|Pope Benedict has an obsession with gays, feminists, and insisting on the literacy of Genesis. On these issues he truly seems to think he is the God Emperor of Roman Catholicism.
I read Pope Benedict's annual message to the Vatican curia with zero expectations of finding anything hopeful or uplifting in his words. Consequently I was not too disappointed. I am however, wondering how much longer we will have to live under a pope who inflicts the entire global church with his own unresolved issues under the guise of 'teaching' or 'instructing the faithful'. I am tired of, and sad about, constantly reading this kind of instructing in which Benedict castigates Western culture for all of his personal woes while exhorting the developing world to ignore how population density is directly related to poverty and the ills associated with same. Men must dominate, women must be pregnant, and gays must return to the same deep closet he himself is so familiar with and all of this is God's will.
I've broken up two extended paragraphs in his speech to illustrate my belief that Pope Benedict has some issues he himself has never addressed. Pope Benedict never comes out and mentions gays specifically or feminists directly. Instead he uses innuendo and code words and hides behind the thinking of a Jewish Rabbi. He strings together observations which we are then to take his word for that they are linked in the way he links them. Well, OK, but some of these linkages are not all that logical. But I guess when you are giving a speech to the lock stepping acolytes you don't have to make a whole lot of logical sense. Especially if you hold the very ontologically superior position of God Emperor of Roman Catholicism.
The great joy with which families from all over the world congregated in Milan indicates that, despite all impressions to the contrary, the family is still strong and vibrant today. But there is no denying the crisis that threatens it to its foundations – especially in the western world. (Benedict seems to have zero faith in the strength of the family. How is it an institution, which he teaches us has been God's will from day one, is now so weak it can't stand under the assault from a relatively few gay marriages? Or is it that it's the Roman Catholic clerical system that can't stand under the assault gay marriage represents to that culture?)
.... So it became clear that the question of the family is not just about a particular social construct, but about man himself – about what he is and what it takes to be authentically human. The challenges involved are manifold. First of all there is the question of the human capacity to make a commitment or to avoid commitment. Can one bind oneself for a lifetime? Does this correspond to man’s nature? Does it not contradict his freedom and the scope of his self-realization? Does man become himself by living for himself alone and only entering into relationships with others when he can break them off again at any time? Is lifelong commitment antithetical to freedom? Is commitment also worth suffering for? Man’s refusal to make any commitment – which is becoming increasingly widespread as a result of a false understanding of freedom and self-realization as well as the desire to escape suffering – means that man remains closed in on himself and keeps his "I" ultimately for himself, without really rising above it. Yet only in self-giving does man find himself, and only by opening himself to the other, to others, to children, to the family, only by letting himself be changed through suffering, does he discover the breadth of his humanity. When such commitment is repudiated, the key figures of human existence likewise vanish: father, mother, child – essential elements of the experience of being human are lost. (I understand this is a translation from Italian, but if you go back and read this it's expression is not gender neutral or inclusive and it could have easily been made so. This is Benedict talking about humanity as if it's all about men and only about men and the male inability to make lifetime commitments. For him this may be true, as this inability to make lifetime commitments has certainly impacted the number of male celibate clergy.)
The Chief Rabbi of France, Gilles Bernheim, has shown in a very detailed and profoundly moving study that the attack we are currently experiencing on the true structure of the family, made up of father, mother, and child, goes much deeper. While up to now we regarded a false understanding of the nature of human freedom as one cause of the crisis of the family, it is now becoming clear that the very notion of being – of what being human really means – is being called into question. He quotes the famous saying of Simone de Beauvoir: "one is not born a woman, one becomes so" (on ne naît pas femme, on le devient). These words lay the foundation for what is put forward today under the term "gender" as a new philosophy of sexuality. According to this philosophy, sex is no longer a given element of nature, that man has to accept and personally make sense of: it is a social role that we choose for ourselves, while in the past it was chosen for us by society. (In these sentiments biological sex equals gender equals gender roles equals male dominance/female submission and it is all God's plan and patriarchy has nothing to do with it because patriarchy is the natural expresson of our male God's will.)
The profound falsehood of this theory and of the anthropological revolution contained within it is obvious. People dispute the idea that they have a nature, given by their bodily identity, that serves as a defining element of the human being. They deny their nature and decide that it is not something previously given to them, but that they make it for themselves. (Exhibit number one of this process is the Church's demand for celibacy in it's male and female religious. Talk about denial of one's nature and forcing a contrived dualism on the nature of humanity.)
According to the biblical creation account, being created by God as male and female pertains to the essence of the human creature. This duality is an essential aspect of what being human is all about, as ordained by God. This very duality as something previously given is what is now disputed. The words of the creation account: "male and female he created them" (Gen 1:27) no longer apply. No, what applies now is this: it was not God who created them male and female – hitherto society did this, now we decide for ourselves. Man and woman as created realities, as the nature of the human being, no longer exist. Man calls his nature into question. (The biological difference between men and women is not being called into question. What is being called into question is the social roles which have previously been socially ascribed, somewhat arbitrarily, based on whether one was born male or female. This is not so much a threat to society, as it is a threat to the structure of Roman Catholicism.)
From now on he is merely spirit and will. The manipulation of nature, which we deplore today where our environment is concerned, now becomes man’s fundamental choice where he himself is concerned. From now on there is only the abstract human being, who chooses for himself what his nature is to be. Man and woman in their created state as complementary versions of what it means to be human are disputed. But if there is no pre-ordained duality of man and woman in creation, then neither is the family any longer a reality established by creation. (This is because the nuclear family is not a product of creation, it's a product of the last couple of centuries. The long term historical social unit was the tribe, not the nuclear family. Plus if there is no God given pre ordained duality, there is no theological justification for excluding women from leadership on the basis of their sexual chromosomes.)
Likewise, the child has lost the place he had occupied hitherto and the dignity pertaining to him. Bernheim shows that now, perforce, from being a subject of rights, the child has become an object to which people have a right and which they have a right to obtain. When the freedom to be creative becomes the freedom to create oneself, then necessarily the Maker himself is denied and ultimately man too is stripped of his dignity as a creature of God, as the image of God at the core of his being. The defence of the family is about man himself. And it becomes clear that when God is denied, human dignity also disappears. Whoever defends God is defending man. (This last part is really a series of not well linked statements purportedly ending in the notion that gays adopting children somehow winds up making objects of children and denying man and denying God. It makes me wonder what goes on in Benedict's head that it's impossible for him to see that he himself is objectifying gays and feminists by defining them as 'threats' to the whole of creation.)
Pope Benedict then goes on to describe three areas of dialogue that the Vatican needs to be concerned with: dialogue with nation states, dialogue with society, and dialogue with other religions. Note the absence of dialogue with his subjects. God Emperors do not dialogue with their subjects. Never have and never will.
So as 2013 approaches and 12/21/2012 passed without a whimper, Catholics of the progressive variety are left confronting the last dregs of very old energy. Like all 'last dregs' the stench is pretty powerful and the taste bitter. I have great hope that 'this too shall pass' and we will move into a much more humane and compassionate future where the personal dysfunction of one man will not be allowed to dictate the spiritual and religious experiences of one billion people.