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Media watchdog: Press got pope's pre-Christmas address all wrong

Pope Benedict XVI makes his way through cardinals as he arrives inside St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican to preside over a consistory, Saturday, Nov. 24, 2012.
Pope Benedict XVI makes his way through cardinals as he arrives inside St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican to preside over a consistory, Saturday, Nov. 24, 2012.
Andrew Medichini, AP

Mainstream media accounts of Pope Benedict VXI's annual address last week to Vatican administrators described the speech as another condemnation of gay marriage. But one media watchdog says the press got it wrong.

The Associated Press' account of the Dec. 21 address said "the pope pressed his opposition to gay marriage Friday, denouncing what he described as people eschewing their God-given gender identities to suit their sexual choices — and destroying the very 'essence of the human creature' in the process.'"

The report said the speech promoted traditional family values "in the face of gains by same-sex marriage proponents in the U.S. and Europe and efforts to legalize gay marriage in places like France and Britain."

Websites that advocate same-sex marriage blasted the pope's pre-Christmas address to the Roman Curia, the Catholic Church's central administrative offices at the Vatican, as hate speech.

But Tim Graham at Newsbusters wrote that the media misconstrued the pope's speech as a hopeless rant against a trend that is gaining support worldwide, even among Catholics.

"Does anyone in the media ever attempt to read and understand the speeches of Pope Benedict?" Graham asks. "Someone who reads the original would find the term 'gay marriage' is missing, although there is a defense of traditional marriage. He denounced the idea that one's gender is ... a social construct. The pope was also taking on the notion that in the broader culture, men and women are afraid of making lifelong commitments."

The Catholic News Service didn't employ the term gay marriage in its report of the pope's pre-Christmas address. The opening paragraph to its report read: "Pope Benedict XVI said the family in Western society is undergoing a 'crisis that threatens it to its foundations,' owing to 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."

The pope decried a selfish culture where adults refuse to make lifelong commitments to family and where sex is merely a "social role we choose for ourselves," the CNS reported.

"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.'"

Still, a leading Jewish press outlet also detected an anti-gay marriage message in the pope's speech, while giving it high praise. It noted how the pontiff called "profoundly moving" an essay by French Rabbi Gilles Bernheim titled, "Gay Marriage, Parenthood and Adoption: What We Often Forget To Say.”

"Bernheim argues that plans to legalize gay marriage are being made for 'the exclusive profit of a tiny minority' and are often supported because of political correctness," reported the Jewish news service JTA. "Homosexual rights groups 'will use gay marriage as a Trojan Horse' in a wider campaign to 'deny sexual identity and erase sexual differences' and 'undermine the heterosexual fundamentals of our society,' Bernheim also wrote."