Saturday, February 3, 2007

Pope Calls For Defense of "Traditional" Marriage and Family

Pope Benedict has come out in opposition to pending legislation in Italy that would grant legal status to unmarried couples, regardless of sexual orientation. He claims that such recognition would endanger the "traditional family".

"We know very well how the family based on marriage forms the natural setting for the birth and education of children, and is therefore a guarantee of the future of all humanity," the pope said. In his address Sunday on Saint Peter's Square, he called for married people, the church and public institutions to "defend, aid, protect and empower" the family.

Benedict speaks of "THE family", as if there is only one kind, which is patently false. Families have always existed in many different forms, so it is presumptuous to speak of THE family. The fact that families exist in diverse forms doesn't keep anyone who wishes from living in what he calls a "traditional" family.

So far far as what is "natural", men and women must come together at some point to create children, but anything further than the act of mating, concerning what kind of social groups children are raised in are practical human constructs, none more "natural" than the last.

And concerning "traditional" families, I'm guessing the pope is referring to the isolated nuclear family unit. This type of family is only "traditional" from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution onward; before that, most families were of the extended variety.

If he means that a traditional family involves legal/church recognized monogamous marriages, even that only goes back so far and only for certain people. In prehistory, family relationships were, of course, much more informal and were neither legal nor religious. Even the Bible records several different kinds of marriages and families: polygyny, concubinage, levirate marriage, single parents, as well as the type Benedict defends.

As one person suggested to me in an IM conversation earlier today, perhaps one of the things motivating the pope's vocal opposition to civil partnerships is the potential loss of revenue for the Catholic Church, as such civil partnerships will no doubt reduce the number of church weddings, and likely, church memberships.

The Pope would do better if he expressed more concern with how people treat one another in the relationships they do have, rather than worrying about what form these relationships take.


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