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Weaker appreciation of marriage is harming society, says Pope

By on Friday, 9 March 2012

Permissive attitudes toward sex, cohabitation before marriage and acceptance of same-sex marriage can damage individuals and are harmful for society, Pope Benedict XVI has told a group of US bishops at the Vatican.

“It is in fact increasingly evident that a weakened appreciation of the indissolubility of the marriage covenant, and the widespread rejection of a responsible, mature sexual ethic grounded in the practice of chastity, have led to grave societal problems bearing an immense human and economic cost,” the Pope said.

Meeting the bishops of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, who were making their ad limina visits to report on the status of their dioceses, the Pope said ignorance of or challenges to Church teaching on marriage and sexuality were part of the “intellectual and ethical challenges” to evangelisation in the United States today.

The Pope did not focus on current tensions between the US bishops and the Obama administration, particularly over health care coverage of contraception and other practices that violate Church teaching. But at the beginning of his speech, Pope Benedict reiterated his concern about “threats to freedom of conscience, religion and worship which need to be addressed urgently so that all men and women of faith, and the institutions they inspire, can act in accordance with their deepest moral convictions”.

Concentrating his remarks on the need to promote and explain Church teaching on sexuality, the Pope said the Church’s key concern is “the good of children, who have a fundamental right to grow up with a healthy understanding of sexuality and its proper place in human relationships”.

Acknowledging the clerical sexual abuse scandal, the Pope said: “It is my hope that the Church in the United States, however chastened by the events of the past decade, will persevere in its historic mission of educating the young and thus contribute to the consolidation of that sound family life, which is the surest guarantee of intergenerational solidarity and the health of society as a whole.”

The moral virtues espoused in the Church’s teaching on sexuality are “the key to human fulfilment,” he said, because they promote sexuality as “a source of genuine freedom, happiness and the fulfilment of our fundamental and innate human vocation to love”.

“The richness of this vision is more sound and appealing than the permissive ideologies exalted in some quarters,” which are “powerful and destructive,” he said.

One of the first steps, he said, must be to help Catholics “recover an appreciation of the virtue of chastity,” which forms the human heart to love in the most authentic way.

Pope Benedict told the bishops he was aware of “the powerful political and cultural currents seeking to alter the legal definition of marriage” so that it would include same-sex couples.

“The Church’s conscientious effort to resist this pressure calls for a reasoned defence of marriage as a natural institution,” which is “rooted in the complementarity of the sexes and oriented to procreation,” he said.

“Sexual differences cannot be dismissed as irrelevant to the definition of marriage,” the pope said.

Defending traditional marriage is not simply a matter of Church teaching, he said; it is a matter of “justice, since it entails safeguarding the good of the entire human community and the rights of parents and children alike”.

Pope Benedict praised the US bishops’ 2009 letter, “Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan,” and he asked them to continue reviewing and strengthening both religious education materials and marriage preparation programsme.

In conversations with the bishops during the ad limina visits, he said, some of the bishops have expressed concern about how difficult it is to communicate the Church’s teaching effectively and some have told the Pope there are decreasing numbers of young people in their dioceses asking to be married in the church.

“We cannot overlook the serious pastoral problem presented by the widespread practice of cohabitation, often by couples who seem unaware that it is gravely sinful, not to mention damaging to the stability of society,” Pope Benedict said.

The Pope said that in responding to situations in which many engaged couples already are living together, there must be “clear pastoral and liturgical norms for the worthy celebration of matrimony which embody an unambiguous witness to the objective demands of Christian morality, while showing sensitivity and concern for young couples”.

Pope Benedict did not suggest specific norms or provide guidance on how insistent priests should be that cohabitating couples live separately before a Church wedding.

The Church itself “must acknowledge deficiencies in the catechesis of recent decades, which failed at times to communicate the rich heritage of Catholic teaching on marriage as a natural institution elevated by Christ to the dignity of a sacrament, the vocation of Christian spouses in society and in the Church, and the practice of marital chastity,” he said.

The speech was the Pope’s third address to groups of US bishops making their ad limina visits in 2011 and 2012. Because the Pope is not delivering a formal talk to each of the 15 groups of visiting U.S. bishops, the Vatican said the March 9 speech also was addressed to bishops from Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska and Kansas.

Archbishop John Nienstedt of St Paul and Minneapolis, speaking on behalf of the bishops, thanked Pope Benedict for announcing a special Year of Faith, which will begin in October.

“There is a profound crisis of faith affecting large numbers of people in today’s society,” the archbishop said. “Secular values have taken hold in many minds and hearts, causing a rejection of the very notion that true human happiness is found in conforming our lives to the will of God.”

He thanked Pope Benedict for “the extraordinary leadership that you are providing in these turbulent times”.

  • EndTimes101

    I wish the moderator would go easy here. I have been on the end of the abuse but its a free country isn’t it? You have destroyed any kind of debate or discussion here. Why even have a comments section is you are going to delete/edit everything so heavily?

  • Catechist

    The Catholic Church does not teach that homosexuality is a sin.  The Catechism states that it is homosexual acts which cannot be approved, not homosexual tendencies (CCC 2357, 2358).
    The document “On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons (para 16) states that the Church “refuses to consider the person as a ‘heterosexual’ or a ‘homosexual’ and insists that every person has a fundamental identity; the creature of God and, by grace, his child and heir to eternal life.”

  • EndTimes101

     “The Catholic Church does not teach that homosexuality is a sin.” What a thoroughly deceptive statement. You dance around the truth with semantics. What is homosexuality if not an act? Same sex attraction is not a sin but it is a aberration (that can and should be treated, hence someone suffering SSA are not considered suitable candidates for the priesthood). To the degree to which they acquiesce to the attraction is the degree to which they sin.
    “every person has a fundamental identity; the creature of God and, by grace, his child and heir to eternal life.”
    This statement is true of every single person on earth but you seem to be implying (falsely) that it is some kind of justification for a homosexual identity. So what’s your game then Catechist?

  • Honeybadger

    Well, if you are ashamed to say you are Catholic, stop being a Catholic and go elsewhere.

    You can’t have it both ways…

  • Brian A. Cook

    I prefer not to listen to conspiracy theories. 

  • Honeybadger

    Oh, aye? LOL.

  • Honeybadger

    Why don’t you do yourself a favour and give yourself a good bone-up on Roman Catholic teaching?

    How do you know what Jesus Christ thinks or doesn’t think? Hmmm?

    And who gives a flying toss about your drinking habits!

  • Honeybadger

    EndTimes101, the only way of getting through to Jane Brady is by hiring a woodpecker to peck at her head.

  • Honeybadger


    Sexual activity with animals is not illegal in, say, Denmark.

    Porcupines? Owch! It doesn’t bear thinking about!

    Boy, I’d love it if we could shake the dust off our feet from these poor unfortunate’s personal space and leave it there to stink the place out!

    But we will not be silenced!

  • Honeybadger

    Yeah, but here’s news for you, bud – there is more than the Roman Catholic Church that’s raising just anger at the government about this and many other issues!

    ‘The government do have the right and the power to redefine whatever it likes.’ Where are you writing from? Turkmenistan, China or North Korea?

    Or have you jumped off the TARDIS from the Nuremberg rallies?

  • Honeybadger

    I also fully support the Holy Father and the Holy Catholic Church, being a baptised member!

    If the government don’t like it, they can do their worst… it cannot be worse than an eternity in Hell.

  • Oconnord

    I missed you by two decades. I did spent the first few months of life sleeping in a drawer in a flat on Nicholas Street in 72. You might even have knocked about with my Da! 

  • Honeybadger

    You are emphatically NOT a canon lawyer… so how can you say that annulments are based on a lie!

    No matter what icing you put on the cake for same sex civil partnerships, it doesn’t alter the fact that the cake is rotten.

  • Oconnord

    1972.. that is.

  • Oconnord

    I thought the church didn’t like peckers around women’s heads. 

  • Oconnord

    Again… this is too easy….

    I thought the church didn’t want women to give themselves a bone-up.

  • Honeybadger

    Grief! So, only very rich people can afford a thermometer? And stay at palaces?

    The Savoy or The Hilton not up market enough for them?

    Perhaps they are using them to determine how hot their running water is, how cold their beers are and then write down their findings for a ‘Good Palace Guide’.

    Interesting mental picture, here!

    Where I go shopping – contraceptives and all manner of paraphernalia pertaining to – are put in security boxes and have tags similar to those used for spirit alcohol, CDs, DVDs and XBox games etc. because they are expensive.

    Thermometers aren’t expensive.

    What is more, it requires brains and careful thought to use a thermometer!

    Heck, next time I do jam-making…

  • Honeybadger

    I hasten to add, the place where I go shopping is a supermarket with an in-store pharmacy… where these top-notch contraceptives are there for all to see…and, amazingly, gather dust!

  • Honeybadger


    Jesus is Christ. Jesus Christ.

    It was Peter who proclaimed Jesus as Christ the Son of the Living God! It was Jesus Christ who said that it was not flesh but heaven that made this statement.

    It was to Peter that Jesus Christ gave the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. Authority to be the Vicar of Christ. The Pope.

    And, by the way, the marriage at Cana was a Jewish wedding.

    Jesus and His Mother, Mary, were Jews.

    It is not the Pope who is muddying waters… it is you and your like.

  • Honeybadger

    If you don’t give a fig for what the Catholic Church thinks or teaches, why not take up a more meaningful occupation with your time? There’s a good chap…

    … instead of wasting your so-called sophisticated, superior grade energies to being a 24 carat gold pain in the neck? 

  • David Devinish

    Because you do not bother to check information before you commit it to writing, that is the first rule in literature, Also as you may have guessed there are people who do not tolerate your facile, “wise guy”, Smart Alec antics. Therefore any opprobrium brought to you is of your own making.

  • Honeybadger

    After reading your post, it appears that it is not only your spellcheck and careless punctuation that needs looking at!

  • Honeybadger

    Ah, nothing like a good pigeon-holing to sort the wheat from the chaff, eh?

  • Honeybadger

    You’d blame the Roman Catholic Church for your whisky tasting like Castrol GTX, next!

    I’m not one of God’s Chosen Few… that title belongs to the Israelites!

  • Nick Gall

    The catholic church is reluctant to hand over child abusing priests to the authorities yet condemns gay marriage. Enough said.

  • Honeybadger

    We are not Israelites.

    We are Easter People.

    Catch yourself on.

  • Honeybadger

    We get Tax Returns, too, you know… and we pay tax on time!

  • Honeybadger

    My advice:

    Have a word with God.

  • David Devinish

    A very good advertisement for the propagation of the Catholic faith I must say. Your message is “If you don’t like it go somewhere else” rather than trying to help reassure and assist Fiona. In the old days of Pius XII that statement would have constituted excommunication….You seem to have no Christian sympathy or understanding for what Fiona has expressed. What would Jesus of Nazareth have said to your insensitive and ignorant comments?

  • Honeybadger

    EndTimes101 – that is why I have given up being polite and nice to the abusive bilge from these time-wasters who contribute nothing but the kind of vitriolic abuse against the Roman Catholic Church and well-informed members who have the right to fight back in defence against such attacks.

    UK a free country? Slowly but surely, freedoms are being eroded.

  • Dave Corrigan

    It matters not what you say, because anything you have to say is redundant, The law will change, and Catholic Church will have to comply and there is nothing you can do to stop it, but issue idiotic sarcasm and rudeness. No one cares what you think or feel about anything

  • Oconnord

    I’m also a baptised member of the catholic church and that is part of the problem. I am not allowed to leave. (I know that’s a simplistic statement but 100% true). 

    “Well, if you are ashamed to say you are Catholic, stop being a Catholic and go elsewhere.”

    We do not have that option. We can, though, say we are catholic and say we are ashamed of the church. If you want us to stop giving opinions as valid catholics allow us to leave. 

    It was the current pope who changed a previous papal edict which allowed me to “Defect”. He is also refusing to allow heretics, in the canon law sense, to remove themselves from the church. So please tell me how I can be an “ex-catholic”?

    You can read the full story on 

  • Cromwell Uguale

    I am writing from Whitehall and I am fairly certain that the pending legislation will be passed and enacted without too much difficulty. It does not matter who objects, the change in the law will go ahead. It is quite right that your type of theatricality should be expressed but, without too much effect. Your type of journalistic entertainment must be allowed.

  • David Devinish

    I read those books in year one at Oxford. In simple terms it is widely recognised by rational people that the concept of divine intervention (Gods) is nonsense, and the ensuing religions are also nonsensical and have no place in a civilized society. The religious mumbo-jumbo carries no weight in society and is not to be considered in anything important concerning human beings.

  • Gerry Walsh

    Quite right!  but now it is all “Old Hat” and rational people do not believe it anymore.

  • Rory O’More

    That is good news!!  People will do as they want to do regardless of what the Church teaches about sex. The Catholic Church no longer have any power to change anything or anyone.

  • Jack McFall

    Empty drivel, unless you can give a cogent account of what you intend to say that would appeal to all members of society, especially non-Catholics…. It is quite pointless you offering obtuse and abstract (copied from a book) explanations that are worse than useless…, Do you understand this subject, or do you not?. If so, please make yourself very clear in believable terms as to what you mean, or else be quiet,

  • Oconnord

    You miss the true beauty of free speech.

    If you make an assertion and I then challenge it. My challenge won’t make you change your mind. But to re-prove your assertion you will need to look at it in greater detail and de-construct your idea to something you can explain. 

    When you have to defend your point to a rational audience, who are willing to question, you learn more of the veracity of your point. You will gain better understanding because you need to explain it to non-believers.

    So surely you should welcome us “Doubting Thomases”

  • Jane Brady

    It does not matter what happened in the past,. The simple fact is that same sex relationships are now accepted as normal healthy relationships, and within a short time the law will say so and there will be same sex marriage. What you have to say about this matter is pointless to any rational person.

  • Harry McCracken

    You have no need to quote anything to anybody because I have probably read them all at some time other at Oxford or Harvard a long time ago…. I will take no lessons from you about anything… Laugh as much as you want, for the moment, but your laughing will cease when the Law about same sex marriage decrees that your point of view is completely redundant and what you say is of no importance. Then let me hear you laugh.

  • Harry McCracken

    REPEAT……There is sufficient objective sociological, psychological, anthropological and clinical evidence to prove that same sex relationships have been widely practiced throughout the ages and throughout the world and are now totally socially acceptable. ….It was the Roman Catholic Church who first introduced the idea that homosexuality was abnormal. They did this in order to cover up their own history of perverted child abuse history and their other sexual proclivities…. There is a plethora of evidence available to prove that The Roman Catholic Church is the main protagonist in homosexual activity. They have tried to suppress free thinking and possibility that opinions other than theirs were acceptable. They engage gullible and susceptible fools (like you) to fight their fight. The Roman Catholic Church ideology of human sexuality and morality is finished. Look it does not matter what you state or how often you state it because it is clear that you have been indoctornitated in a ridicilous dogma  that counts for nothing anymore. No one cares what you think.

  • Oconnord

    The pope must not have read the latest Catholic Voices poll. It said near 80% agreed with the ideal of marriage being a lifelong commitment. 

  • Jane Brady

    Well I have studied ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels at a Catholic Convent School… I have studied Moral Philosophy and Theology at Girton College, University of Cambridge… I do appreciate that such studies will count for nothing when compared with your great sphere of education and world experience. ..I am deeply surprised that you have not yet been recruited to the Sacred College of Cardinals in the Vatican….Maybe you will be the next Pope and I may be obliged to genuflect before you. You sound to be a right bundle of fun.

  • David Devinish

    Sounds to be most erudite for a Catholic, I would have thought that it would be more applicable to use reason and logic in your argument instead of using nastiness. That is what I was taught at the seminary, but probably they were wrong.

  • Mark Castilano

    Honeybadger and EndTimes101 are both the same with just a few brain cells between them. It would be interesting to read their Alma Mater if they had one. On second thoughts, from reading their made-up, incomprehensible nonsense it would not be at all interesting.

  • Anonymous

    The non-existence of hell is also widely accepted.

  • Anonymous

    It’s in the Jewish Law, the law of God. Murder has been “widely practiced throughout the ages” too — what does that prove? 

    This isn’t a popularity contest, McCracken.  Either make a logical argument or get out, no one cares what “counts for nothing anymore.”

    Stop trying to be popular and fashionable.

  • Dave Corrigan

    This person is a complete and confounded ass, without principle or integrity and is in no doubt from council house origins. These low, working class, council house Catholic traditionalists cannot be allowed to impede the lawful ambitions of the United Kingdom Government in it’s endeavours to bring social justice to all decent people, regardless of the idiotic and anachronistic whims of a few antiquated Roman Catholic Church. ….These people are the enemies of social progress and financial stability. These Roman Catholic seditionists work incessantly against the interests of the United Kingdom Government and HM the Queen, and they must be educated into a rational, alternative opinion. ….The United Kingdom is the friend of all free thinking people and all good people of goodwill from, whereever thet come from , and they  are welcomed to our shores regardless of race,, colour ,creed or religion

  • Oconnord

    Stop the histrionics. Things aren’t that bad!
    Every insult you just applied could describe me, I am “low, working class, council house Catholic “.

  • EndTimes101

     “It does not matter who objects, the change in the law will go ahead”  said the dictator….