In the second time in as many weeks, the Vatican has taken a pot-shot at marriage equality in public statements.
While last week, Pope Benedict disparaged marriage equality in the release of his World Day of Prayer for Peace message, the newest statement comes in the form of a front-page article in L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican’s newspaper by historian Lucetta Scaraffia. A Religion News Service (RNS) story notes that the focus of Scaraffia
“. . . compared proponents of gay marriage, with their championing of ‘marriage equality,’ to 20th-century communists who wooed millions with their promise of perfect social and economical equality. . . .
“For her, the idea of gay marriage is a product of the same ‘egalitarian utopia that did so much damage during the 20th century … deceiving humanity as socialism did in the past.’ . . .
“In the long run, she concluded, societies will end up paying ‘a very high price’ for destroying family, ‘as it happened in the past with the attempts to create a complete social and economical equality.’ ”
Opposing Scaraffia in the RNS story was Marianne Duddy-Burke, the executive director of DignityUSA. She noted that
“. . . ‘marriage and family are sacred institutions that deserve the support of both civil and religious communities.’ But, she added, ‘these institutions are not limited by the sexual orientations of their members. Love and commitment transcend gender.’
“The Vatican’s arguments against gay marriage, she said, are based on ‘patently false beliefs about human nature’ and represent a cruel and un-Christian attempt to incite fear and division.’ “
The fear motive is indeed strong in Scaraffia’s argument. By making the comparison between marriage equality and communism, the writer clearly intends to make people fear marriage equality in the way that they used to fear leftist governments. The comparison is erroneous. Proponents of marriage equality come from all over the political spectrum, and have varied and different approaches to other social and economic questions. The only thing that unites them is their quest for equality in marriage opportunities, not a grand social agenda.
The RNS story notes that Scaraffia went all the way back to the French Revolution to prove her point:
“ ‘The idea that men have to be equal to enjoy the fullness of their rights and be happy dates back to French Revolution, when they demolished church bell towers because they were taller than other buildings,’ she said.”
Such an image seems less motivated by true historical comparison and more intended to falsely paint marriage equality proponents as people who want to destroy the Church. The fact that there are so many LGBT people who hold a deep faith belies this type of comparison.
Just about a year ago, Cardinal Francis George made headlines by comparing LGBT advocates to the Ku Klux Klan. Another fear-mongering statement which actually reveals George’s own fear. The Cardinal had the good sense to eventually retract his statement and apologize for the hurt he caused.
While such argument style as exhibited by Scaraffia can be upsetting, we should recognize that the reliance on fear as a strategy means that the per sons arguing already feels trapped and somewhat defeated by the logic of their opponents. In effect, it is an admission of defeat.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry