Pope Benedict XVI used his annual Christmas address to Vatican bureaucracy on Friday to call for a continued fight against the attack on traditional marriage.
The pope vowed this year to promote traditional family values in the face of vocal campaigns in France, the United States, Britain, and elsewhere to legalize gay marriage. Marriage remains an institution between one man and one woman, he said.
The pope denounced what he described as people manipulating their God-given identities to suit their sexual preferences—destroying the very "essence of the human creature" in the process.
"People dispute the idea that they have a nature, given to them by their bodily identity, that serves as a defining element of the human being," he said. "They deny their nature and decide that it is not something previously given to them, but that they make it for themselves."
It was the second time in a week that Benedict has taken on the question of same-sex marriage, which is dividing France, and which scored big electoral wins in the United States last month. In his recently released annual peace message, Benedict said gay marriage, like abortion and euthanasia, was a threat to world peace.
Catholic teaching holds that homosexual acts are "intrinsically disordered," though it stresses that gays should be treated with compassion and dignity. As pope and as head of the Vatican's orthodoxy watchdog before that, Benedict has been a strong enforcer of that teaching. One of the first major documents released during his pontificate said men with "deep-seated" homosexual tendencies shouldn't be ordained priests.
For the Vatican, though, the gay marriage issue goes beyond questions of homosexuality, threatening what the church considers to be the bedrock of society: a family based on a man, woman, and children.
In his speech, the pope cited Gilles Bernheim, the chief rabbi of France, as lamenting how a new "philosophy of sexuality" has taken hold, whereby sex and gender are "no longer a given element of nature that man has to accept and personally make sense of: it is a social role that we choose for ourselves, while in the past it was chosen for us by society."
He said God had created man and woman as a specific "duality … an essential aspect of what being human is all about."
But now, men and women create their own realities and the understanding of humans as created beings no longer exists, he said: "Man calls his own nature into question. From now on he is merely spirit and will."