On multiple occasions just this month, Pope Benedict XVI has hinted that it is time for people of various faiths to take a common stand against the spread of same-sex marriage.

In his annual Christmas address to the Vatican bureaucracy earlier today, Benedict explained the traditional family needs to be protected because it is “the authentic setting in which to hand on the blueprint of human existence,” and said of international campaigns to legalize same-sex marriage, “There is no denying the crisis that threatens [the family] to its foundations – especially in the Western world.”

According to a Catholic News Service report, Benedict also stressed that interfaith dialogue – even with non-Christian religions – inevitably develops into an “ethical quest” for fundamental common values, hence a “quest for the right way to live as a human being.”

Properly understood as a search for the “oneness of the truth,” such dialogue does not entail compromise of religious convictions, he said.

Reuters described the speech as a “signal” that “the Vatican was ready to forge alliances with other religions against gay marriage” and noted that Benedict based a significant portion of his remarks on a study by Chief Rabbi of France Gilles Bernheim.

Only the day before, in an op-ed for Britain’s Financial Times, Benedict was even more specific, reminding the country’s increasingly secular population that the Catholic Church was not just concerned with faith and morals, but also social issues.

Agence France-Presse reports he stressed the need for the Church to dialogue with atheists and agnostics who agree with the church’s social codes and suggested forming an “alliance” based on a common respect for the “law of nature,” in reference to the traditional marriage between a man and a woman.

In his Christmas speech at the Vatican, Catholic News Service reports, Benedict explained that the same-sex marriage movement is based on false ideas of human nature that equate freedom with selfishness and present God-given sexual identities as a matter of individual choice to the profound detriment of humanity dignity.

“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.”

He continued, “When freedom to be creative becomes the freedom to create oneself, then necessarily the Maker himself is denied and ultimately man too is stripped of his dignity as a creature of God.”

Benedict also cited a Bernheim study titled “Gay Marriage, Parenthood and Adoption: What We Often Forget to Say” to suggest that the battle for homosexual adoptions essentially treats children as possessions rather than people.

To reject the “pre-ordained duality of man and woman” is also to reject the family as a “reality established by creation,” he said, with particularly degrading consequences for children: “The child has become an object to which people have a right and which they have a right to obtain.”

“Bernheim has shown in a very detailed and profoundly moving study that the attack we are currently experiencing on the true structure of the family, made up of father, mother, and child, goes much deeper,” he said.

Earlier this month, in a comments released for the upcoming World Day of Peace 2013 in January, Benedict elaborated on why the issue isn’t just one for faithful Catholics, but one that people of many faiths or no faith could agree upon.

“There is also a need to acknowledge and promote the natural structure of marriage as the union of a man and a woman in the face of attempts to make it juridically equivalent to radically different types of union,” Benedict wrote. “Such attempts actually harm and help to destabilize marriage, obscuring its specific nature and its indispensable role in society.”

He continued: “These principles are not truths of faith, nor are they simply a corollary of the right to religious freedom. They are inscribed in human nature itself, accessible to reason and thus common to all humanity.”

Reuters notes that in some countries the Catholic Church has already joined forces with Jews, Muslims and members of other religions to oppose the legalization of “gay” marriage, in some cases presenting arguments based on legal, social and anthropological analyses rather than only on religious teachings.

Predictably, Benedict’s comments in the World Day of Peace speech in particular have elicited a host of condemnations, but the Vatican called the criticism an attempt at “intimidation” and called upon “everyone to read the document in full, and objectively.”

“The Pope, in a short passage, returns to the vision of marriage between a man and a woman as profoundly different from radically other forms of union, and states that this difference is recognizable by human reason,” said Vatican Spokesman Father Federico Lombardi. “Along with other fundamental principles of a correct view of person and society, primarily the dignity of all human life, we need to defend the institution of marriage if we would build peace on solid foundations and seek the good of human society with foresight. This is the view that the Church never tires of stressing, at a time when this point is being challenged and even attacked from several quarters in many different countries.

“This is all well known,” Lombardi continued. “It is not in the least surprising. The reaction is therefore lacking in decent composure and sense of proportion: It consists in shouting, not in reasoning; it is intended to intimidate those who want to support this view freely in the public arena. Not only: Such a reaction is meant to obscure many of the aspects of the papal message, which are of an extraordinary relevance and strength.”

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