Nice try, Thomas Peters. But you’re only highlighting Sullivan’s point

Catholic blogger Thomas Peters is accusing Andrew Sullivan of being disingenuous. But in truth, it’s Peters who’s far more clearly bending toward the side of deliberate deception in order to provide cover for crude Catholic condemnations.

Let’s begin here: The following is how Peters quotes an exchange had by Sullivan and Maggie Gallagher at Wednesday night’s debate on same-sex marriage:

Sullivan: In a 1986 letter the current pope wrote [as Cardinal Ratzinger] he said that we should not be surprised – I’m paraphrasing – we should not be surprised that violence is waged against homosexuals given their desire to change society to conform to what they believe, one of the consequences – unfortunate consequences nonetheless of the push for gay equality will be violence against gay people. Which I felt and I think most normal readers of that sentence would agree was a kind of warning that if we do start standing up for ourselves we deserve violence.

Maggie Gallagher: I’m sure that wasn’t what was meant. I don’t know the sentence so we’ll have to go and get the quote if we want to debate that.

Andrew Sullivan: Well, you can find it but it was definitely at the time very disturbing to hear.

One of Sullivan’s lies about the pope [Catholic Vote]

Okay, so Sullivan’s paraphrase charges the current Pope of once claiming that an increase of gay rights will lead to an increase in violence. Sullivan also admits that the Pope saw these supposed consequences as unfortunate, but saw them as consequences nonetheless. So that’s what Andrew, from his admittedly incomplete memory, put on the table. That’s exactly what a paraphrase is: A summation with a built-in caveat that there is more “there” there.

But Peters is all kinds of fed up, saying that Sullivan trafficked in “deliberate misrepresentation of the Church’s position,” and was bent on “maligning the Church” of which Andrew is a part. And to “prove” Sullivan wrong, Peters hauls out the 1986 letter (titled “On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons“) and presents a verbatim transcript of the claims in question:

RATZINGER WROTE: 10. It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church’s pastors wherever it occurs. It reveals a kind of disregard for others which endangers the most fundamental principles of a healthy society. The intrinsic dignity of each person must always be respected in word, in action and in law.

But the proper reaction to crimes committed against homosexual persons should not be to claim that the homosexual condition is not disordered. When such a claim is made and when homosexual activity is consequently condoned, or when civil legislation is introduced to protect behavior to which no one has any conceivable right, neither the Church nor society at large should be surprised when other distorted notions and practices gain ground, and irrational and violent reactions increase.

One of Sullivan’s lies about the pope [Catholic Vote]

Peters then goes on to further accuse Sullivan of lies and misrepresentations and oversights, even going so far as to say that Andrew “owes Catholics and everyone an apology”:

Notice, especially, the fact that Sullivan completely avoids any mention of Cardinal Ratzinger’s strong and unequivocal condemnation of all violence against homosexual persons. There cannot be any doubt about the fact that Ratzinger is a model of respect, someone who upholds the dignity and rights of all persons, regardless of their orientation.

Sullivan read what Cardinal Ratzinger wrote and now goes around claiming that the cardinal said, “gays deserve violence.” Nothing, nothing, could be farther from the truth.

Sullivan owes Catholics and everyone an apology. Why?

Because he wasn’t paraphrasing, he was deliberately misrepresenting the Church.

One of Sullivan’s lies about the pope [Catholic Vote]

Peters’ outrage is certainly novel. But now go back and read what Andrew claimed versus what the Pope actually said when he was but a Cardinal. Yes, Ratzinger deplored the violence, Popeand Andrew, in his paraphrase, hinted to as much when he alluded to the Pope’s belief that the supposed consequences would be unfortunate. But Ratzinger absolutely did say that violence would increase, and the then-Cardinal directly laid that violence at the feet of gay activists rather than those who might actually bring the brutality to bear!

And actually, it’s not just motivated gay activists who the Pope blamed, but rather anyone who makes a “claim that the homosexual condition is not disordered,” condones their homosexual neighbor, or drafts/passes/supports legislation granting basic civil rights to LGBT people (what with their “distorted notions and practices” and all). Translation: Standing up for gay people’s worth as part of human principle will lead to a natural flow of violent behavior. If anything, Ratzinger’s actual words went even further than Andrew remembered! Because while he didn’t explicitly say that the violence was deserved (and this writer personally wouldn’t use the word “deserved” in describing it), it’s plain to see that Ratzinger did paint extreme aggression as the earned effect of the inclusive human rights cause!

Then if one goes the next step and pulls out some other pertinent passages from this same Pope John Paul era document, he or she will see even more offense. “Intrinsic moral evil.” “Objective disorder.” A “condition” that’s not a “morally acceptable option.” “Contrary to the creative wisdom of God.” An “evil” that should be converted or abandoned with the help of “God’s liberating grace.” Those are just some of the notions that Ratzinger circa 1986 wanted (and presumably still wants) people to support, so as to stave off “irrational and violent reactions“:



Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.

Therefore special concern and pastoral attention should be directed toward those who have this condition, lest they be led to believe that the living out of this orientation in homosexual activity is a morally acceptable option. It is not.



As in every moral disorder, homosexual activity prevents one’s own fulfillment and happiness by acting contrary to the creative wisdom of God. The Church, in rejecting erroneous opinions regarding homosexuality, does not limit but rather defends personal freedom and dignity realistically and authentically understood.



It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church’s pastors wherever it occurs. It reveals a kind of disregard for others which endangers the most fundamental principles of a healthy society. The intrinsic dignity of each person must always be respected in word, in action and in law.

But the proper reaction to crimes committed against homosexual persons should not be to claim that the homosexual condition is not disordered. When such a claim is made and when homosexual activity is consequently condoned, or when civil legislation is introduced to protect behavior to which no one has any conceivable right, neither the Church nor society at large should be surprised when other distorted notions and practices gain ground, and irrational and violent reactions increase.



It has been argued that the homosexual orientation in certain cases is not the result of deliberate choice; and so the homosexual person would then have no choice but to behave in a homosexual fashion. Lacking freedom, such a person, even if engaged in homosexual activity, would not be culpable.

Here, the Church’s wise moral tradition is necessary since it warns against generalizations in judging individual cases. In fact, circumstances may exist, or may have existed in the past, which would reduce or remove the culpability of the individual in a given instance; or other circumstances may increase it. What is at all costs to be avoided is the unfounded and demeaning assumption that the sexual behaviour of homosexual persons is always and totally compulsive and therefore inculpable. What is essential is that the fundamental liberty which characterizes the human person and gives him his dignity be recognized as belonging to the homosexual person as well. As in every conversion from evil, the abandonment of homosexual activity will require a profound collaboration of the individual with God’s liberating grace.

LETTER TO THE BISHOPS OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH ON THE PASTORAL CARE OF HOMOSEXUAL PERSONS [Vatican]

So yeah, okay: Thomas Peters can support this 1986 document all he wants. The National Organization can support Peters with however many links they want to offer. But it is simply undeniable that this document was hellbent on painting self-accepting gays as completely outside of God’s purview, and laying more responsibility for potential violence at the feet of those same gay people who are being shunned by this document, not those who might see the document’s crude language as giving them a godly pass to turn hostile words into hostile action.

They can support it — they just need to own it! Just like Andrew has had to own it and look past it in order to reconcile his faith commitment with his church’s faithful commitment to driving him away.




Good As You

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