Tagged: Pope Benedict XVI

Reuters: Maintaining Vatican Residency Will Give Pope Immunity

benedict_tiaraAs soon as the news broke last week that Pope Benedict XVI would become the first pontiff in nearly 600 years to step down from the papacy, many people (myself included) wondered if the reason he gave for resigning — his advanced age — was the whole story. I wrote that the abruptness of the pope’s exit seemed odd and speculated that perhaps he was either close to death or leaving swiftly to avoid some kind of scandal.

Shortly afterwards rumors began to circulate that Benedict XVI will meet this week with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano to “beg for imunity” from prosecution in connection with child sex abuse cases, in response to a “supposed note” sent to the Vatican by an “undisclosed European government” threatening to issue a warrant for the pope’s arrest. The allegations spread like wildfire on social media, but I decided against posting them or writing about them because no respected mainstream news outlets were reporting the story and the whole business about “undisclosed European goverments” and “supposed notes” didn’t pass the smell test. I put the story on the rumor/conspiracy theory pile due to a lack of credible sources.

benedict_windowAs it turns out, though, these rumors may have at least a grain of truth in them. Reuters posted a story that appeared to confirm a portion of last week’s gossip — not the begging and not a phantom note from an as-yet-unknown European government, but that minimizing Benedict’s potential exposure to criminal charges surrounding his handling of the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse scandals may indeed be one of the reasons he and church officials decided the soon-to-be-former pope would live out his remaining years on Vatican soil:

Pope Benedict’s decision to live in the Vatican after he resigns will provide him with security and privacy. It will also offer legal protection from any attempt to prosecute him in connection with sexual abuse cases around the world, Church sources and legal experts say.

“His continued presence in the Vatican is necessary, otherwise he might be defenseless. He wouldn’t have his immunity, his prerogatives, his security, if he is anywhere else,” said one Vatican official, speaking on condition of anonymity. . .

“(If he lived anywhere else) then we might have those crazies who are filing lawsuits, or some magistrate might arrest him like other (former) heads of state have been for alleged acts while he was head of state,” one source said.

Another official said: “While this was not the main consideration, it certainly is a corollary, a natural result.”

But Benedict won’t have to spend the rest of his life holed up behind Vatican walls either. Reuters reports that under the provisions of the Lateran Pacts of 1929 — the treaty between the Holy See and Mussolini’s Italy that recognized Vatican City as a sovereign state — Benedict will be immune from prosecution even if he travels across the international border into Italy as a Vatican citizen.

Top Papal Candidate Has Defended ‘Kill the Gays’ Laws in Africa

In the wake of Pope Benedict XVI’s unprecedented announcement yesterday that he would resign the papacy effective February 28, many people took to Facebook, Twitter, and other social media to express hope that the next pope would look more kindly on the LGBT community than the notoriously homophobic Benedict. However, as I wrote yesterday, I believe such hopes are sadly misplaced:

Benedict has appointed a majority of the cardinals who will elect his successor, and the vast majority of bishops around the world were named by either Benedict or his equally anti-gay predecessor, John Paul II. Given the fact that popes tend to appoint prelates who share their views, institutional homophobia in the Roman Catholic Church isn’t likely to go away anytime soon, even as Catholics in Western countries continue to drift further away from the church on these and other issues.

As the chatter within the Catholic world turns from shock over the Pope’s resignation to speculation about who might succeed him, the name at or near the top of nearly everyone’s list is that of Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana. He was appointed by Benedict in 2009 to serve as president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and (surprise!) he’s incredibly anti-gay.

turksonHow anti-gay, you ask? Believe it or not, Turkson is so anti-gay that he actually defended draconian laws that criminalize homosexuality and gay sex, including Uganda’s notorious “Kill the Gays” bill. Speaking last year to the National Catholic Register, Turkson opined that while the penalties imposed by such laws are “exaggerated,” the desire of many Africans and African leaders to incarcerate or even execute their gay citizens is actually perfectly understandable, and that the “intensity of the reaction [to homosexuality] is probably commensurate with tradition.”

Translation: demonizing and persecuting gay people shouldn’t be condemned. Rather, it should be understood because in many nations, it’s traditional.

Turkson’s comments get even worse from there. Pick your jaw up off the floor and read on.

Asked why homosexuality remains so stigmatized in Africa, Turkson reiterated his call for understanding — and this time, he had the gall to frame it in terms of respect and fairness, as though the right of LGBT people to merely exist and the “cultural values” of those who wish to slaughter them deserve equal consideration and deference:

Just as there’s a sense of a call for rights, there’s also a call to respect culture, of all kinds of people. So, if it’s being stigmatized, in fairness, it’s probably right to find out why it is being stigmatized.

In January 2012, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon delivered an address to the African Union Summit in which he called on African nations to repeal laws that criminalize homosexuality and end discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity; the Secretary-General said that doing so was the only way to live up to the ideals of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. Cardinal Turkson rebuked him:

We [the Church] push for the rights of prisoners, the rights of others, and the last thing we want to do is infringe upon the rights of anyone. But when you’re talking about what’s called ‘an alternative lifestyle,’ are those human rights? [Ban Ki-moon] needs to recognize there’s a subtle distinction between morality and human rights, and that’s what needs to be clarified.

Homosexuality is illegal in more than thirty African countries and punishable by everything from fines and whippings to incarceration and execution. Yet according to Cardinal Turkson, the cultural values that gave rise to such barbaric laws deserve respect and understanding. After all, it’s only fair.

And this man might become the spiritual leader of 1.2 billion Catholics. If that doesn’t send chills up your spine, I don’t know what will.

Sadly, the other top-tier papal contenders aren’t much better. The perpetually-papabile Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze, for example, equated homosexuality with pornography and adultery in a 2003 speech at Georgetown University, and the anti-gay talking points used by Quebec Cardinal Marc Ouellet in 2005 as his nation debated marriage equality sound like they could have been written by NOM.

I rest my case: for the time being, it looks like the alarming homophobia that’s become a hallmark of the global Catholic leadership is here to stay. Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Originally posted at the Bilerico Project.

My Favorite Benedict XVI Moment

AP Photo
AP Photo

Regular readers know that I’m no fan of Pope Benedict XVI. Still, his ability to be colossally out of touch created many deliciously cringe-inducing awkward moments. I wanted to share with all of you my favorite such moment, from a papal audience in 2010 in which shirtless male acrobats performed for His Holiness.

Remember this? If so, enjoy a refresher. If not, you’re in for a treat:

If that isn’t a psychology dissertation waiting to happen, I don’t know what is. ;)

I’ll end by sharing a photo I snapped of Pope Benedict on November 25, 2009, when Michael and I attended a papal audience in Vatican City at the Paul VI Audience Hall. No, there were no shirtless acrobats present that day. Yes, we were both very sad about that.

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Pope Benedict Abruptly Resigns the Papacy

benedict_evil_glare-300x217Pope Benedict XVI announced today during a meeting of Vatican cardinals that he will resign the papacy effective February 28. In a statement issued at noon today Vatican time (6 a.m. Eastern Time), the Pope wrote,

After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.

Benedict XVI is the first pope to resign in nearly 600 years; the last pope to do so was Gregory XII, who stepped down in 1415 to end the Western Schism.

NPR reports that news of the Pope’s resignation took the Vatican, including members of the Pope’s inner circle, by surprise. One reason may be that, as the National Catholic Reporter points out, the consensus among most modern popes is that resignation is unacceptable. Benedict’s predecessor, John Paul II, famously refused to resign even as his body was being ravaged by Parkinson’s disease and osteoarthritis. Pope Paul VI said that paternity cannot be resigned, concluding that a pope “could not resign the apostolic mandate except in the presence of an incurable illness or an impediment that would prevent the exercise of the functions of the successor of Peter.”

I must confess that what shocks me most about the whole matter (in addition to the utter lack of modern precedent for the action Pope Benedict is taking) is the abruptness of his exit – February 28 is just seventeen days away. It seems odd, and I wonder if there isn’t perhaps more to the story, either that he’s much closer to death’s door than any of us are aware of, or he’s resigning swiftly to avoid some as-yet-unknown scandal. Only time will tell.

Finally, the expressions of joy I’m seeing from many in the LGBT community about Benedict XVI’s impending departure from the Chair of Peter strike me, sadly, as rather misplaced. Without a doubt, the current pope is notoriously homophobic (for example, he recently referred to gay people as “defective”). However, Benedict has appointed a majority of the cardinals who will elect his successor, and the vast majority of bishops around the world were named by either Benedict or his equally anti-gay predecessor, John Paul II. Given the fact that popes tend to appoint prelates who share their views, institutional homophobia in the Roman Catholic Church isn’t likely to go away anytime soon, even as Catholics in Western countries continue to drift further away from the Church on these and other issues.

I snapped this photo of Pope Benedict XVI in a papal audience in Vatican City on November 25, 2009.
I snapped this photo of Pope Benedict XVI in a papal audience in Vatican City on November 25, 2009.

Happy Birthday, Sr. Jeannine Gramick

Today is the 70th birthday of a woman who, in my opinion, is one of the great heroes of the LGBT civil rights movement: Sister Jeannine Gramick.

JeannineGramickGramick joined the School Sisters of Notre Dame, a religious order of Catholic nuns, in 1960 and worked as a high school math teacher for most of that decade. In the early 1970s, while studying for her Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania, Sr. Jeannine became friends with a gay man and began a church ministry to gays and lesbians. She also reached out to LGBT people who’d left the Catholic church because of its institutional bigotry, organizing religious services for them to gather openly and safely. Gramick became the face of the Catholic church for the gay and lesbian Catholics (and former Catholics) to whom she ministered, and for the first time in many of their lives, that face was one of welcoming love and compassion.

In 1977, Sr. Jeannine co-founded New Ways Ministry, a gay-positive Catholic social justice organization dedicated to combating homophobia and promoting “the acceptance of LGBT people as full and equal members of church and society.” Ever since — 35 years and counting — Gramick has worked tirelessly for peace and justice for sexual minorities. She’s written and edited numerous articles and books and traveled throughout the English-speaking world to talk about the equal dignity of LGBT persons and the need for the Catholic church to change its anti-gay teachings.

ratzingerOf course, Sr. Jeannine’s groundbreaking, compassionate, remarkable advocacy for LGBT Catholics was bound to earn her the ire of the church hierarchy. Indeed, in 1984 the Archbishop of Washington informed Gramick and her New Ways co-founder, Fr. Robert Nugent, that they could no longer continue their ministry in the archdiocese. Both removed themselves from leadership positions in New Ways Ministry but continued writing, speaking, and lobbying both nationally and internationally. Four years later, the Vatican ordered an investigation into Gramick and Nugent. The resultant report, released in 1994, found the pair’s writing, ministry, and beliefs about LGBT people to be ”incompatible with the fullness of Christian morality” and recommended that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) – headed, incidentally, by a certain German cardinal named Joseph Ratzinger — publish some kind of statement in order to ”counteract and repair the harmful confusion” that it claimed Nugent and Gramick were causing.

Over the next five years, CDF attempted many times to convince Sr. Jeannine and Fr. Robert to stop challenging the Catholic leadership on LGBT issues, but without success. As a result, in 1999 CDF censured Gramick and Nugent and forbade them from engaging in “any pastoral work involving homosexual persons.” The following year, both were formally silenced by the Catholic church. Nugent accepted his silencing. Gramick did not, saying,

I choose not to collaborate in my own oppression by restricting a basic human right. To me this is a matter of conscience.

Because of unrelenting Vatican pressure on Sr. Jeannine’s religious order to clamp down on her activities, Gramick transferred to another community of nuns, the Sisters of Loretto. This community supports her ministry of advocacy and education on behalf of LGBT people, a ministry that continues to this day.

Sr. Jeannine Gramick is an amazing woman with a very simple message: “Only if all people are treated with dignity and respect will there be peace and harmony in the world.” She has dedicated her life to making that message a reality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people, even in the face of tremendous adversity, misunderstanding, and persecution. Happy birthday, Sister.

BREAKING: Pope Blesses U.S. Bishops’ Persecution of LGBT People

If there was any doubt that homophobic bigotry is the official institutional policy of the Roman Catholic Church, there cannot be any longer.

National Public Radio and the Washington Post are reporting that Pope Benedict XVI dove smack dab into the middle of the battle over marriage equality today (miter, satin slippers, and all!) in an address delivered at the Vatican to a delegation of visiting bishops from the United States. In it, he forcefully denounced the “powerful” push to grant same-sex couples the freedom to marry in the United States.

From the NPR article (emphases mine):

The 84-year-old pope acknowledged his comments might sound anachronistic or “countercultural,” particularly to the young. But he told bishops to not back down in the face of “powerful political and cultural currents seeking to alter the legal definition of marriage.

“Sexual differences cannot be dismissed as irrelevant to the definition of marriage,” he said. . .

Benedict said a weakened appreciation for traditional marriage. . . had led to “grave social problems bearing an immense human and economic cost.” He didn’t elaborate on what the cost was.

Of course he didn’t, because that’s an outright lie.

benedict_evil_glare-300x217The visiting delegation included bishops from Minnesota, South Dakota, and North Dakota. It was led by Twin Cities Archbishop John Nienstedt, who has inserted himself more deeply into the battle over civil marriage in his state than perhaps any other Catholic bishop across the country. Nienstedt is the same prelate who injected a prayer for marriage discrimination into the Catholic Mass, turned the Eucharist — which is sacred to Catholics — into a weapon with which to marginalize and exclude LGBT people, and told the priests of his diocese that if any of them dared to oppose the Church’s efforts to write its discriminatory teachings on marriage into the state constitution, they had better shut up about it.

Pope Benedict’s words today, delivered to a group of bishops headed by one of the American Catholic Church’s most notorious homophobes, amount to nothing less than an official endorsement — no, a blessing — of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ all-out campaign of spiritual bullying and forceful political lobbying against American lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, couples, and families.

The leader of the religion into which I was born has just cloaked anti-gay hatred with the mantle of faith to an unprecedented degree and explicitly endorsed malicious religion-based bigotry in a way I never imagined possible.

I truly have no words to describe the level of my disgust. If I hadn’t already left the Catholic Church before I heard this news today, I’d be walking out the door at this very moment.