Following is how Phil Stewart of Reuters reports on the incident:
VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict said on Monday that saving humanity from homosexual or transsexual behavior was just as important as saving the rainforest from destruction.
“(The Church) should also protect man from the destruction of himself. A sort of ecology of man is needed,” the pontiff said in a holiday address to the Curia, the Vatican's central administration.
“The tropical forests do deserve our protection. But man, as a creature, does not deserve any less.”
The Catholic Church teaches that while homosexuality is not sinful, homosexual acts are. It opposes gay marriage and, in October, a leading Vatican official called homosexuality “a deviation, an irregularity, a wound.”
The pope said humanity needed to “listen to the language of creation” to understand the intended roles of man and woman. He compared behavior beyond traditional heterosexual relations as “a destruction of God's work.”
He also defended the Church's right to “speak of human nature as man and woman, and ask that this order of creation be respected.”
Hmm . . . I’m sorry, but the equating of homosexuality with the destruction of the earth’s rainforests is one of those increasingly all too frequent Vatican moments when the classic words of comedienne Catherine Tate’s character Nan Taylor automatically come to mind: “What a load of old shit!”
And you know what? My sense is that most Catholics would concur. Indeed, the Vatican has absolutely zero credibility when it comes to pontificating about issues relating to either gender or sexuality. And given its embarrassing level of understanding of both of these issues, and its sordid history of sexual abuse, secrecy, and cover-ups, this is totally understandable and probably just as well.
I don’t intend spending too much time and energy on this latest homophobic statement from the halls of the Vatican (for one thing, I don’t want to spoil my Christmas by dwelling on such ignorance!), but I will share a few initial thoughts.
First, I can appreciate the pope’s desire to ensure that people live lives of fulfillment, and his belief that the journey to and experience of such human flourishing deserves to be safe guarded. But why such a narrow understanding of these journeys and experiences?
The vast majority of people – gay or straight – do not flourish living lives of celibacy (which is what the Roman Catholic Church insist that gay people do). Rather, they flourish when they engage in and build relational lives that are experienced and expressed sexually. Actual sex acts (the “homosexual behaviour” that the pope is fixated on) are just one aspect of such relational lives. It’s the quality of these relationships that the pope should be concerned about, not so much who puts what body part where and with whom. This latter type of fixation is typical of the psycho-sexually stunted. Surely those charged with leading the Church should be open to developing and articulating a healthier, more holistic, sexual theology. Oh, and I’m all for “listening to the language of creation” so as to help develop such a theology. Doing so, we’ll discover just how “natural” homosexuality and its expression is.
Where’s the evidence?
Second, where is the evidence for the pope’s contention that homosexual activity (which, as noted previously, he limits to homosexual genital acts; breathing, after all, is also for a homosexual, a “homosexual act”!) is as destructive as environmental degradation? If you’re going to drop a clanger like this, than you’d better have the hard evidence to back it up. Not surprisingly, none is forthcoming from the pontiff - as there is none! It’s all just the rhetoric of a discriminatory ideology.
And finally, what a pity that that part of the Roman Catholic Church that gets the most media attention is also the part that is the most regressive and ignorant when it comes to issues of gender and sexuality. I worry about the impact that media coverage of such papal ignorance has on young gay people and to youth questioning their sexual orientation. Imagine being one such youth and hearing that the expression of the sexuality of which you’re becoming aware is on the same level of destructiveness as global warming! For most adults, such a comparison is just plain loopy . . . “a load of old shit.” But sadly for questioning youth or for anyone struggling to live a life of integrity and integration as a gay or transgender person, there’s an added layer to the pope’s words - one that makes them, and the ignorance behind them, both dangerous and reprehensible.
In short, I think it’s the pope’s ignorant words that are destructive, that need to be confronted and transformed; not the loving expression of sexuality - gay or straight - engaged in by consenting adults. That’s my Christmas message to Benedict XVI. And my prayer is that he finds within his heart the courage to open himself to God’s transforming spirit, to be liberated from all ways of thinking that blinker and obstruct seeing the Light of Christ present and active in the lives and relationships of all. Amen.
Recommended Off-site Link:
The Vatican, Homosexuality, Yada, Yada - Iosephus (Salus Animarum Suprema Lex, December 28, 2008).
See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
A Catholic’s Prayer for His Fellow Pilgrim, Benedict XVI
The Many Manifestations of God’s Loving Embrace
Making Love, Giving Life
Listen Up, Papa!
What the Vatican Can Learn from the X-Men
The Triumph of Love: An Easter Reflection
Trusting God’s Generous Invitation
John McNeill’s Message to the US Bishops: “Enough!”
Relationship: The Crucial Factor in Sexual Morality
The Non-Negotiables of Human Sex
Joan Timmerman on the “Wisdom of the Body”
What is a “Lifestyle”?
The Many Forms of Courage
What Is It That Ails You?
Compassion, Christian Community, and Homosexuality
A Catholic Bibliography on Gay Issues