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The Washington Blade, Washington D.C.'s LGBT newspaper, has named Pope Benedict XVI its "Anti-Gay Person of the Year"
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
Friday, December 23, 2005
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.”
EDITORS’ NOTE (Washington Blade): As 2005 draws to a close, many media outlets will announce their selections for person of the year. This year, Blade editors decided to take a different approach to that tradition.
Certainly, there have been victories in the fight for gay rights in 2005.
But we decided against naming a single person of the year, as this year’s highlights consist mostly of individuals choosing to stand up to anti-gay discrimination in their own communities — whether it’s gay teens fighting to form school clubs, gay couples speaking out for their rights to be recognized as families, or AIDS activists who continue fighting for funding and frank prevention methods in an increasingly conservative climate.
Unfortunately, the fight against gay rights is being waged on a much larger scale. And while anti-gay groups like the American Family Association and Focus on the Family tried to build their influence throughout the year, we decided the single greatest threat to gay people in the United States and globally came from the man who wields “the strongest bully pulpit in the world.“
Everybody remember when I called the Pope a homophobe? The truth is inescapable and I'm sorry if it seems irreverent or even blasphemous, but the truth is the truth.
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