Pope Denounces Canadian Gay Marriage
and wants Canada to legally impose a Catholic definition of the institution

Okay, maybe he doesn't exactly want Canada to allow only marriages in full accordance with Church doctrine, but the Pope seems to think that Canada ought to at least partially impose his view of marriage on its citizens. In Pope Denounces Gay Marriage in Canada from AP via Yahoo, it is reported that the Pope wants the three provinces in Canada that allow gay marriages (in which 70% of the Canadian population live) to stop.

Why? Because gay marriages "degrade the true sense of marriage." Apparently it isn't enough that the Church opposes gay marriages, won't perform or recognize them, and for the most part tries its best to encourage similar beliefs in its members. No, the Pope wants his and his Church's idea of marriage, as much as can be at least, to be everyone else's idea of marriage as well, Catholic or non-Catholic. Not only that, but he wants to enlist the Canadian government (and others, I'm sure) in making sure that happens.

The American idea of separation of church and state, despite the sometimes questionable degree of that separation (and perhaps, sometimes, the excessive nature of its 'enforcement'), is a beautiful one, and one that has served fairly well in protecting a variety of freedoms. I understand that the Pope doesn't think gay marriages are "real" marriages. Most of his Church seems to share in that belief, and they behave in accordance with their views. But what gives this guy the idea that he should use whatever authority he has to tell non-Catholics what they ought to do, or to tell a people and a nation that it needs to keep its version of marriage in line with his?

When in comes to euthanasia and abortion, I can see where he's coming from when he tries to persuade governments to create legislation in accordance with his views. Whether they are right or wrong, his beliefs in this matter deal with (or he believes them to deal with) the unacceptable taking of lives, basically murder as he sees it. People are, if he is right, actually being directly physically harmed by certain practices, and that is generally the kind of thing that most people would agree that governments must necessarily become involved in - especially governments based on some notion of individual freedom. People generally agree that the taking of innocent life is a pretty serious violation of rights, and one that makes it permissible for other people to become involved, even if force is necessary.

Marriage, on the other hand, has no such clear and direct relation to such obvious violation of individual rights. Sure, there are arguments out there (none terribly convincing) that allowing gay marriage does cause some sort of "harm" - but whatever damage this allegedly causes is pretty much limited to the "rightful" institution of marriage. There arguments generally beg the question pretty heavily, requiring you to assume that the "traditional" view of marriage is right and good to begin with, and that any change to the way people view it is "harmful." There are other arguments trying to link gay marriage to actual, clear-cut harms, but if there is any such connection it is so weak and distant that no one has been able to adequately demonstrate it yet. So whereas I might be more charitable in my view of the Pope trying to impose his views in cases where those views involve clear-cut, serious harms (assuming, of course, that he is correct), I find him greatly out of line in trying to get countries to legislate according to his beliefs about marriage. If Canadians want to have gay marriages, that's their business. No one will force him to recognize them as legitimate marriages, but he certainly doesn't have the power to define the institution however he wishes for everyone else in the world.

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