From Reuters today: VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict said on Monday that saving humanity from homosexual or transsexual behaviour was just as important as saving the rainforest from destruction.  "(The Church) should also protect man from the destruction of himself. A sort of ecology of man is needed," the pontiff said in a holiday address to the Curia, the Vatican’s central administration.  "The tropical forests do deserve our protection. But man, as a creature, does not deserve any less."  ... The pope said humanity needed to "listen to the language of creation" to understand the intended roles of man and woman. He compared behaviour beyond traditional heterosexual relations as "a destruction of God’s work".  -- Reuters

The Reuters story has a misleading headline:  "Pope likens ’saving’ gays to saving the rainforest."  But it is humanity, says the pope, that requires  "saving" from homosexuality.

Here is John Thavis, the superb CNS reporter, on the same story:

[T]he pope said, the church’s teaching on ecology needs to be understood as arising from God -- the "creator Spirit" -- who made the earth and its creatures with an "intelligent structure" that demands respect. Because of faith, the church has a responsibility for protecting the created world and for proclaiming publicly this environmental responsibility, he said.
 
The pope then explained why the human being must be at the center of the church’s ecological concern.
 
"The church must protect not only the earth, the water and the air as gifts of creation that belong to everyone. It must also protect man against self-destruction," he said. "The tropical forests certainly deserve our protection, but man as a creature does not deserve any less."
 
By "self-destruction," the pope said he meant "contempt for the Creator," and he said examples could be found in so-called "gender" issues today. He offered a case in point: Marriage as a permanent union between a man and a woman was something instituted by God as "the sacrament of creation."

Although the pope didn’t specifically talk about same-sex marriage, the meaning was clear enough to prompt some unusual headlines about rain forests and homosexuals.  --CNS

James Martin, SJ

Comments

Anonymous | 1/16/2009 - 7:07pm
I am curious as to what Catholics might think about the growing evidence that maleness as such among humans may well disappear. There is ample evidence that the Y chromosome has shrunk and is continuing to shrink, there are mammals that reproduce without sexual chromosomes.... This may come to pass in humans 10 million years from now, but as I understand it Catholics, like all religious people, are interested in a long view of things. This fact, along with other phenomena in that affect human sexuality suggest that maleness and femaleness themselves, not our construction of them are less fixed than Pope would have us believe.
Anonymous | 1/4/2009 - 6:54pm
This Pope continues to disappoint me, though I did not have high hopes for him when he was elected. I would think there were more important themes to discuss on our celebration of the Lord's birth.
Anonymous | 12/29/2008 - 11:36am
Maybe God's intention for marriage was not about just the sex or certainly just the procreation (since for older people who are married there is no longer procreation - and to say that when the two are separate something is wrong is an insult to those of us who are married and past our procreative years), but about elucidating mutual ownership. When two people become one flesh, they become the same person - they are no longer part of their family of origin. Weddings are the way for families to acknowledge the new situation, which is why as the civil law evolves to create marriages or civil unions for gays and lesbians - or equivalent rights are created through contract law (which takes only respect for contracts and the rule of law, not the creation of new rights) - the Church should celebration gay unions. For the couple, it does not matter - unless they would benefit from the Church's counsel regarding fidelity. The real beneficiaries of weddings are the family who have lost the rights to their brother/sister/child to that person's spouse. The Church's stubbornness in this area hurts families more than anyone else. On the question of divorce, what Jesus was saying is that you cannot go back. If those who were so concerened about gay marriage were as concerned about divorce we might think that their stance was not about bigotry.
Anonymous | 12/26/2008 - 4:24pm
If neurobiologists have proved that homosexuality has a biological basis and is not a 'choice' as many argue, then homosexuals must be part of God's plan. And arguing that marriage between a man and a woman was God's will also makes no sense. Does the Catholic Church really believe that when the first humans evolved they immediately got married? Study history. Marriage has evolved in many forms over the history of humankind. It's time for the Pope and the Catholic Church to update their theology and bring science and history into the discussion. Science can be viewed not as an enemy of religion, but as uncovering the true nature and beauty of God's creation.
Anonymous | 12/27/2008 - 12:04pm
Neurobiologists have not proved homosexuality has a biological basis, and as far as God's intention for Marriage, where is your proof that God's intention for Marriage has changed?
Anonymous | 12/26/2008 - 7:35pm
There is no Scientific proof that homosexuality involves a gender other than Male or Female. The word "homosexual" defines how someone relates sexually to a person. Defining someone according to sexual attraction does not respect the Dignity of a person from the start. Marriage is a Sacrament, the union of Husband and Wife in communion with God. This Sacrament of Marriage was instituted by God. "Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.'..."-Christ (Matthew 19:4-5)
Anonymous | 12/25/2008 - 9:29am
As a life-long (straight)catholic I am shocked that this Pope would make statements that promote hate. Many in the world will use this to validate their belief that gays should be eliminated at any cost! This man should be called 'The Holy Hater' rather than The Holy Father. It is obvious that the Vatican is on a public-relations mission, to change the church's image after all of the negative publicity surronding all of the pedofile priest's actions, all at the expense of others. I am ashamed that my church would act in such a secular manner. This smacks of the Nazi mentality! Makes one wonder about this German Pope.
Anonymous | 12/24/2008 - 9:10pm
Michael, we are to use God's definition of Love, The Word of Love Made Flesh, not our own. The purpose of Sexual Love is what God intended. Any relationship that is not ordered towards God's definition of Love is a disordered relationship. Any act, that is not ordered towards God's definition of Love, is disordered.
Anonymous | 12/23/2008 - 12:08pm
My suggestion for us as Catholics at this point is this: if the Vatican congregations really want us to believe that there is something so wrong with being gay that it in fact constitutes an exception to the ordinary teaching of the Church about grace and original sin, then they must try a great deal harder to make their case. Or alternatively, they must demonstrate, not just to those whose livelihood depends on their publicly agreeing to it, but especially, as an urgent pastoral priority, to ordinary gay and lesbian Catholics, that there is no such thing as being gay; that what we call 'being gay' is a mistake, and is simply a severely defective form of heterosexuality. If the Vatican congregations can do that, then they stand a chance of being able to show that the intrinsic heterosexuality of the falsely gay person can flourish, and thus that their own teaching is compatible with the ordinary teaching of the Church about grace. However, if they can’t do that – if they can’t produce regular and sustained witnesses to heterosexual flourishing emerging without violence from the life stories of people who had assumed they were gay on something like the same scale as there are regular and sustained witnesses to gay and lesbian flourishing emerging without violence from the life stories of people who had been taught that they were heterosexual, then they should reconsider their definition... ~ James Alison http://www.jamesalison.co.uk/texts/eng02.html
Anonymous | 12/22/2008 - 5:54pm
I like the punch-line at the very end.
Anonymous | 12/23/2008 - 12:55pm
For someone who should understand that the Nazis placed gays and lesbians along with Jews, Catholics, Roma and other categories of 'The Other' into concentration camps, I cannot fathom how this pope can make such over-the-top statements concerning homosexuality that raise psychological issues about the holder of such beliefs more than it does about those whom Benedict attacks. I defer to Dom Fidelis, who makes the excellent case about Benedict's own rejection of all research into homosexuality. Man created the threat to 'the rainforest' and the rest of our environment and should be held accountable for those actions. Man did not create me to be gay. The Creator intended to make me gay, period. Would I choose to live a life of fear that the carload of kids driving by while my partner and I are doing yard work could jump out and kill us solely because they even perceived us to be gay? Would I choose to live in a way that has had 'Christians' spew vehement hatred toward me when they see us together? Why should I deny who God made me to be, when that would, in fact, be unnatural in the eyes of God? This pope has rejected a plea by many countries of the world, through the UN, (except for the righteous Bush Administration and despotic fundamentalist states) to decriminalize homosexuality to save people from being put to death. He has sanctioned witch hunts in seminaries to remove great men whose empathy, intelligence, and spirituality would have made them outstanding priests. He has tried to make gays and lesbians feel inferior for solely 'being.' This is what it means to be a follower of Christ? With all of the mess our world is in, his offensive, anti-gay diatribe is his message to the Church leadership days before the birth of the Prince of Peace? To be honest, methinks Benedict doth protest too much.
Anonymous | 12/23/2008 - 12:48pm
Goodness, what a vicious, cruel religion you belong to. I'm glad I traded God in for atheism a long time ago. Earth to Catholics: there is no invisible sky ghost.
Anonymous | 12/23/2008 - 11:00am
The Pope's over the top concern for the human race engaging in any sort of sexual variation that is non-procreative is so exaggerated as to be an outrage to reason. Asking gay people to live within the framework of monogamous unions, religious celibacy, or voluntary single chastity in exactly the way straight people are asked to do, seems supremely reasonable. Continuing to insist that homosexuals are intrinsically disordered heterosexuals, in the face of growing evidence to the contrary, just seems insane. With all due respect to Aristotle, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Pope John Paul II, this is an area of moral teaching that, to put it most kindly, 'needs further development.'
Anonymous | 12/23/2008 - 10:35am
I'm not sure what's sadder, the misquoting of the Pope or those who agree with the misquote. Sexuality and sexual morality are, like the Sabbath, made for man. God has no interest in how people behave sexually except for his love for us. There is no level of spiritual perfection required of sexual love beyond human happiness, and by happiness I mean self-mastery and fulfillment, not license. Put aside the poetics attached to the creative sex act and deal with people as God created them.
Anonymous | 12/23/2008 - 10:30am
According to my study: We must not bear false witness against our neighbor. The homosexual IS our neighbor. The evaluation of empirical data is important. So-called 'Good Christians' ignore the empirical evidence, established by research, which disproves the above statements. The latest brain studies focusing on the structural differences of the corpus callosum, the hypothalmus, the splenium and the isthmus size between men and women plus the prenatal hormonal exposure provide evidence of a neurobiological basis to sexual orientation. Researchers at McMaster Univ. Hamilton, Ont., state: 'Our results suggest that homosexual orientation is not unnatural to the homosexual. It is as natural to them as heterosexuality is to the heterosexual. The way the brain develops anatomically then functionally has a large early hormonal component. Among the things the brain develops is sexual orientation. This is one of the many variations within each genetic sex.' Anatomically we move from female to male as hormones effect this transitional phase. Current research on the effect of hormones during gestation points to this as the primary cause of homosexual orientation. Previous research has shown that Homosexuality is established at an extremely early age, from conception to 3-5 years as is heterosexuality. Child molestation occurs more so statistically among heterosexuals. If a parent is really worried about sexual molestation of their children, they should demand only homosexual teachers since the incidence of same-sex molestation is dramatically lower than that involving opposite sexes. The Christian Century magazine reviewed ten 'Christian' books on homosexuality and all but two were extremely criticized for misrepresenting scientific data, using concepts incorrectly and were described by the reviewer-psychologist as 'especially insidious.' 'Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor,' Ex.20:16.
Anonymous | 12/23/2008 - 9:18am
A fitting Christmas gift from this Pope. When will this church, of which I am a life-long member, stop its crusade against those of us in loving, committed relationships with persons of our own gender?
Anonymous | 12/22/2008 - 9:07pm
As per usual, the Holy Father is able to get to the heart of the matter and speak truthfully about a sensitive issue. I think of the words of St. Paul, that all of creation waits in eager longing for the redemption of our bodies. This redemption includes all of our many disordered inclinations that tear down our humanity, including same-sex attractions.
Anonymous | 12/22/2008 - 8:55pm
When I saw the misleading headline on another website I immediately felt suspicious and wanted to read the pope's exact words (in translation, no doubt)in Observatorio Romano. Then I felt sad to see it repeated on this web site. Now it seems Fr. Martin has added a bit more from a CNS reporter who draws so-called 'obvious' conclusions. Is this really the stuff (type of reporting) that America Magazine should be made of?
Anonymous | 12/22/2008 - 4:04pm
A brilliant scholar, a holy man seeking God and the 'good'... and an attitude about human sexuality that is beyond primitive...in his analogy to the rainforest and to sexual attraction. I don't know whether to scream or cry... at his anthropology, his ecology, or his soteriology. I can begin to understand the mentality of the Taliban as I read this... and why the modern atheists are popular.
Anonymous | 12/22/2008 - 3:50pm
We seem to all have our blind spots, including the Pope. God does not chose the qualified, he qualifies the chosen. This one will need a bit more qualifying. God is not through with him yet.
Anonymous | 12/24/2008 - 1:29am
The decadence of man leading to his destruction and the destruction of the universe are critical issues in the survival of our planet over which we have Dominion.The comments are interesting; we defend our humanity with vigour but not the planet, a point the Pope was making of equal importance. Re-read the opening chapters of Genesis to get the spirit and balance of his observation and you shall we are not doing justice to His creation.
Anonymous | 12/23/2008 - 7:33pm
What practicing homosexuals and their defenders forget is that the Catholic Church does not condemn homosexual orientation but homosexual behavior (sexual relations) which a human being WILLFULLY CHOOSES. And it is this which is 'a destruction of God's work' the same as adultery or pedophilia.
Anonymous | 12/23/2008 - 3:10pm
The comments seem to suggest that chastity is impossible. What then of the celibates who serve us all?
Anonymous | 12/23/2008 - 1:33pm
The Pope has spoken and has linked some fundamental things which are in fact viewed in a very different optic by modern man.Where his interest lies there his tongue goes.Creation is from God and Human nature is a part of this. Within Nature there are abberations and difficulties that must be seen with a caring mentality without relinquishing the truth of what is before us.The temporal notions of people here will wither against the winds of time and in this case the words of the Pope will come to be seen as prophetic.The beauty of the Catholic Church lies in its fidelity to the teaching of Christ and in serving His mission in redeeming wounded humanity.In reality there is only one institution who can understand homosexuals and that is the Catholc Church .It offers support and recalls the mercy of God even when the world offers indulgence.In the heart of many homosexuals the words of the Holy Father will provoke more than anger but the strange feeling that someone is capable of going beyond the superficiality of the PC brigade.
Anonymous | 12/23/2008 - 12:34pm
If you like the punchline, wait until you read the Italian headlines posted in the later blog entry on this topic.
Anonymous | 12/23/2008 - 9:37am
I think it's more ingenious stuff from our Holy Father. Taking the concern with the integrity of creation and asking us to evaluate the fundamentals of *our* nature in the same light. It's not 'primitive' - it's the fundamental anthropology of human existence. Respect the intentions of the Creator - *all* of them. Resist the temptation to bend what God has made to meet the desires of our own broken wills, whether that be rainforests, bodies of water, or our own bodies. Makes sense to me. It hurts, it's painful, it frustrates our own wilfulness and desires - to experience pleasure, to experience wealth and power - but it's consistent, at least.
liuping abcd | 5/8/2012 - 2:24am
Weddings are the way for families to acknowledge the new situation, which is why as the civil law evolves to create marriages or civil unions for gays and lesbians - or equivalent rights are created through contract law (which takes only respect for contracts and the rule of law, not the creation of new rights) - the Church should celebration gay unions. For the couple, it does not matter - unless they would benefit from the Church's counsel regarding fidelity. The real beneficiaries of weddings are the family who have lost the rights to their brother/sister/child to that person's spouse. The Church's stubbornness in this area hurts families more than anyone else. 
liuping abcd | 5/8/2012 - 2:23am
Maybe God's intention for marriage was not about just the sex or certainly just the procreation (since for older people who are married there is no longer procreation - and to say that when the two are separate something is wrong is an insult to those of us who are married and past our procreative years), but about elucidating mutual ownership. When two people become one flesh, they become the same person - they are no longer part of their family of origin.

Weddings are the way for families to acknowledge the new situation, which is why as the civil law evolves to create marriages or civil unions for gays and lesbians - or equivalent rights are created through contract law (which takes only respect for contracts and the rule of law, not the creation of new rights) - the Church should celebration gay unions. For the couple, it does not matter - unless they would benefit from the Church's counsel regarding fidelity. The real beneficiaries of weddings are the family who have lost the rights to their brother/sister/child to that person's spouse. The Church's stubbornness in this area hurts families more than anyone else.