With Pope Benedict XVI in Valencia

Jennifer Roback Morse
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Posted: Jul 10, 2006 12:00 PM
With Pope Benedict XVI in Valencia

As the whole world surely knows, Pope Benedict XVI was in Valencia this weekend. What you might not know is the significance of what he said: people cheered for him when he was the least “politically correct.” Spain’s Socialist government legalized same sex marriage by an act of Parliament. Every time Benedict said, “the family, based on the indissoluble marriage of a man, and a woman,” the audience of a million went wild.

The importance of this statement is that the Spanish Socialist government foisted same sex marriage, including adoption by same sex couples upon this predominantly Catholic country. The government also passed legislation making divorce easier, and making it harder for parents to control the education of their children.

Benedict went to Valencia to close the Fifth World Meeting of Families, which had been going on all week. Your Humble Servant was among the ten thousand people who attended the World Meeting of Families. The Meeting included a Theological and Pastoral Congress (“Congress” is the European term for “conference”), a Congress for the Elderly, a Conference for Youth, as well as Family Fair with booths and activities for the whole family.

When I gave my paper at the Theological and Pastoral Congress on Thursday, there were perhaps five thousand people in the meeting hall. Early in my talk, I stated the definition of marriage: based on the teachings of the Catholic Church and our Founder, Jesus Christ, marriage is one man, one woman for life. The crowd applauded for little old me. Obviously, they weren’t clapping for me, but for marriage. Being interrupted by applause was unusual for the rather formal, mostly European audience present for the Congress. So, I think we can assume they appreciated somebody saying that marriage is one man, one woman, for life.

Members of the Legionaries of Christ provided simultaneous translations, so the international audience could listen in Spanish, Italian, German, French or English. As the week wore on, the translation service became more and more spotty. The equipment didn’t seem to work properly. There was interference, no matter where one sat in the convention hall. By the end of the week, getting English was impossible. So even though the Legionary fathers provided their outstanding translation services for the Holy Father’s Mass, the English-speaking people I talked with couldn’t get any reception on the channel that was supposed to have English. I had to get the Holy Father’s text from the Vatican website.

Funny thing: when I mentioned this to a European friend, he said without hesitation, “the government is jamming the signal.” I looked at him as if he had flipped. “Are you serious?”

“I don’t know that they did it. But, I wouldn’t put it past them.” Now, look, I don’t know if the Socialist government tried to block the transmission of the English translation. But I can tell you it is a fact, that people thought it was possible that they had. That possibility never entered my mind. I just assumed it was the cheap radio receivers the Congress organizers had purchased for 8,000 or 10,000 people.

So why would the Socialist government care about the Pope’s broadcast? They are afraid that they will become the next in line of governments that have been peacefully up-ended by the power of a pontiff’s message to the ordinary people. John Paul II famously inspired the Velvet Revolution in Poland, which led to the end of Soviet domination of Eastern Europe. John Paul was a thorn in the side of the Nicaraguan Sandinistas. Benedict may prove to be a trial to the Socialist government of Spain.

The Socialist government was not elected to impose same sex marriage on an overwhelmingly Catholic country. When the legislation was proposed, over a million people marched in Madrid to protest. Neither the President nor the Vice-President of Spain attended the Papal Mass, as is customary for heads of state. The Spanish government even financed a pro-homosexual conference that met at approximately the same time as the World Meeting of Families.

The Socialists may have overplayed their hand in Spain. People are sick of the social experiments. Pope Benedict XVI’s inspiring words and gentle demeanor may just be the encouragement people need to push back decisively against the trends of redefining marriage and the family. People are ready to restore the ideal of one man, one woman, for life.