Religious Conservatives Defend Pope’s Anti-Gay Message

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Wednesday December 24, 2008

Catholic publications have rushed to the defense of Pope Benedict XVI's comments that the human race is as imperiled by gay and lesbian families as by the wanton destruction of the rain forests.

Saying that the "order of creation" must be respected, the pope claimed for the Catholic church a privileged place of instruction and authority over humanity, declaring that the church "must defend not only the earth, the water and the air as gifts of creation belonging to everyone, but it must also protect mankind against the destruction of itself. The tropical forests deserve our protection, but man as a creature deserves it no less."

The pope also denounced families that do not consist of a man, a woman, and children, saying that recognition of family structures other than that constitute an "author-destruction of mankind."

The pope made his remarks as part of his annual Christmas Message, which he delivered on Dec. 22.

Catholic Online in a Dec. 24 article, instantly grouped homosexuality with "promiscuity, pornography, [and] adultery" and declared that all those things are "hurting [gays] physically, psychologically, but most importantly--hurting them spiritually."

Catholic Online slammed Pink News for posting the headline, "Pope Benedict learnt nothing from his time in the Hitler Youth," and denounced headlines in the San Francisco Chronicle ("Pope Benedict at Christmas: Preaching bigotry disguised as compassion") and the Times of London ("Christmas was never meant to be about this").

The article defended Pope Benedict on the grounds that he had not used the world "homosexual," though he had made his meaning explicitly clear by talking about a divine plan for families to consist of one man, one woman, and children.

Read the Catholic Online article, "In this respect, he spoke not only to the problem of homosexual acts but also other sexual aberrations such as sex outside of marriage, adultery, pornography, and even contraceptive sex."

Added the Catholic Online item, "This is borne out by the fact, unreported by the mainstream media, that within the speech he urged the faithful to re-read the encyclical Humanae Vitae--known most for its prohibition of contraception."

Continued the article, "Trust me, the Pope is not going on about such matters to be popular, not because he has some vendetta against gays.

"He is preaching the truth out of love; love for God and his Truth, love for mankind as a whole, but specifically love for his fellow human beings who are hurting themselves with destructive sexual lifestyles."

Added the article, "The Pope has sounded the alarm on rejecting God's plan for human sexuality and pointed to the dangers for those involved and society in general of fostering such behavior.

"He is now experiencing the backlash, but like any good parent, he will weather it in patience and love, knowing that one day, his aberrant children will come to their senses or at the very least that he has tried his best to get them to do so."

The article went on to appropriate a quote from Penn Jillette, the comedian who, along with partner Raymond Teller, has hosted a documentary series titled "Bullshit!" devoted to debunking myths and superstitions.

Noting that Jillette is an atheist, the article quoted him as saying, "If you believe that there's a heaven and hell... how much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible, and not tell them that?"

Meantime, at right-wing Christian site CNS, conservative author Ben Shapiro wrote a Dec. 24 op-ed piece titled, "Gay Community is Intolerant, Too," in which Shapiro did not deny that religious conservatives are intolerant of gays, but cast that intolerance in the form of a competition of ideas, declaring that, "There's intolerance on both sides. But someone has to win.

"The people should decide who wins."

Shapiro mentioned both Pope Benedict's Dec. 22 comments, and selected recent remarks of mega-church pastor Rick Warren, who has been in the news lately due to having been selected by President-Elect Barack Obama to deliver the invocation at next month's inaugural ceremonies.

Shapiro quoted Warren as saying, "I'm opposed to the redefinition of a 5,000-year definition of marriage.

"I'm opposed to having a brother and sister be together and call that marriage.

"I'm opposed to an older guy marrying a child and calling that a marriage.

"I'm opposed to one guy having multiple wives and calling that marriage."

Those comments, as well as Warren's having worked for the passage of California's Proposition 8, the ballot initiative that revoked the right of gay and lesbian families to marry in that state, have contributed to the GLBT community's denunciation of the Obama pick.

Saying that Benedict and Warren were merely "articulating the same traditional Judeo-Christian perspective that has been a moral standard for thousands of years," Shapiro queried, "So why the hubbub?

"Warren is not stating that he wants to criminalize homosexuality. And the pope is merely suggesting that sexuality may be flexible, and that sexual behavior can be changed. Where's the big threat to the gay community?"

Added Shapiro, "The gay community constantly asks: If we want to marry, how does it hurt you?

"Here's a similar question: If religious people don't approve of homosexual behavior, how does it hurt you?"

Shapiro went on to claim, "We're not advocating violence against gays and lesbians--far from it."

Added the author, "We're just saying we don't approve of your behavior. It's that simple."

Acknowledged Shapiro, "The fact is, of course, that a religious standard of marriage does hurt gay people."

Added the writer, "The gay community wishes to hijack marriage and use it as a shield to legitimize traditionally immoral behavior.

"By opposing gay marriage, traditionally moral folks prevent the gay community from having its way."

Claimed Shapiro, "But by the same exact standard, the gay community's insistence that homosexuality be respected--their insistence that figures from Pope Benedict to Rick Warren treat homosexuality as a perfectly acceptable way of life--hurts religious people."

Explained Shapiro, "By opposing religious people's freedom to articulate their view on homosexuality, they encroach on religious freedom."

Noted Shapiro, "Someone's standard has to win. If the pope and Warren have their way, traditional morality will remain the standard and the gay community will feel left out.

"If the gay community has its way, traditional morality will be discarded and the religious community will feel left out."

Noting that whenever gay and lesbian equality has been put up to a popular vote, gays and lesbians have lost, Shapiro suggested that all such questions be put to the ballot, writing, "the systemic answer is simple: Let the people decide."

Added Shapiro, "The gay community has won its victories in the courtroom, calling on elitist judges to twist the words of state constitutions.

"It's illegitimate, and it cuts against the most basic American value: the right of the people to decide how to regulate their communities."

Wrote Shapiro, "The gay community has every right to oppose the pope and Warren. And the pope and Warren have every right to blast the gay community.

"That's freedom of religion and freedom of speech."

Not all GLBT people have condemned Obama's pick of Warren to deliver the invocation. Popular lesbian singer Melissa Etheridge and her wife, Tammy Lynn Michaels, both wrote op-ed pieces in which they defended Warren and contradicted the claim that the pastor is anti-gay.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.