We learned last week that Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson, widely considered to be a top candidate to replace outgoing Pope Benedict XVI as the spiritual leader of the billion-member Roman Catholic Church, harbors some incredibly frightening beliefs about LGBT people. When asked about the draconian anti-gay laws in Africa, including Uganda’s notorious “Kill the Gays” bill, Turkson didn’t condemn them or denounce them. Instead, he said that murderous hostility towards gays and lesbians was a tradition that should be respected and understood in the name of cultural fairness.
And it gets even worse. In an interview with CNN that very same day, correspondent Christiane Amanpour asked Turkson whether the clergy child sex abuse crisis and cover-ups, which have rocked the Catholic Church in Europe and North America, might spread to Africa. The cardinal responded that it is unlikely to have occurred on a similar scale on his side of the Mediterranean because African societies and cultures are better protected from “this tendency.” Surely by “this tendency,” Turkson was referring to the psychiatric disorder of pedophilia, right?
As far as Cardinal Turkson is concerned, the violation of children by priests isn’t caused by pedophilia, but by homosexuality:
“…African traditional systems kind of protect or have protected its population against this tendency a little bit. Because in several communities, in several cultures in Africa homosexuality or for that matter any affair between two sexes of the same kind are not countenanced in our society, so that cultural, if you want, the taboo that traditionally has been there, has served to keep this out.”
You’re reading that correctly: Cardinal Turkson not only thinks homosexuality is linked with pedophilia (a vicious anti-gay myth that’s been denounced by literally every mainstream organization of mental health professionals) and blames the Catholic Church’s repugnant sex abuse problem on gays in the priesthood, but he believes that the “traditional” homophobia present in many African societies – you know, the very same murderous bigotry he wants everyone to understand and respect – serves a positive social purpose by protecting African children from sexual assault.
Turkson’s galactically outdated views on homosexuality are both breathtakingly ignorant and astonishingly dangerous. Priestly sexual abuse is the biggest challenge currently facing the worldwide Catholic Church, and Turkson’s remarks make it abundantly clear that if he were to become pope, his response would be to blame the scandal – and Catholicism’s shredded moral credibility – not on child-raping priests, but on gay people. And all this as LGBTs across the African continent face the very real threat of imprisonment and execution.
Do you think a Pope Turkson would hear their cries, or would he stand silently by as they’re persecuted, beaten, jailed, and put to death?
I hope we never have to find out.