Tag Archives: marriage

Reform Jews Back Gay Marriage, Denounce Cardinal O’Brien

The Reform movement has branded as “inflammatory” an attack on same-sex marriage by one of Britain’s leading Catholic clerics.
Cardinal Keith O’Brien, leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland, described plans to legalise gay marriage as “madness” and a “grotesque subvesion”.
But Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, movement rabbi for Reform Judaism, said that the cardinal’s comments were “inflammatory and incitement to homophobia which can have grave consequences”.

Jewish women under a Beverley Hills chuppah in 2008 

Reform welcomed the proposed legislation, she said. “A recognition of equality of marriage for homosexuals as well as heterosexuals can only strengthen society and the institution of marriage.”
Rabbi Colin Eimer, who chaired a working party on the issue for the Assembly of Reform Rabbis UK, said: “Religious ceremonies exist in Jewish life for heterosexual couples to express their love, commitment, values and ideals. We believe that homosexual couples should have that same opportunity for a religious ceremony within the sanctity of Jewish community, tradition and practice.”
One commonly heard argument for opposition to equality is that it is an attack on freedom of religion. It is not, as this example and the one below clearly show. It in fact supports religious freedom – freedom for the increasing number of religious groups that wish to minister to all in their congregations, without discrimination.


How the Bishops Are Insulting (Opposite – Sex) Married Couples

 Isn’t it quite insulting to heterosexual married couples to reduce their affirming commitment through marriage of their relationship to a simple biological act? If marriage is merely for reproductive purposes, why do they insist on trying to defend it as sacred? Is reproduction more sacred than love? Not in the New Testament it’s not! Now I look at it like that, aren’t they a load of silly billies?

Jennifer Hynes, QTC comment thread.

One of the more offensive aspects of the Vatican teaching on homoerotic relationships is the way in which everything is reduced to “genital acts” (which are dismissed as mere gratuitous self-gratification). As anyone who has lived in a committed, long-term relationship can testify, it’s about far more than mere sex. It’s also about mutual caring and support, for each other and for family members, aging parents and growing children (even for animals).

It’s shared pleasures, at the movies, in music or art, or dining with friends. It’s about shared domestic duties, and joint participation in neighbourhood, community (and parish) concerns. Sex itself is far more than  mere genital acts: it’s also about caresses, hugs, and kisses. Especially as we age, “genital acts” are of diminishing interest.

It hadn’t occurred to me, but Jennifer is right. By focussing their opposition to marriage equality so obsessively on the capacity to create (not nurture) children, some Catholic bishops and organisations are similarly reducing heterosexual marriage to a series of mere genital acts. This is not only insulting to the LGBT community, it is also insulting to all loving couples.

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Gay Marriage: At London "Catholic Voices" Discussion, Gay Catholics NOT Welcome.

At a Catholic event in London next week,  specifically about Catholics and gay marriage, the people most directly affected – gay Catholics themselves- have been excluded.

In London next week,  “Catholic Voices” is hosting an event to discuss the public communication of the Catholic Church’s stance on gay marriage. The advance material for this event made it clear that for security reasons , those wishing to attend needed to RSVP ahead of time, or they would be turned away.

Please note that, due to security policies at Notre Dame, nobody will be admitted who has not RSVP’d to the above email address by the date specified. If you are bringing a guest, you must give us their name and email by then.
-Catholic Voices mailer
However, when I tried to RSVP as instructed, I received a prompt response from the organizer, Austen Ivereigh, stating in effect that I was not welcome. Excluded (and not for security reasons). I have never met Mr Ivereigh, who was presumably responding simply to my name. I soon discovered that two other gay Catholics hoping to attend, had been similarly excluded.
Catholic Voices states that they “began with a single aim: to ensure that Catholics and the Church were well represented in the media when Pope Benedict came to the UK in September 2010”. It is clear from this little kerfuffle that it is emphatically not all Catholics and the Church as a whole that they are aiming to represent, but purely and simply the bishops: not “Catholic” Voice, but “His Master’s Voice”.
And so, we have the curious position that, at a Catholic event specifically about Catholics and gay marriage, the people most directly affected – gay Catholics themselves- are excluded.
This morning, the Guardian has taken up the story:

Gay Catholics in partnerships have in effect been barred from an event about gay marriage, after organisers said it was aimed at developing “communication of church teaching” rather than debating it.

Catholic Voices, which was set up to train ordinary parishioners for media appearances, is holding an event next week called Gay Marriage and the Common Good. But it has informed those with diverging views they are not welcome.
In an email exchange, organiser Austen Ivereigh asks Martin Pendergast, a gay man who is in a civil partnership and wishes to attend: “What is your position on gay marriage? Are you in favour? I ask because CV [Catholic Voices] Academy is not a debating chamber but a means for developing the communication of the church’s settled positions; and both Rome and the bishops are firmly and publicly against gay marriage.
“Therefore, if your purpose is to put an opposing point of view, this is not the appropriate forum.”
In fact, as Martin made clear in his email exchange, his interest in attending was not to put an opposing point of view. Although in a civil partnership himself, he does not want that to become a legal marriage (as he has noted in a comment here at QTC), and is not a supporter of gay marriage. But no matter – he remains persona emphatically non grata at Catholic Voices.
I am personally in favour of legal recognition of civil marriages without discrimination, and believe that there is a real need for rational discussion of this, and of liturgical recognition of same-sex marriages or civil unions in church. The problem is that when the popular presentation of the bishops’  opposition is made using the ridiculous arguments that have been presented thus far, it becomes all too easy for the opponents of the Catholic church to make us into a public laughing stock, and for gay and lesbian Catholics to simply walk away from the Church in despair.
My interest in attending was not to oppose teaching (not at this event), but to suggest rather that we need to consider the bishops’ teaching against the broader background of the Church’s full teaching, including other considerations. Otherwise, there is a real risk of the bishops and their loyalists simply shooting the Church in the foot, as I explained to the Guardian:

 “I wanted to go and say: how are we going to promote the full teaching of the church? They are only interested in developing the communication of one part. There is another part that says gay people should be treated with respect, dignity and understanding. If you’re going to promote this narrow perspective, people will use it as a weapon against the church.”
“Understanding” another is not possible without active listening. There is not nearly enough listening by Catholic bishops to the voices of LGBT Catholics – and similarly not by “Catholic” Voice.
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Joseph O’Leary, on Catholic Theology and “Redefining” Marriage

Fr Joseph O’Leary has a useful short post at his blog, on the eruption of opposition by the English bishops to the (very modest) proposed amendments to the UK civil partnership provisions. He makes the point I have done before, that the Church has itself participated in the constant redefinition of marriage over the centuries, but adds an important observation that I had not realised: that historically, these redefinitions have come from the people, and only later have been ratified by the state and the church. Nothing new, then, in the current process of redefinition. In many countries, the state is already following the popular lead in recognizing same sex relationships. Most churches (not all, not by a long way) are further behind – but they too will catch up, in time:
Apparently the recent papal visit has galvanized opposition among English Catholic bishops to anything resembling gay marriage. Now they denounce Quakers and liberal Jews for daring to host civil partnership registrations, saying that no one has the right to redefine marriage. In fact, of course, marriage has been redefined many times throughout history. It is only since the 15th century or so that the Church itself has defined marriage as a sacrament. Such redefinitions come from the people in the first case, and are only later ratified by church and state. Today the Church has to face the growing reality of gay unions that resemble marriage, and when it buries its head in the stand, refuses to come up with an intelligent response, refuses dialogue and consultation, it is only making itself ridiculous.
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New York Catholics Support Gay Marriage

Barbara Bush’s public support for gay marriage has garnered a lot of press attention over the past week. Reporting on this the Washington Post has drawn my attention to another finding that should have drawn more attention. Alongside the number of Republican politicians and Evangelical Christians who are breaking ranks with their traditional opposition and starting to support equality, the majority of US (and European) Catholics have already parted company with their bishops on the matter. This has been demonstrated in several polls in recent years, at national level, and in state level polls, as in Rhode Island.
When I read and reported on the recent finding of the Quinnipiac poll that a majority of New Yorkers now support full legal recognition of same sex marriages, I neglected to follow through on my usual practice of checking the cross-tabs for a breakdown by religion. This was a mistake. (In mitigation, I plead that I was under intense pressure  for time last week). As the Washington Post has now observed, the national pattern is found in New York, too.  An absolute majority of New York Catholics support full marriage (not simply civil unions). As the paper’s report notes in its concluding remark, “Republican and Catholic leaders may find themselves increasingly out of touch with the rhythm and blues that are moving their constituents and congregants on these issues”.
For how much longer can bishops, in the US or elsewhere, get away with claiming to speak for “Catholics” on such matters (or, in the Philippines), it is patently obvious that they are not speaking of the real beliefs or real Catholics, but only for Vatican doctrine and the rule book Catholics who would prefer to get their ideas from a moral manual, without personal thought or reflection?

recent survey of New York registered voters conducted by Quinnipiac University found that a solid majority (56%) now say they would support a law that would allow same-sex couples to marry. Less than 4-in-10 (37%) New York voters say they would oppose the law. Views on same-sex marriage in New York state have shifted significantly since Quinnipiac first gauged voter sentiment on the issue in April 2004, when a solid majority of New Yorkers opposed allowing same-sex couples to marry (55% to 37%).
One other surprise was the poll’s finding that a majority (52%) of New York Catholic voters support allowing same-sex couples to marry. Six-in-ten Jewish voters in New York also support allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry, while Protestant voters are evenly divided (46% support, 48% oppose).
New York voters overall register significantly higher levels of support for same-sex marriage than registered voters nationally. Among voters nationally, 46% support allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry, compared to 51% who oppose (PRRI American Values Survey 2010). New York Catholic voters’ views, on the other hand, are consistent with the fellow Catholic voters nationwide, among whom 53% favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry, compared to 44% who are opposed.
These surprises suggest that Republican and Catholic leaders may find themselves increasingly out of touch with the rhythm and blues that are moving their constituents and congregants on these issues.
Washington Post, “On Faith”

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The Evolution of Catholic Teaching on Sex and Marriage.

In “The Sexual Person“, the Catholic lay theologians Todd Salzmann and Michael Lawler give a useful historical review of the substantial shifts in the orthodox doctrine on sex and marriage – while also illustrating how much of that teaching is stuck in the fourth century thought of Augustine, and that of Aquinas from the thirteenth century. (Is there any other field of human thought that is so rooted in those two distant periods?) This is an important book that I will be discussing regularly in small bites. For now, I simply want to point to the briefest summary of the main argument, in preparation for a specific extract referring to Pope Paul VI and Humane Vitae.

Two things strike me in this account. As I have frequently noted before, it is completely untrue that the Catholic Church has a “constant and unchanging tradition” on sexual ethics.  Rather, the tradition has been constantly evolving. Just consider the complete transformation of the view on sexual pleasure – from one that it is to be avoided at all costs, even while begetting children or in nocturnal involuntary emissions, to one where it can contribute to the sacramental value of marriage. What has evolved in the past, will surely continue to evolve. That evolution will surely be aided by the capacity of theologians and popes to retrieve, when required, obscure and forgotten pieces from history – and proclaim them of fundamental importance. In two thousand years of theological writing, there will surely be a plethora of documents now obscure, which contradict some current thinking. Some of these will no doubt be retrieved by scholars – and being rehabilitated, will influence further adjustments in the changing tradition of the Church.
St Augustine – 6th cent fresco, Lateran

Here follows my summary of the outline in “The Sexual Person“:

For the early fathers of the Church, sex within marriage was seen as good, for the purpose of procreation only. However, virginity was praised as better – even within marriage. Where sex was undertaken for the purpose of procreation, it was acceptable, but undertaken for pleasure, it was sinful. From Augustine onward, there was some grudging recognition that there was more to it than just procreation, with some value also recognised for conjugal love, which would later be described as the “unitive” value.  Nevertheless, sexual activity for pleasure, even in marriage, was for centuries considered sinful.
The Catholic aversion to sexual pleasure reached its high point when Pope Gregory the Great banned from access to church anyone who had just had pleasurable sexual intercourse. We accept as accurate Brandage’s judgement of the effect of that patristic history: “The Christian horror of sex has for centuries placed enormous strain on individual consciences and self-esteem in the Western world.”
The medieval penitentials went even further, condemning as sinful even involuntary emissions during sleep, and placing tight restrictions on when intercourse with one’s spouse was legitimate – even without taking that dreaded pleasure in the act. One such prescribed continence during three forty day periods: during Lent, preceding Christmas, and following Pentecost. Excluding these one hundred and twenty days, that left a maximum of two hundred and forty five remaining.  But four days in every week were also proscribed – Saturday and Sunday (night and day), and Wednesday and Friday (daytime). This effectively leaves a maximum of one hundred and forty days available for legitimate relations with one’s spouse – but excluding further the entire menstrual period, and the period after conception.

The impact of these penitentials and their harsh judgements on sex was profound. They helped shape a moral focus on individual acts, turning moral reflection into an analysis of sin. They also shaped a focus on genitalia.

That focus and the act-centred morality it generated were perpetuated in the numerous manuals published in the wake of the Council of Trent. These manuals controlled seminary education well into the twentieth century and continued to propagate both an act-centred morality and Catholic ambivalence toward both sexuality and marriage.
Aquinas later expanded the “purpose” of marriage by recognizing both a primary purpose (which remained procreation) and a secondary purpose – not pleasure itself, but mutual support and faithfulness between the spouses. For believers, there is also a third end – a sacramental one. Aquinas also begins to modify the total aversion to pleasure, recognizing that “within the ends of marriage”, sexual desire and pleasure are not sinful.
By the twentieth century, the 1917 Code of Canon Law codified three notions of marriage: as a contract between spouses, in which the partners exchanged rights to their sexual acts, and whose primary purpose is procreation. That renewed emphasis on procreation was substantially revised later in the century, especially by the Second Vatican Council, but also before it.

In 1936, in response to the Anglican church’s approval of artificial contraception, Pope Pius XI published Casta Connubii“. This firmly rejected contraception and emphasized procreation – but it did more.

He retrieved and gave a prominent place to a long-ignored item from the Catechism of the Council of Trent: marriage as a union of conjugal love and intimacy.  If we consider only the juridical definition of marriage, we could reasonably conclude that marriage has nothing to do with mutual love, that a man and a woman who hated each other could could be married as long as each gave to the other the right over her or his body for procreation.  By emphasising the essential place of mutual love in a marriage, Pius firmly rejected such nonsense and placed the Catholic view of marriage on the track to a more personal definition.
In this document, Pius XI quite explicitly describes the “chief reason and purpose” of marriage as the mutual love and interior formation of the spouses. This renewed emphasis on conjugal love was reaffirmed by Vatican II. The council clearly stated that marriage is “ordered” to the procreation and education of children, but also stressed that this does not imply any hierarchy of ends. The importance of the generation and education of children

“does not make the other ends of marriage of less account”, and marriage “is not instituted solely for procreation”.

Recommended Books

Salzmann, Todd, and Lawler, Michael: The Sexual Person: Toward a Renewed Catholic Anthropology

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Pope Benedict’s Strong Argument for Gay Marriage, Queer Families.

Last Sunday, I picked up a little book at the Soho Masses bookstall called “Christians and Sexuality in the Time of AIDS“, a useful little book, which I bought at a ridiculously low bargain price. Some of the insights have little to do directly with the main theme, and it is one of these that is relevant here, an observation made by James Alison in his introduction, writing about Pope Benedict XVI and the nature of his theology.  James has frequently observed that when we respond too quickly or too superficially to the pope’s reported remarks, we often underestimate his thinking, which is substantially more nuanced than we usually recognize. In his position, he argues, Benedict cannot do other than repeat the well-worn, established magisterial positions on topical issues.

The really interesting questions surrounding what a pope is doing are never the politically immediate headline grabbers, but always the small, apparently insignificant tinkerings around the edges which are either going to make change possible over time, or try to block it.
When I read these words, they brought into focus for me the speech that Benedict  gave to a group of Italian politicians and public officials last Friday, which has been widely interpreted as an attack on gay marriage. This is not the way I interpreted the speech: instead, I wrote (in the post below) that the reference to “marriage between a man and a woman”, and to the forces undermining it, were curiously minor. The main thrust of the speech was more usefully seen as in praise of strong families – which could equally well apply to the families of same sex parents as to any other.   After reading James Alison, I thought how perfectly his warning applies to the present case: well, of course he made the obligatory noises about marriage between a man and a woman (how could he not?) – but the headline writers have missed the main points. With just a little “apparently insignificant tinkerings around the edges”, this attack on gay marriage can instead be read as a statement in praise of all families – including those which are queer. 
I submit my original post below, just as I wrote it Sunday — with profound apologies to my colleague Bart, who very generously responded to my request for preliminary comment with some very useful and helpful suggestions, which I have duly ignored. This is not in any way a reflection on his contribution – but just on my acute lack of time this week.  (I am writing this close to midnight, as it is). I will revise and refine this text later, to incorporate the additional links, Bart’s contribution – and possibly later thought as well (both my own and that of readers’ comments).

No, Pope Benedict didn’t come right out and say he supports gay marriage and adoption – nor did he even intend to imply it (quite the reverse). As usual, many headline writers will have a field day stating unequivocally that he has opposed same sex marriage. EWTN, for instance has a headline proclaiming that

Push for same-sex ‘marriage’ perverts essence and goal of family, says Pope

and continues:

As efforts to legalize same-sex “marriage” proceed in the United States and countries around the world, Pope Benedict issued strong remarks on Jan. 14, saying that gay “marriage” perverts the “essence and goal of the family.”  
Addressing officials from the city of Rome and the Italian region of Lazio, Pope Benedict said that legislation and policies that promote same-sex unions end up “penalizing” heterosexual couples,  “who, not without effort, seek to maintain stable emotional ties which are juridically guaranteed and publicly recognized.”
In fact, he did not say explicitly anything of the sort, although it was the superficial implication. To get to the real significance of the words, we need to get to what he said, not just to what was reported. A close reading of his actual words shows that indirectly, he has contributed to the case in favour.

Thee are the key passages:

the Pope noted how “it is in the family that children learn the human and Christian values which enable constructive and peaceful coexistence. It is in the family that we learn solidarity between generations, respect for rules, forgiveness and acceptance of others”. In this context he also noted how “the family must, then, be supported by policies … which aim at its consolidation and development, accompanied by appropriate educational efforts”.
the Church looks with favour upon all initiatives which seek to educate young people to experience love as a giving of self, with an exalted and oblational view of sexuality. To this end the various components of society must agree on the objectives of education, in order for human love not to be reduced to an article of consumption, but to be seen and lived as a fundamental experience which gives existence meaning and a goal”.

How is this an attack on gay marriage? Well, to be fair, I have so far omitted two key statements of Benedict:

on the subject of the family, which he described as the “the primary cell of society, … founded on marriage between a man and a woman”,
“The approval of forms of union which pervert the essence and goal of the family ends up penalising those people who, not without effort, seek to maintain stable emotional ties which are juridically guaranteed and publicly recognised.

So, the reasoning goes, society is founded on strong families, which spring from marriage between a man and a woman, and that other forms of union pervert the goal and essence of the family, and so must be opposed. This appears to be a case against same sex marriage, but to accept the conclusion, we must also accept all the premises – some of which are patently false. But note how the reference to “a man and a woman” is almost a throwaway line. The bit about other forms of union “penalizing” those who seek to maintain stable emotional ties appears highly offensive and unjustified, unsubstantiated – but wait: are the “other forms of union” necessarily marriages of same-sex couples? Could they not also refer to heterosexual cohabitation, or to conventional civil marriage? And those who seek to maintain stable emotional ties: could they not include some who happen to be of the same sex? Do not we too, aim to maintain stable ties for the good of our children, and wish to have them strengthened by judicial, public (and ecclesiastical) approval?
I accept without reservation that always and everywhere, strong societies have depended on strong families. However, it is simply not true that these are necessarily founded on marriage  between “a man and a woman”. That is the primary model in the modern West, but it has not always been so. In earlier times, and in many non-Western societies still, family structures take on a bewildering variety of forms. Polygamous marriages between a man and several women are the best known, but many others are known – including same sex marriages (in classical times and traditional cultures as well as the modern variety), extended families, and gender separated social structures, with young boys and men living separately from the females, and boys receiving their first sexual experiences from older males.  When Benedict says that marriage is between a man and a woman, he is stating a social pattern from a single culture (albeit a dominant one), not a fundamental, inviolable rule. Even in Western Europe and associated cultures, forms of marriage have evolved constantly over the centuries, and will no doubt continue to evolve.
Continuing the assumption that Benedict’s statements make a case against marriage for same sex couples, we need to accept also that other forms of union for such couples pervert the essence and goal of the family. Do they?  Apart from the false assumption that the essence of the family includes marriage between a man and a woman, he does not spell out quite what this essence is, but from his observations about children, I assume that he is thinking of marriage as an institution in which two adults give each other in mutual love and support, for the purpose of raising children. Does this exclude other forms of union?
The orthodox Catholic view of course, is unequivocally “yes”, because it is obsessed with homosexual acts, which it sees as nothing more than indulgent self-gratification, and is completely blind to the reality of peoples lives, in which same – sex couples are as capable of mutual self-giving in loving commitment as any others. (This was confirmed in recent neurological research, which showed that brain responses of research subjects to their loved partners were essentially the same, irrespective of the gender variations of the couples). There is also an assumption in the orthodox reasoning that same – sex couples are somehow unsuited to raising children. This is hogwash. Adoption and child welfare professionals overwhelmingly agree, and empirical research confirms, that the crucial factor in the quality of childrearing is the quality of the love, not the gender or orientation of the parents. In a recent interview, one noted adoption expert put it succinctly. Those who argue that gay men or lesbians are unsuited to parenthood are either ignorant, or homophobic.
We are repeatedly told by the opponents of gay marriage and gay adoption that the interests of the children must come first. Well, quite. In matters of adoption, the professionals tell us, the beneficiaries of gay adoption are the children. But queer people do not becomes parents only by adoption. Many (like myself) are parents by traditional means. Here, I want to introduce the view of my daughter Robynn, taken from her post on the subject here at QTC:

I was raised mainly by my mother. However, I spent a lot of time (including one full year as a teenager) with my father and his then partner, Bruce, with whom he shared an 18-year relationship. I consider myself entirely unscarred by the experience. In fact, to confirm Dad’s report, I do feel that I was privileged to be part of this unusual family.
It’s hard to explain why, without sounding terribly patronising – not my intention. But in high school, particularly, I was very aware of having a different perspective to my peers. I enjoyed this and I believe it was very valuable in forming my worldview, a view perhaps less limited than that of many suburban kids. My family was unusual, but stable, and very supportive. Gay parents: I recommend them.
(Follow the link for her full post).
So the facts of gay families do not support, but completely contradict the assumptions in Benedict’s thesis that permitting same sex marriage will undermine society. This is the first part of my conclusion that Benedict’s observations on family make a case for, not against, gay marriage. It’s in the best interests of the children, and by supporting the moral formation and education of children, will strengthen society. 
There is another strand to the argument which also follows from his observations. To see this, we first need to step back. In the Garden of Eden, we read in Genesis 2, the Lord saw that it was not good for Adam to be alone, and so he made for him a companion: “I will make him a helper as his partner” (2:18 NRSV). In the 3rd century, Augustine agreed, and described two of the three goods of marriage as the mutual help and support given to each other by the spouses, and the sacramental value that this represented, as reflecting the marriage between God and God’s people. Much later, Aquinas said much the same thing. In the twentieth century, Pope Pius XI and then Vatican II confirmed that procreation is not the only, nor even the primary reason for marriage: the benefits of marriage are explicitly stated not to form a hierarchy of value. This is confirmed in practice by the encouragement of the early church of virginity even within marriage, and in modern times by the  obvious willingness of the church to celebrate marriages of the elderly or sterile, for whom reproduction is impossible.
Mutual love and support – essential human needs of us all, and especially as we grow old and infirm, which the orthodox rules would exclude for gay men and lesbians by denying them the possibility of marriage (even the strictly orthodox Catholics no longer recommend that we should enter heterosexual marriage. It may even be grounds for annulment of a marriage that has been contracted).
In the same audience in which Pope Benedict spoke about the importance of family, he also spoke about other social issues, including the plight of the elderly:
Benedict XVI then went on to explain how
“the ageing population raises new problems. … Although many old people can reply on the support and care of their own families, growing numbers are alone and have need of medical and healthcare assistance”. In this context he also expressed his joy at the collaboration that exists “with the great Catholic healthcare institutions such as, for example, in the field of paediatrics, the ‘Bambino Gesu’ hospital. I hope these structures may continue to collaborate with local organisations in order to guarantee their services to everyone who needs them, at the same time renewing my call to promote a culture of respect for life until its natural end”.
He has noted here the “problem” that growing numbers of people are facing the difficulties of ageing alone, without the benefit of family. Can he not see that he is exacerbating that problem by depriving gay men and lesbians of the possibility of marriage and family?
So it is that I conclude: although the orthodox Catholic commentariat will rejoice at Pope Benedict’s apparent attack on same sex marriage, I welcome his actual words. He will not have intended it, but he has in fact made a strong case in favour of gay marriage and gay adoption. They are  in the interests of the children and strengthens families – and so will help to support the elderly in their time of need.

Queer families: they strengthen society.

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