indispensable role in society.

“These principles are not truths of faith, nor are they simply a corollary of the right to religious freedom. They are inscribed in human nature itself, accessible to reason and thus common to all humanity. The Church’s efforts to promote them are not therefore confessional in character, but addressed to all people, whatever their religious affiliation. Efforts of this kind are all the more necessary the more these principles are denied or misunderstood, since this constitutes an offence against the truth of the human person, with serious harm to justice and peace.” (n. 4)

Any attempt to promote, approve of, or legalize “radically different types of union”, such as gay marriage or civil unions, harms society by harming one of society’s cornerstones: marriage and the family. The natural structure of marriage is one man and one woman, who conceive children by natural marital relations open to life.

There was a small protest in Saint Peter’s square:

The protesters carried signs in different languages, saying: ‘‘Marriage for All’’ and ‘‘Homophobia (equals) death.’’ The organizers of the protest also issued a statement saying: ‘‘Gay unions don’t harm peace. Weapons do.’’

The expression “marriage for all” errs by disregarding the inherent meaning and structure of marriage. That which is not marriage cannot become marriage by law or custom. The claim that a different view of marriage than is offered by sinful secular society is equivalent to a mental illness, a phobia, is empty rhetoric. Equating the traditional view of marriage, which has prevailed throughout all of human history, to death is absurd. Marriage confers the blessing of children on humanity, thus ensuring its survival. Marriage gives life.

The saying “Gay unions don’t harm peace. Weapons do.” proposes that peace is merely external. But true peace in human society is much more than a lack of physical violence. The peace of society and of the human person that the Pope proposes is based on a life lived in harmony with moral goodness and truth. Ignoring the natural law and the will of God cannot lead to true inner peace.

The above news article also quotes the Pope as previously calling gay marriage “insidious and dangerous”. Here is what he actually said:

“Initiatives aimed at protecting the essential and primary values of life, beginning at conception, and of the family based on the indissoluble marriage between a man and a woman, help to respond to some of today’s most insidious and dangerous threats to the common good. Such initiatives represent, alongside numerous other forms of commitment, essential elements in the building of the civilization of love.” (Homily 13 May 2010)

People who speak out against the teaching of the Church claim a right to do so based on freedom of speech. But they don’t allow that Catholics or even the Pope have the same right to speak freely our sincerely held beliefs and understanding.

The constitutional and legal right to freedom of speech certainly permits public expressions contrary to Catholic Christian teaching. For not everything that is immoral should be illegal. But freedom of speech is also subject to the eternal moral law of God. The fact that an expression is legal does not imply that it is moral. Those who speak out against the Pope and the teaching of the Church should consider whether their legal speech is also moral.

As for the Church, She has the moral right to preach the Gospel and to teach the truth on matters of faith and morals, regardless of human law and constitution. For the Church’s authority is from God directly, and not by way of any human institution.

Can. 747 §1. The Church, to which Christ the Lord has entrusted the deposit of faith so that with the assistance of the Holy Spirit it might protect the revealed truth reverently, examine it more closely, and proclaim and expound it faithfully, has the duty and innate right, independent of any human power whatsoever, to preach the gospel to all peoples, also using the means of social communication proper to it.

§2. It belongs to the Church always and everywhere to announce moral principles, even about the social order, and to render judgment concerning any human affairs insofar as the fundamental rights of the human person or the salvation of souls requires it.

Can. 748 §1. All persons are bound to seek the truth in those things which regard God and his Church and by virtue of divine law are bound by the obligation and possess the right of embracing and observing the truth which they have come to know.

by
Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and
translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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