In Spain, Benedict XVI addressed Zapatero's program which has either adopted or discussed legislation in favor of same-sex marriage legislation, fast-track divorce, embryonic stem-cell research, easing abortion laws, etc. His comments can be guiding principles for how we also address these issue in the US: accent the positive:
"Attempts are being made to organize the life of society on the basis of subjective and ephemeral desires alone, with no reference to objective, prior truths such as the dignity of each human being and his inalienable rights and duties, which every social group is called to serve," the pope said in a Sunday morning Mass attended by one and a half million people.
In a similar vein, Benedict exhorted the Spanish bishops to "dauntlessly proclaim that prescinding from God, acting as if he did not exist or relegating faith to the purely private sphere, undermines the truth about man and compromises the future of culture and society."
The pope minced no words in defining the family as "founded on the indissoluble marriage between a man and a woman," drawing strong and sustained applause twice at the Sunday Mass.
Yet Benedict XVI never crossed the line into direct challenge to Zapatero. In fact, he never even mentioned the prime minister, or referred directly to the Spanish situation. When tempted to do so, Benedict shifted to a positive register.
During a brief encounter with the press on the papal plane en route to Valencia, Benedict XVI was asked about the legalization of gay marriage in Spain.
"I would say that we shouldn't begin immediately with the negative things," Benedict XVI replied, "because we also see families that love each other, that are happy, and we want to encourage this reality, which gives us hope for the future."
"It's true that there are problems, things to which Christian life must say 'no,' " the pope said. "We want to make people understand that on the basis of human nature, it's man and woman who are ordained to one another, who are ordained to give humanity a future.
"Let's shine a light on these positive things, so we can try to make people understand why the church cannot accept certain things, but that at the same time it wants to help people and to respect them," he said.
Upon arrival, Benedict again accented the positive.
"Christian faith and ethics are not meant to stifle love, but to make it healthier, stronger and more truly free," he said in front of a million people Saturday night. "Human love needs to be purified and to mature if it is to be fully human and the principle of a true and lasting joy."