The Valencia Approach

Journalist: A month ago you were in Valencia. Anyone who was listening carefully noticed how you never mentioned the words “homosexual marriage,” you never spoke about abortion, or about contraception. Clearly your idea is to go around the world preaching the faith rather than as an “apostle of morality.” What are your comments?

The Holy Father: Obviously, yes. Actually I had only two opportunities to speak for 20 minutes, and when you have so little time you can’t say everything you want to say about “no.” Firstly you have to know what we really want, right? Christianity, Catholicism, isn’t a collection of prohibitions: it’s a positive option. It’s very important that we look at it again because this idea has almost completely disappeared today. We’ve heard so much about what is not allowed that now it’s time to say: we have a positive idea to offer … I believe we need to see and reflect on the fact that it’s not a Catholic invention that man and woman are made for each other, so that humanity can go on living: all cultures know this. As far as abortion is concerned, it’s part of the fifth, not the sixth, commandment: “Thou shalt not kill!” We have to presume this is obvious and always stress that the human person begins in the mother’s womb and remains a human person until his or her last breath. … But all this is clearer if you say it first in a positive way.

–From an interview with Pope Benedict XVI in 2006

3 thoughts on “The Valencia Approach

  1. Also this: “I often hear it said that people today have a longing for God, for spirituality, for religion, and are starting once again to see the Church as a possible conversation partner from which, in this regard, they can receive something. (There was a period in which this was basically sought only in other religions).

    Awareness is growing: the Church especially conveys spiritual experience; she is like a tree where the birds can make their nests even if they want to fly away again later – but she is precisely also a place where one can settle for a certain time.

    Instead, what people find more difficult is the morality that the Church proclaims. I have pondered on this – I have been pondering on it for a long time – and I see ever more clearly that in our age morality is, as it were, split in two.

    Modern society not merely lacks morals but has “discovered” and demands another dimension of morality, which in the Church’s proclamation in recent decades and even earlier perhaps has not been sufficiently presented. This dimension includes the great topics of peace, non-violence, justice for all, concern for the poor and respect for creation. They have become an ethical whole which, precisely as a political force, has great power and for many constitutes the substitution or succession of religion.

    Instead of religion, seen as metaphysical and as something from above – perhaps also as something individualistic -, the great moral themes come into play as the essential which then confers dignity on man and engages him.

    This is one aspect: this morality exists and it also fascinates young people, who work for peace, for non-violence, for justice, for the poor, for creation. And there are truly great moral themes that also belong, moreover, to the tradition of the Church. The means offered for their solution, however, are often very unilateral and not always credible, but we cannot dwell on this now. The important topics are present.

    The other part of morality, often received controversially by politics, concerns life. One aspect of it is the commitment to life from conception to death, that is, its defence against abortion, against euthanasia, against the manipulation and man’s self-authorization in order to dispose of life.

    People often seek to justify these interventions with the seemingly great purpose of thereby serving the future generations, and it even appears moral to take human life into one’s own hands and manipulate it.

    However, on the other hand, the knowledge also exists that human life is a gift that demands our respect and love from the very first to its very last moments, also for the suffering, the disabled and the weak.

    The morality of marriage and the family also fit into this context. Marriage is becoming, so to speak, ever more marginalized.

    We are aware of the example of certain countries where legislation has been modified so that marriage is no longer defined as a bond between a man and a woman but a bond between persons; with this, obviously, the basic idea is destroyed and society from its roots becomes something quite different.

    The awareness that sexuality, eros and marriage as a union between a man and a woman go together – “and they become one flesh” (Gn 2: 24) – this knowledge is growing weaker and weaker; every type of bond seems entirely normal – they represent a sort of overall morality of non-discrimination and a form of freedom due to man.

    Naturally, with this the indissolubility of marriage has become almost a utopian idea which many public figures seem precisely to contradict. So it is that even the family is gradually breaking up.
    There are of course many explanations for the problem of the sharp decline in the birth rate, but certainly a decisive role is also played in this by the fact that people want to enjoy life, that they have little confidence in the future and that they feel the family is no longer viable as a lasting community in which future generations may grow up.

    In these contexts, therefore, our proclamation clashes with an awareness, as it were, contrary to society and with a sort of anti-morality based on a conception of freedom seen as the faculty to choose autonomously with no pre-defined guidelines, as non-discrimination, hence, as the approval of every type of possibility.

    Thus, it autonomously establishes itself as ethically correct, but the other awareness has not disappeared. It exists, and I believe we must commit ourselves to reconnecting these two parts of morality and to making it clear that they must be inseparably united.

    Only if human life from conception until death is respected is the ethic of peace possible and credible; only then may non-violence be expressed in every direction, only then can we truly accept creation and only then can we achieve true justice.

    I think that this is the great task we have before us: on the one hand, not to make Christianity seem merely morality, but rather a gift in which we are given the love that sustains us and provides us with the strength we need to be able to “lose our own life”. On the other hand, in this context of freely given love, we need to move forward towards ways of putting it into practice, whose foundation is always offered to us by the Decalogue, which we must interpret today with Christ and with the Church in a progressive and new way.” http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/speeches/2006/november/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20061109_concl-swiss-bishops_en.html (via RDF and DQ)

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  2. “Don’t be too clever for an audience. Make it obvious. Make the subtleties obvious also.”

    Billy Wilder, movie director on is subtlety good in movies

    Similarly, Pope Francis is being far too cleaver for the general reader. And it is obviously the general reader he is appealing to because he using methods that disburse to the general reader.

    Not that he can’t be obvious such his subtle yet obvious message via his new older car. or just plain direct when he says the bishops should stay out of airports and smell like their flock.

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  3. I thought this part of Pope Francis’s interview was very telling: “The pope continues to reflect and concentrate, as if he did not expect this question, as if he were forced to reflect further. “Yes, perhaps I can say that I am a bit astute, that I can adapt to circumstances, but it is also true that I am a bit naïve.””

    I think you’re right that he wasn’t suiting his words to his audience well, but I don’t think it was because he was trying to be clever–I think it was because he was just absorbed in his conversation with Spadaro, and wasn’t thinking about what would be done with his words.

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