The pope made some of his strongest comments against gay marriage in a new year address to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Vatican in which he touched on some economic and social issues facing the world today.
He 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.
The Vatican and Catholic officials around the world have protested against moves to legalize gay marriage in Europe and other developed parts of the world.
I was rather pleased with the Reuters article for getting so much of the following right:
The Roman Catholic Church, which has some 1.3 billion members worldwide, teaches that while homosexual tendencies are not sinful, homosexual acts are, and that children should grow up in a traditional family with a mother and a father.
"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," Benedict told the diplomats.
Let's just look at that one sentence's main points again: the Church teaches that homosexual tendencies are not sinful; that homosexual acts are sinful; and that children should grow up in a traditional family with a mother and a father.
Those should really be the talking points of every Catholic on gay marriage. This is what our faith teaches us, and it's really very much in line with our Catholic understanding of the value of respecting human persons and their innate dignity regardless of sin on the one hand, and protecting the most vulnerable members of society on the other.
The Catholic opposition to gay marriage is not because Catholics think that people who live an active same-sex lifestyle should be shunned and excluded from some kind of modern human social structure. It is because we think that marriage is an ancient human social structure that means something at its core which can't be replicated by a same-sex union. That core meaning has always related to children and what is best for them. It is best for children that marriage continues to mean the union of a man and a woman both of whom are at least capable of the act of sexual intercourse. Whether or not the conception of a child can or does occur is not the point; the point is that the act is intrinsically ordered toward the sexual unity of two different-gendered people, which sexual unity is the only thing that can actually bring about children in a morally sound way which protects the dignity of the child as well as that of his or her parents. Manufacturing children in a laboratory is just as affronting to their dignity as requiring them to pretend that two "dads" are the same thing as having a mom as well as a dad, or that two "moms" are the same thing as having a dad as well as a mom--they are not the same thing and never will be.
Two men can live together and have a sexual relationship; two woman can live together and have a sexual relationship; a man and a woman who aren't married and/or who can't validly be married (such as a father and daughter) can live together and have a sexual relationship--but none of these arrangements are morally good arrangements in which to raise a child. This is why they don't deserve to be called marriage--because, quite simply, they aren't. The red herrings about infertile couples marrying (as if a test of fertility ought to be required of engaged couples) or about elderly couples marrying (as if being elderly automatically causes them to lack the gender complementarity and ability to engage in the physical union of sexual intercourse) are red herrings precisely because either of these couples are still quite legitimately husband and wife, and could act as a mother and a father to a child--perhaps an adopted child, or perhaps a grandchild they find themselves raising in the second case.
No matter how hard they try, two men can't be husband and wife to each other or mother and father to a child they are raising. Two women can't be husband and wife to each other or mother and father to a child they are raising. And if a cohabitating opposite-sex couple isn't free to marry, then they can't really be husband and wife to each other, either, and can only act as a facsimile of fatherhood and motherhood to any child they might bring into the world--and this example should show us how bad that might be for the child or children.
That example also shows us that those within the Church aren't immune from sin. But you won't see people parading around with signs demanding the right of concubine marriage for supposedly "celibate" bishops--because sinful arrangements, whatever they might be, just aren't marriage, when it comes right down to it.