Wednesday, January 02, 2008
This is an important statement that clearly sets forth the Vatican's priorities: dissent from Church doctrine on abortion, birth control and same sex marriage are transgressions that require progressive levels of discipline, but Catholic policymakers involved in nuclear arms proliferation and warfare are merely given the religious equivalent of verbal warnings. The apparent equivalency of the statement is revealed to be false by day to day Church administrative practice.
Pope Benedict XVI said in a statement on Tuesday that abortion, birth control and same-sex marriage are threats to world peace, on the same level as nuclear arms proliferation, environmental pollution and economic inequality.
In a 15-page message for the World Day of Peace, which will be observed Jan. 1, the pope links sexual and medical ethics to international relations and presents the nuclear family as the "first and indispensable teacher of peace" and the "primary agency of peace."
"Everything that serves to weaken the family based on the marriage of a man and woman, everything that directly or indirectly stands in the way of its openness to the responsible acceptance of new life ... constitutes an objective obstacle on the road to peace," the pope writes.
Or, to put it more bluntly, the references to nuclear arms proliferation, environmental pollution and economic inequality are just window dressing. After all, when has this Pope, or any major Vatican figure, taken Bush and Blair to task personally for invading Iraq and killing hundreds of thousands of people? Right, the Church just permitted Blair to convert to Catholicism.
On its face, the statement is comical, like most Vatican pronouncements on these subjects. The notion that the nuclear family is the "first and indispensable teacher of peace" has been historically disproved on too many occasions to count. Racism, religious intolerance, homophobia and anti-semitism, with their attendant expressions of violence, have been communicated to successive generations through the nuclear family celebrated by Benedict. Indeed, the purported necessity of protecting the family has often been invoked as a justification for them.
Furthermore, the family has been the centerpiece of consumption within capitalist societies. Modern advertising highlights appeals to familial concerns, such as personal safety, the education and comfort of children and social status, as a means of encouraging modes of consumption that are injurious to the environment, with an accompanying disinterest in the overall well being of society. One of the infrequently recognized aspects of neoliberalism has been its success in encouraging people to limit their social concerns to their immediate family.
Just as Stalinists and Maoists celebrated the rarely, if ever, found socialist man as the linchpin of their new egalitarian societies, Benedict exalts an idea of the family that has no relationship to the real world. His specific reference to same sex marriage as a threat to peace is troubling, as it suggests that violence and discriminatory behavior directed against them, while not publicly praiseworthy, should be considered the inevitable consequence of its proliferation. Gays and lesbians, acutely aware of their marginal societal status do not often act out violently, but people hostile to them do.