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VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI on Friday denounced the “powerful political and cultural currents” seeking to legalize same-sex marriage in the United States, and urged U.S. bishops to strengthen their teaching of the evils of premarital sex and cohabitation.
The pope’s latest comments opposing marriage equality for same-sex couples came in an address to bishops from several Midwestern states on a routine visit to the Vatican, reported the Associated Press.
Benedict has long championed traditional marriage between man and woman, as well as opposition to premarital sex and fidelity within marriage. But his strong comments to visiting U.S. bishops took on particular significance given the culture wars that have erupted in the U.S. this campaign season.
In addition, bishops have been at the forefront of the campaign against same-sex marriage, with at least five U.S. states scheduling ballot measures on the issue in coming months. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the head of the U.S. conference of bishops and archbishop of New York, unsuccessfully lobbied against the legalization of gay marriage in his state.
Benedict said a weakened appreciation for “traditional marriage” has led to “grave social problems bearing an immense human and economic cost.”
In his “State of the World” address in January, Benedict called same-sex marriage a threat to “human dignity and the future of humanity itself.”
The Roman Catholic Church, which has approximately 1.3 billion members worldwide, teaches that homosexual acts are sinful, and that children should grow up in a “traditional” family with a mother and a father.
Currently, same-sex marriage is legal in six states — Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont — and the District of Columbia.
This year, Washington state and Maryland became the seventh and eighth states, respectively, to legalize same-sex marriage through their state legislatures, but opponents are in both states are gathering petition signatures to put a referendum on their November ballots in hopes of repealing the laws before they take effect.