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  Blessed Bigotry: Pope Benedict XVI Is Anti-Gay Person of the Year
'God's Rottweiler' Actively Pursues Political Agenda against Gay Marriage, Priests

By Dyana Bagby
Houston Voice
January 4, 2006

http://www.houstonvoice.com/2005/12-30/news/national/pope.cfm

EDITORS' NOTE: As 2005 draws to a close, many media outlets will announce their selections for person of the year. In past years, Houston Voice editors have selected a Story of the Year instead.

This year, the Story of the Year was, in our view, the extraordinary efforts of one individual to not only put a halt to the acceptance of gay people legally and within the mainstream culture, but to roll back such acceptance to an earlier, less tolerant and more discriminatory time. Presiding over what some describe as the "strongest bully pulpit in the world," Pope Benedict XVI, just eight months into his tenure, has unilaterally targeted gay men and lesbians as moral threats to society.

From banning gay priests to publicly lobbying against same-sex marriage rights in Spain and Italy, Pope Benedict XVI appears to be taking a swift approach to excluding gay people from equal rights across the globe.

"His rhetoric is obscene. He wants gays clearly taken care of — it's almost like the Final Solution," said Kara Speltz, a Catholic lesbian activist for Soulforce, an organization dedicated to ending anti-gay discrimination within all religions.

For 20 years, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger served under Pope John Paul II before being elected the 265th pope on April 19.

During that tenure, Ratzinger authored some of the Vatican's most anti-gay rhetoric, including a 1986 Vatican letter calling homosexuality "an intrinsic moral evil" and a 2003 battle plan instructing Catholic politicians to oppose gay marriage and gay adoptions.

Pope has 'ear of the world'

Dubbed "God's rottweiler" and "the enforcer" long before taking the helm of the church that boasts a billion members worldwide, Benedict's fervent approach to gay and other social issues is an intentional one meant to influence public policy, according to Chester Gillis, chair of the theology department at Georgetown University.

"He knows very well the kind of claims he makes have political implications — he intends for them to have political implications," Gillis said. "He wants to influence public policy in numerous places in the world and hopefully sway the powers that be to his side, especially on so-called social issues."

Under John Paul II, Cardinal Ratzinger served as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the office once known as the Holy Inquisition. In that role, his writings were mostly circumscribed to Catholics and internal discourse within the church, Gillis said.

But now as pope, his words aren't just read by bishops but are heard throughout the world, giving Benedict enormous credibility when it comes to political influence, Gillis said.

"It's the strongest bully pulpit in the world," Gillis said. "What he says is noted by everyone. Everyone may not agree or follow what he says, but clearly he has the ear of the world — and that's a very privileged position."

'Scapegoating' gay priests

Benedict's most recent anti-gay action to gain worldwide attention was the Vatican's "Instruction concerning the criteria for the discernment of vocations with regard to persons with homosexual tendencies in view of their admission to the seminary and to Holy Orders," released Nov. 29. The document essentially bans gay priests.

The official "Instruction," from the Congregation for Catholic Education, stated, "One cannot ignore the negative consequences that can stem from the ordination of people with deeply-rooted homosexual tendencies."

The "Instruction" also said men "who practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called 'gay culture' cannot be admitted to seminaries." The only exception would be for those with a "transitory problem" that had been overcome for at least three years."

In the United States, gay rights groups including the Human Rights Campaign and the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force publicly challenged the ban and urged gay Catholics and their allies to speak out against it to local priests and bishops.

On Dec. 14, a group of gay Italian clergy posted an open letter to the Vatican on the website of the Italian news agency Adista, stating they felt like the Catholic Church's "unloved and unwanted children," the Associated Press reported.

Adista, which leaked the document on the gay priest ban last month, said 39 priests, 26 diocesans and 13 more members of various religious orders had signed the letter. But the text reproduced on the website did not include the signatures or list their names, the AP reported. "We don't have more problems living chastely than heterosexuals do, because homosexuality is not a synonym of incontinence, nor of uncontrollable urges," the letter states.

"We are not sick with sex and our homosexual tendency has not damaged our psychic health we are Catholic priests ... with homosexual tendencies, and that fact has not stopped us from being good priests."

In November 2002, in the midst of the church sex abuse crisis, the Vatican press office announced that the Congregation for Catholic Education was drafting guidelines for accepting candidates for the priesthood that would address the question of whether gays should be barred. However, the document reportedly had been in the works well before then.

Gay Catholics and others have criticized the Vatican for blaming gay priests for the child sex abuse scandal, which they argued had nothing to do with homosexuality.

"This is a scapegoat scheme masquerading as Vatican decree," HRC President Joe Solmonese said in a statement. "What is being released today is a decree serving as a diversion that neither keeps children safe nor holds criminals responsible."

Soulforce's Speltz said Benedict is simply seeking to dissuade independent thought among Catholics and church leadership.

"He's trying to create 'Stepford Priests,'" she said. "And if any heterosexual Catholic thinks this is a good thing, they're living in an illusion."

Fighting gay marriage

The Vatican's losing fight against legalizing gay marriage in Spain came just weeks after Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI.

The Spanish Parliament legalized same-sex marriage June 30. Same-sex marriage also is legal in Canada, the Netherlands and Belgium.

After the vote, the Catholic Church denounced the move as "unjust" and a threat to families.

Sam Sinnett, president of the gay Catholic organization Dignity USA, said it was not the people supporting Spain's public policy who had it wrong when the measure was approved, but rather the church's hierarchy, which is out of step with the times.

"Their consciences are misinformed," Sinnett said in May. "They need to learn about social and medical sciences [about homosexuality] and incorporate them into theology."

The Catholic Church's global influence, meanwhile, shouldn't be underestimated, Sinnett said.

The United Nations grants the Vatican status as a Non-member State Permanent Observer, rather than treating it as a nongovernmental organization.

"That means it has greater influence on all countries," Sinnett said. "When they use that power to interfere in the politics of another sovereign country, that is incredible."

Mel White, founder of Soulforce, said this summer that Benedict and the Vatican's response to Spain's politics is indicative of the "Dark Ages mentality" of the Roman Catholic Church's leadership.

"They have gone from cardinals sitting in Vatican City having bad ideas to spreading these bad ideas to the world. The Vatican is now superimposing its theology on everybody," White said. "It has too much power to be considered anything but an enemy."

Pope Benedict XVI on Homosexuality:


"Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder."

"Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons" (October 1986)


"Homosexual activity is not a complementary union, able to transmit life; and so it thwarts the call to a life of that form of self-giving which the Gospel says is the essence of Christian living. This does not mean that homosexual persons are not often generous and giving of themselves; but when they engage in homosexual activity they confirm within themselves a disordered sexual inclination which is essentially self-indulgent."

"Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons" (October 1986)


"The Church teaches that respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behavior or to legal recognition of homosexual unions. Legal recognition of homosexual unions or placing them on the same level as marriage would mean not only the approval of deviant behavior."

"Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons" (July 2003)


'Allowing children to be adopted by persons living in such unions would actually mean doing violence to these children, in the sense that their condition of dependency would be used to place them in an environment that is not conducive to their full human development."

"Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognitions to Unions Between Homosexual Persons" (July 2003)


"There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God's plan for marriage and family. Marriage is holy, while homosexual acts go against the natural moral law."

"Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons" (July 2003)


"The various forms of the dissolution of matrimony today, like free unions, trial marriages and going up to pseudo-matrimonies by people of the same sex, are rather expressions of an anarchic freedom that wrongly passes for true freedom of man."

Speech by Pope Benedict XVI at the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome (June 6, 2005)


"[T]he church, while deeply respecting the people in question, cannot admit to the seminary and the sacred orders those who practice homosexuality, present deeply rooted homosexual tendencies or support so-called gay culture. Those people find themselves, in fact, in a situation that presents a grave obstacle to a correct relationship with men and women. One cannot ignore the negative consequences that can stem from the ordination of people with deeply-rooted homosexual tendencies."

"Instruction concerning the criteria for the discernment of vocations with regard to persons with homosexual tendencies in view of their admission to the seminary and to Holy Orders" (Nov. 4, 2005, approved by Pope Benedict XVI on Aug. 31, 2005.)


"If instead it is a case of homosexual tendencies that are merely the expression of a transitory problem, for example as in the case of an unfinished adolescence, they must however have been clearly overcome for at least three years before ordination as a deacon."

"Instruction concerning the criteria for the discernment of vocations with regard to persons with homosexual tendencies in view of their admission to the seminary and to Holy Orders" (Nov. 4, 2005)

 
 

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