According to a number of reports, gay marriage is at the top of the Vatican’s agenda for 2005, laid out by Pope John Paul II in his “state of the world address” yesterday. Other reports, however, downplayed the gay-marriage angle and focused on other points of the pope’s address: his urging politicians in wealthy nations to feed the poor; his subtle scolding of America with the call to counter “‘the arrogance of power…with reason, force with dialogue, pointed weapons with oustreched hands.” Why the discrepancy between reports? Possibly because the rhetorical structure of the pope’s address — divided into four sections to highlight the four challenges before humanity: life, food, peace and freedom — is misleading, lumping a host of culture war issues (abortion, cloning, stem-cell use, “assisted procreation,” and, yes, gay marriage) under the “challenges of life” heading. But whether they’re called culture war or life issues, they are indeed at the top of the list.