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Dan, you had my hopes up that I could start being a good Catholic again.

Posted by Kim in California | September 13, 2008 9:48 AM

Silly Dan! If teh Pope had REALLY meant that, he would have just come out and said it in plain language, instead of resorting to the nearly-nonsensical (not to mention easily back-trackable) gobbelteegook he used.

In any case, he can always fall back on his position by claiming he was mistranslated.

Posted by COMTE | September 13, 2008 9:52 AM

Bingo. Civil marriage, without any obligatory religious trappings or encrustations (or prejudices), needs to be the bedrock of the institution and accomplish the societal recognition and the transferrence of related legal rights.

If someone of a religious bent (and aren't they all) wants to come along and "bless" the union on top of that foundation, fine.

Posted by rob | September 13, 2008 9:53 AM

@3; agreed, emphatically. I've never understood why civil and religious marriage are confused with each other. I don't even think that the judeo-christian or any other religious tradition has any right to the term marriage, but I'd be more than happy to give it up in exchange for *civil union* equality.

I'll probably even end up having a Jewish ceremony (gotta please the parents) but damn if everyone should be beholden to some religious chauvinist's view of the world

Posted by rococo | September 13, 2008 10:17 AM

holy shit! Unless he really was mistranslated, I would say that nazi pope is downright progressive!


Posted by Mike in MO | September 13, 2008 10:30 AM

Did you not catch that last line there? That religion's role is “for the formation of conscience” and the “creation of a basic ethical consensus in society.” I think that's where teh gays come in.

Posted by Sara | September 13, 2008 11:01 AM

Dan Savage -brave warrior Oct. 2002

War may be bad for children and other living things, but there are times when peace is worse for children and other living things, and this is one of those times. Saying no to war in Iraq means saying yes to the continued oppression of the Iraqi people.

In the meantime, invading and rebuilding Iraq will not only free the Iraqi people, it will also make the Saudis aware of the consequences they face if they continue to oppress their own people while exporting terrorism and terrorists. The War on Iraq will make it clear to our friends and enemies in the Middle East (and elsewhere) that we mean business: Free your people, reform your societies, liberalize, and democratize... or we're going to come over there, remove you from power, free your people, and reform your societies for ourselves.

Posted by Caesar Salad | September 13, 2008 11:07 AM

What he means is he needs taxpayer money to keep his evil, child raping empire alive.

Posted by Vince | September 13, 2008 11:27 AM

@6 and Sorry, Dan, but that's dead right. The secular realm will have no say over it's own boundaries. Religion's (read: the Pope's) role in "creation of a basic ethical consensus in society" means that it (he)gets to say what is secular and what isn't. So a secular society would only get to approve same sex rights if the chruch first said it was okay to do so.

Posted by chasman | September 13, 2008 11:31 AM

Yeah - all of that doublespeak and nuanced language makes him sound like Obama when he speaks on marriage equality.

Papa Rat for Prez!!

Posted by patrick | September 13, 2008 11:32 AM

The church has opposed civil marriage for straight couples in the past as well. You'd think that, once they lost that fight, they'd just give it up and focus on personal beliefs, but old habits apparently die hard.

Posted by keshmeshi | September 13, 2008 12:06 PM

Keshmeshi is on the right track. What the pope is saying is that, marriage being a sacrament, there shouldn't be any "civil marriage", any more than there is "civil confirmation". Recognizing approved relationships is not a legitimate state function.

I couldn't agree more. The state should not be marrying anybody, gay or straight. If you want to transfer rights, sign a contract -- that's what they are for.

Posted by David Wright | September 13, 2008 1:39 PM

@3, 4, 11, etc.: I want to see "marriage" be the legal name nationwide of a formalized, society-recognized joining of a couple. Even when the legal rights and responsibilities are made exactly the same for straight and gay couples, I'm deeply irritated when the straights get to call it "marriage" and the gays have to call it "civil union." It's like gays are being looked down upon and forced to name their relationship in terms of strictly mechanical coupling. Well, fuck that shit :-)

The longstanding tradition of automatically deputizing ordained ministers to formalize the legal documents of marriage so that it can be recognized by the state, is what's led to the confusion in people's minds about what marriage really is. It makes about as much sense as if we had had 7-11 clerks approve articles of incorporation from time immemorial. Not that the approval or witnessing is demanding or requiring advanced study, but that it properly belongs to the government.

Change the laws to make clear that marriage is a participant-selected and state-recorded occasion, period. Then if the participants further desire someone in ancient drag to wave their hands over them and mumble quaint, archaic phrases, fine. That can be the icing on their particlar wedding cake (I prefer a good buttercream, myself--cheap cakes suck). Let "marriage" be the all-encompassing legal term and "blessed," "sanctified," "sealed," etc. be the optional accessories.

I guess that's basically what I said @3. Maybe I needed some more-aerobic arm-waving.

@12, so in your libertarian world, who gets to use the terms "marry," "married," "marriage"?

Posted by rob | September 13, 2008 2:03 PM


Uh, what? I'm just pointing out that the Catholic church has previously opposed civil marriage (for heteros) in majority Catholic countries, Mexico for instance. The church doesn't like its control over people's lives challenged. They've continually lost that fight since the Protestant Reformation, at least. They need to give it up and acknowledge that they will never have that kind of control again.


I was in no way endorsing your beliefs. As someone who's single and intends to stay that way, I don't appreciate married couples getting advantages from the state that I don't, but I don't oppose civil marriage on its face, and my comment at #11 wasn't meant that way.

Posted by keshmeshi | September 13, 2008 2:17 PM

rob @ 13 asks: so in your libertarian world, who gets to use the terms "marry," "married," "marriage"?

Speech is free, so anyone who wants to. We manage to function as a society without have the state certify people as "legally blonde". I suppose there might be the occasional civil suit over whether someone had mis-represented himself as "married", but there's no reason that should happen any more often that suits over whether someone had mis-represented herself as "blonde".

Posted by David Wright | September 13, 2008 2:24 PM

Keshmeshi @ 14: I didn't imply that you endorsed my beliefs. I implied that you had successfully understood what the pope meant, whereas many others here apparently hadn't.

I am curious, though: if you "don't appreciate married couples getting advantages from the state", and the intra-couple transfers can be established via contract, why do you support civil marriage?

Posted by David Wright | September 13, 2008 2:32 PM

The Pope isn't endorsing gay marriage, but he is saying that the state has a right to allow civil unions if that is the democratic consensus. In return, the state must allow the church to fulfil its role in the "formation of the conscience" by giving it the freedom to speak out against gay marriage (the death penalty, civil marriage, abortion, divorce, etc.). The church can't impose its laws on the state any more than the state can dictate what is and is not moral, but it does insist on the right to freedom of religion, including the freedom to speak against the state.

Posted by Rome, IT | September 13, 2008 3:56 PM
Posted by queerunity | September 13, 2008 4:45 PM

I'm a die-hard conservative who supports gay-rights, and I like the approach (asuming he's saying what he seems to be saying :o) What's so wrong with letting religion own the term "marriage" if that's all it takes to make them happy?

How does a conservative get around to supporting gay rights? I seek to "conserve" the principles on which this nation was founded, and they clearly demand tolerance of sexual behavior, orientation, and marriage.

Excerpts from my own blog (too long to post here)...

... Ideas, thoughts, opinions, and beliefs as well as the behaviors associated with expression thereof are protected up to the point that another person suffers material harm ... Government can’t deny participation in government or enjoyment of its benefits based on exercise of freedoms, and there is no more basis for denying military service based on sexual orientation than for religious or political views. Doing so is just another form of oppression and runs counter to freedom ... Government can’t allocate its benefits in such a way as to promote positions relating to the exercise of freedom, and subsidizing one form of human relationship through the tax code or any other publicly funded benefit system is an improper exercise of government power, even if most citizens agree with the position being promoted. Gay marriage is outside the purview of government...

Read the full post at

Posted by Rod | September 13, 2008 11:07 PM

The best civil union marriage arguement I heard was from a libertarian.

All marriages granted by the state should be civil unions. Go to the government to get a civil union liscence, go to a church to get a marriage (and there are plenty of churches that will marry same sex couples)

To have marriage be as is defined these days is NOT a seperation of church and state.

Posted by formerly OR Matt | September 13, 2008 11:28 PM

Can someone please point out where it says the word "marriage" even once in this statement? You're reading into it. He's laying out general principles of church/state relations NOT endorsing a strict separation of government/state/public and religion/superstition/private which you lying liberals want to have. Religion and state exist separately but, in a sense, side-by-side with each providing a useful service toward one another and, at times, both working for the same end in different ways. Marriage is one of those situations where we both have it because we both need it. The state needs marriage to bring a next generation of well-adjusted people into the world. The church needs it (from a Christian perspective) because it is fore-ordained by God to bring about the fullness of his image. We may have different reasons but both are pointing to an exclusivity of opposite sex marriage.

Posted by Priest | September 14, 2008 12:57 PM

Surely you refer to the long-dead Alexander Pope

Posted by jackseattle | September 14, 2008 10:25 PM

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