Efforts to resurrect local gay Catholic group are misguided

Article on fledgling Dignity Dallas chapter raises questions about why LGBT people would want to be part of a faith that doesn’t accept them

The Feb. 17 Dallas Voice informed us, under the eyebrow “Spirituality,” that some locals are working to re-establish the LGBT Catholic organization, Dignity Dallas.

This is so weird it ranks right up there with Rick Santorum’s assertion that, if one of his daughters was raped and impregnated, he would advise her to make the best of a bad situation.

It ranks right alongside Mitt Romney’s sacred underpants, Newt Gingrich’s moon base and Ron Paul’s un-conservative earmarks.

I do not know Jim Davis, and perhaps he is a very nice man. Certainly, he seems sincere in wanting to re-establish a local branch of Dignity since he is willing to be quoted saying, “I want my name out there.”

Out where? The Catholic Church does not recognize Dignity’s existence. It certainly does not recognize Dignity’s value. The DV article reports that, according to DignityUSA Executive Director Marianne Duddy-Burke, the group is “still a place to take refuge from the mounting attacks by bishops and the pope.”

Well, isn’t that the problem? Hey, people, the church does not want you. It thinks your sexuality, gender identity and/or gender expression is a choice. It thinks you should turn straight. It thinks you should be celibate. It thinks you should at the very least keep your mouth shut. Not to mention other parts of your anatomy.

Here is some of what the church has to say about LGBT people:

According to published reports, on Oct. 31, 1986, under Pope John Paul II, Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) made public a “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons.”

In the letter, he calls homosexuality “a more or less strong tendency … toward an intrinsic moral evil” and “an objective disorder.”

In other words, not only is homosexual activity wrong, but homosexuality itself is wrong. Evil. Disordered. Wrong.

Googling for items related to Catholic positions on homosexuality is fascinating and terrifying. For example, it is fascinating to note the many references to the Book of Genesis and its “creation” of Adam and Eve and their “union” as the basis for heterosexuality and hetero-only marriage. (There is no mention of who wrote the book, though many Catholics and other religions believe it was dictated by God.)

But it is terrifying to read the November 2000 “Statement” issued by the Catholic Medical Association. The statement lists “considerations” — the first being all the bad childhood experiences it alleges turned some of us away from the path of righteousness, including not enough rough-and-tumble play for boys. In a sort of footnote to the list, it alleges that adult women are turned to homosexuality by having an abortion. That’s a new one on me and perhaps on you as well.

The statement then makes “recommendations,” which include this questionable gem: “The priest … is in a unique position to provide specific spiritual assistance to those experiencing same-sex attraction.” Is this a joke? I’m not going there.

In any case, the Catholic Medical Association statement was issued years after the American Psychological Association changed its retrograde position and stated: “The research on homosexuality is very clear. Homosexuality is neither mental illness nor moral depravity.”

I have nothing against the Roman Catholic Church — nothing against any Abrahamic faith. I simply do not believe the practitioners should be passing judgment on all of us or meddling with marriage and abortion and contraception and military service and workplace rights and intimate relationships among members of our community.

And yet they do, or they try very hard to. So why would any LGBT seek to dignify such patriarchal, paternalistic views? It’s a puzzle.

Phyllis Guest is a longtime activist on political and LGBT issues and is a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas. Send comments to editor@dallasvoice.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 24, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Agree with the pope? Nope!

Pontiff once again speaks out against LGBT equality, saying same-sex marriage is a threat to ‘the future of humanity’

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Hardy Haberman
Flagging Left

When you hear someone with as powerful a voice as the pope say something is a threat to “the future of humanity itself,” you take notice. Pope Benedict uttered these weighty words this week, and what was he talking about? Nuclear capabilities in Iran? Global warming? Famine? Drought?
Nope.

The Holy Father was speaking about marriage equality. Apparently in the rarified air of the Vatican, allowing LGBT people to affirm their relationships and have the same legal rights as heterosexual couples would have apocalyptic results.

In his statement to a gathering of diplomats from 180 countries, the pope said that children need the proper settings in which to grow, and that “pride of place goes to the family based on the marriage of a man and a woman.”

He went on to assert that, “This is not a simple social convention, but rather the fundamental cell of every society. Consequently, policies which undermine the family threaten human dignity and the future of humanity itself.”

This little gem was part of his yearly address to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Vatican. Unlike with any other religion in the world, the U.S. actually has an ambassador to the Vatican, representing the Catholic Church, as do many other countries.

It is a mystery I fail to understand, but it is what it is.

This statement comes on the heels of the elevation of New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan to the status of cardinal. Not surprisingly, Dolan is one of the leading anti-LGBT voices in the Catholic Church.

And Pope Benedict himself is certainly no friend of LGBT folk either. In a 1986 pastoral letter he wrote before becoming pontiff, then-Cardinal Ratzinger said that homosexuality was “an intrinsic moral evil” and “an objective disorder.”

Now to put this in perspective, the Catholic Church claims 1.3 billion adherents worldwide. This is why what the pope says is news.

But I fail to see this statement coming from the voice of the moral high ground.

The Vatican has been implicated in numerous scandals in recent years, and most of them involve inappropriate sexual behavior with minors. Many of these same scandals not only involve priests, but the systematic coverup of the crimes.

The courts of the U.S. and Europe have been busy prosecuting these cases, and the new media has covered them ad nauseam.

For me, the big question is this: In a world with so many social and humanitarian problems, why is preventing LGBT people from marrying worthy of such hyperbole?

Will allowing my partner and me to marry for the purposes of gaining the 1,000-plus legal benefits awarded to straight couples in the U.S. going to shake the foundations of our country? Is a gay marriage going to cause straight people to throw up their hands saying, “Well there goes the neighborhood” and divorce?
Nonsense.

This all has to do with control — and few people understand control as well as the current pope. Cardinal Ratzinger was the “enforcer” for the Vatican before his elevation to pontiff. His office was the Supreme Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a group previously known as (until 1965) Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition.  You remember them and their always “unexpected” counterpart, the Spanish Inquisition?

The pope will continue to demonize LGBT people and oppose our relationships as long as it serves to increase his control. Much like right-wing politicians, the pope can use this issue as a wedge issue, prying the faithful away from any attempt at social justice in the matter of LGBT rights.

Moreover, this is also designed to bolster the argument that “hate speech” should be protected as a freedom of religion issue, a recent tactic being used by the far-right to oppose LGBT rights and anti-bullying efforts.

Am I suggesting that the pope is colluding with politicians to deny LGBT people their rights? Perhaps not. But his statements will surely be used by the right wing to bolster their arguments.

I just find it sad that the man who has assumed the mantle of the vicar of Christ can so conveniently ignore that Jesus said nothing about LGBT people in any recorded documents. He did, however, say something to the effect of, “Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick and visit the prisoner.”
Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a board member of the Woodhull Freedom Alliance. His blog is at DungeonDiary.blogspot.com.

—  Kevin Thomas

Vatican: Pope’s condom comments apply to women too

NICOLE WINFIELD | Associated Press

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI’s comments about condom use being a lesser evil than transmitting HIV also apply to women, the Vatican said Tuesday, a significant shift for a pope who just last year said condoms only worsen the AIDS problem.

Benedict said in a book released Tuesday, Nov. 23 that condom use by people such as male prostitutes was a lesser evil since it indicated they were taking a step toward a more moral and responsible sexuality by aiming to protect their partner from a deadly infection.

His comments implied that he was referring primarily to homosexual sex, when condoms aren’t being used as a form of contraception, which the Vatican opposes.

Questions arose immediately, however, about the pope’s intent because the Italian translation of the book used the feminine for prostitute, whereas the original German used the masculine.

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, told reporters Tuesday that he asked the pope whether he intended his comments to only apply to male prostitutes. Benedict replied that it really didn’t matter, that the important thing was the person in question took into consideration the life of the other, Lombardi said.

“I personally asked the pope if there was a serious, important problem in the choice of the masculine over the feminine,” Lombardi said. “He told me no. The problem is this … It’s the first step of taking responsibility, of taking into consideration the risk of the life of another with whom you have a relationship.”

“This is if you’re a woman, a man, or a transsexual. We’re at the same point,” Lombardi said.

The pope is not justifying or condoning gay sex or heterosexual sex outside of a marriage. Elsewhere in the book he reaffirms the Vatican opposition to homosexual acts and artificial contraception and reaffirms the inviolability of marriage between man and woman.

But by broadening the condom comments to also apply to women, the pope is saying that condom use in heterosexual relations is the lesser evil than passing HIV onto a partner.

While that concept has long been a tenet of moral theology, the pope’s book “Light of the World” — a series of interviews with a German journalist — was the first time a pope had ever publicly applied the theory to the scenario of condom use as a way to fight HIV transmission.

The pope’s comments have generated heated debate, mostly positive in places like Africa which has been devastated by AIDS and where the church has been criticized for its opposition to condom use.

—  John Wright

Pope says condoms OK for some groups, including male prostitutes

NICOLE WINFIELD and FRANCES D’EMILIO  |  Associated Press

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI has opened the door on the previously taboo subject of condoms as a way to fight HIV, saying male prostitutes who use condoms may be beginning to act responsibly. It’s a stunning comment for a pontiff who has blamed condoms for making the AIDS crisis worse.

The pope made the comments in an interview with a German journalist published as a book entitled “Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times,” which is being released Tuesday, Nov. 23. The Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano ran excerpts on Saturday.

Church teaching has long opposed condoms because they are a form of artificial contraception, although the Vatican has never released an explicit policy about condoms and HIV. The Vatican has been harshly criticized for its position.

Benedict said that condoms are not a moral solution to stopping AIDS. But he said in some cases, such as for male prostitutes, their use could represent a first step in assuming moral responsibility “in the intention of reducing the risk of infection.”

Benedict made the comment in response to a general question about Africa, where heterosexual HIV spread is rampant.

He used as a specific example male prostitutes, for whom contraception is not usually an issue, but did not mention married couples where one spouse is infected. The Vatican has come under pressure from even church officials to condone condom use for such monogamous married couples to protect the uninfected spouse from transmission.

Benedict drew the wrath of the United Nations, European governments and AIDS activists when, en route to Africa in 2009, he told reporters that the AIDS problem on the continent couldn’t be resolved by distributing condoms. “On the contrary, it increases the problem,” he said then.

Journalist Peter Seewald, who interviewed Benedict over the course of six days this summer, raised the Africa condom comments, asking him if it wasn’t “madness” for the Vatican to forbid a high-risk population from using condoms.

“There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility,” Benedict said.

Asked if that meant that the church wasn’t opposed in principle to condoms, the pope replied:

The church “of course does not regard it as a real or moral solution, but in this or that case, there can be nonetheless in the intention of reducing the risk of infection, a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality,” according to an English translation of the book obtained by The Associated Press.

Elsewhere in the book he reaffirmed church teaching opposing artificial contraception.

“How many children are killed who might one day have been geniuses, who could have given humanity something new, who could have given us a new Mozart or some new technical discovery?” he asked rhetorically.

He reiterated the church’s position that abstinence and marital fidelity is the only sure way to prevent HIV.

The English publisher of the book, Rev. Joseph Fessio, said the pope was not justifying condom use as a lesser of two evils.

“This is not a justification,” he said. Rather, “The intention of protecting the other from disease, of using a condom, may be a sign of an awakening moral responsibility.”

However, the Rev. Jim Martin, a Catholic writer, said the comments were certainly a departure, an exception where there had never been an exception before.

“While some bishops and archbishops have spoken in this way, the pope has never affirmed this,” Martin said. “And it’s interesting that he uses as an example someone who is trying to act morally to someone else by not passing on an infection, which was always the stance of those people who favored condoms in cases of HIV and AIDS. So it does mark a departure.”

The English translation of the original German specified “male prostitute.” The Italian translation in L’Osservatore Romano, however, used the feminine “prostitute.” The discrepancy wasn’t immediately clear.

Cardinal Elio Sgreccia, the Vatican’s longtime top official on bioethics and sexuality, elaborated on the pontiff’s comments, stressing that it was imperative to “make certain that this is the only way to save a life.” Sgreccia told the Italian news agency ANSA that that is why the pope on the condom issue “dealt with it in the realm of the exceptional.”

The condom question was one that “needed an answer for a long time,” Sgreccia said. “If Benedict XVI raised the question of exceptions, this exception must be accepted … and it must be verified that this is the only way to save life. This must be demonstrated,” Sgreccia said.

In the 1960s, the Vatican itself condoned giving contraceptive pills to nuns at risk of rape by fighters in the Congo to prevent pregnancy, arguing that the contraception was a lesser evil than pregnancy.

Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans said clearly the pope wasn’t encouraging condom use.

“I think the pope has been very strong in saying condoms do not solve the problem of morality and do not solve the problem of good sex education. But if a person chooses not to follow the teaching of Christ in the church, they are at least obliged to prevent another person from contracting a disease that is deadly,” he said.

In Africa, Benedict’s comments drew praise among gays and AIDS activists.

“If he’s talking about condoms, it’s a step in the right direction,” said David Kamau, who heads the nonprofit Kenya Treatment Access Movement. “It’s accepting the reality on the ground … If the Church has failed to get people to follow its moral values and practice abstinence, they should take the next best step and encourage condom use.”

John Kitte, a gay Ugandan, said the pope was acting as a good parent.

“He minds about all the people living on earth. What he has suggested is very good and I encourage gays to take his advice seriously.”

But an evangelist pastor in the Uganda capital of Kampala, Solomon Male, argued the pope shouldn’t be granting any recognition of or encouragement to gays.

“If the Pope is saying so, then he has not read the Bible,” he said. “Gay acts are bad. It is abominable and should not take place.”

Christian Weisner, of the pro-reform group We Are Church in the pope’s native Germany, said the pope’s comments were “surprising, and if that’s the case one can be happy about the pope’s ability to learn.”

—  John Wright

Pope meets with abuse victims as thousands protest

NICOLE WINFIELD and VICTOR L. SIMPSON | Associated Press

LONDON — Pope Benedict XVI apologized Saturday, Sept. 18 to five people who were molested by priests as children in his latest effort to defuse the sex abuse crisis shaking his church, as thousands of people angered at the Vatican’s response marched in central London in the biggest protest of his 5-year papacy.

Early Sunday, Scotland Yard said six men who had been detained on suspicion of plotting an attack on the pope had been freed after an investigation.

Benedict met for about 30-40 minutes with the victims — four women and a man from Scotland, England and Wales — at the Vatican’s ambassador’s residence in Wimbledon and expressed “his deep sorrow and shame over what the victims and their families suffered,” according to the Vatican.

“He prayed with them and assured them that the Catholic Church is continuing to implement effective measures designed to safeguard young people, and that it is doing all in its power to investigate allegations, to collaborate with civil authorities and to bring to justice clergy and religious accused of these egregious crimes,” it said.

Across town, abuse victims and demonstrators opposed to the pope’s stance against homosexuality, abortion and using condoms to fight AIDS marched peacefully from Hyde Park to Downing Street, the major protest of Benedict’s controversial four-day state visit.

They carried banners reading: “The pope is wrong — put a condom on” and “Pope protects pedophile priests.”

Later Saturday, though, an estimated 80,000 people massed in Hyde Park cheering the pope as he celebrated an evening vigil.

The Vatican statement was similar to ones it issued after Benedict met with abuse victims over the past two years while visiting the United States, Australia and Malta. But continued revelations of abuse — the latest in Belgium — have failed to placate critics demanding that the pope and other Vatican officials take personal responsibility and crack down on bishops who covered up abuses by their clerics.

For the first time, Benedict also met with a group of professionals and volunteers who work to safeguard children and young people in church environments, Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi told reporters.

Bill Kilgallon, chairman of Britain’s National Catholic Safeguarding Commission who helped organize the meeting, told the BBC that the victims got “something between 30 and 40 minutes.”

Asked if the victims were angry, he said: “No, I wouldn’t say they were angry. I think there is anger in them … But anger can be very constructive if they work for change.”

The sex abuse scandal has clouded Benedict’s state visit to this deeply secular nation with a centuries-old history of anti-Catholic sentiment. Polls have indicated widespread dissatisfaction in Britain with the way Benedict has handled the crisis, with Catholics nearly as critical of him as the rest of the population.

Anger over the scandal runs high in Britain in part because of the enormous scale of the abuse in neighboring Ireland, where government reports have detailed systematic abuse of children at church-run schools and cover-up by church authorities.

During a Mass in Westminster Cathedral earlier Saturday, Benedict said he hoped the church’s humiliation would help victims heal and help the church purify itself and renew its commitment to educating the young.

His comments, which were in line with his previous statements on the topic, were directed at Britain’s Catholic community in the seat of the English church, a sign that Benedict wanted to speak to the faithful about the humiliation they all felt as Catholics.

“I express my deep sorrow to the innocent victims of these unspeakable crimes, along with my hope that the power of Christ’s grace, his sacrifice of reconciliation, will bring deep healing and peace to their lives,” Benedict said in his homily.

He acknowledged the shame and humiliation all the faithful had suffered as a result of the scandal and said he hoped “this chastisement will contribute to the healing of the victims, the purification of the church and the renewal of her age-old commitment to the education and care of young people.”

Martin Brown, 34, who was in the crowd outside the cathedral, termed it “a good apology.”

“He seemed to really mean it; he was genuinely sorry,” Brown said. “It’s good he mentioned it and it’s good he didn’t dwell on it for too long. He got it just about right.”

The meeting with victims, part of a series of moves that began when he issued an apology during a meeting with reporters on his plane from Rome, took place near the famous tennis stadium in Wimbledon, a 30-minute ride on London’s Underground from the protest march route from Hyde Park to Downing Street, near the British prime minister’s residence.

Organizers said nearly 20,000 people — twice the number expected — took part. Scotland Yard took the unusual step of declining to put a figure on the crowd, saying it lacked manpower to make such an estimate.

Many wore rainbow-colored clothes or waved gay pride flags. Some members of the crowd bounced inflated condoms back and forth across the route.

Demonstrators largely focused their anger on the church’s attitude toward the child abuse scandal. Richard Erson, a 40-year-old Londoner, said he was there “to protest the hatred of the pope and his church toward homosexuals and to protest the ignorance of abundant child abuse within the church.”

Cornelius Crowley, a 65-year-old from Ireland, said: “I’m a Catholic school survivor of physical and psychological abuse. I hope people will open their hearts to the issue.”

Still, the protest was peaceful.

Benedict’s predecessor, Pope John Paul II, faced a violent protest in Utrecht, the Netherlands in 1985 involving about 1,000 to 1,500 young people.

Benedict began his day by meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron, and other British leaders. The pope offered his condolences to Cameron following the death of his father, Lombardi said.

On Friday, Benedict’s visit had been overshadowed by the arrest of six men suspected of plotting an attack on the pontiff.

But Scotland Yard said Saturday that searches of premises connected with the men had not turned up anything in the way of weapons or explosives, and later said all of the men were released by early Sunday.

On Sunday, on his last day in Britain, Benedict is scheduled to beatify Cardinal John Henry Newman, a 19th century convert from Anglicanism whom the pope wants to hold up as a model for the faithful.

—  John Wright

Vatican compares child abuse scandal to anti-Semitism

Ratzinger

The Vatican is saying that accusations against the pope and the Catholic Church in the sex abuse scandal are like the “collective violence” suffered by the Jews. The Associated Press reported that the Pope defended the church against the current scandal.

The comparison is heinous. The Vatican is comparing criminal activity by members of their church to the murder of Jews during the Holocaust, the Inquisition and other periods of history.

Most disgusting part of the comparison is that another group targeted in large numbers during the Holocaust were priests and nuns. To compare those killed by the Nazis to those abusing children is unconscionable.

The Vatican continues to ignore one teeny little fact. Molesting children is criminal, as well as immoral. Sheltering those who committed those crimes is also a criminal activity. And no one is accusing ALL priests of doing these things.

Speaking for the Vatican, Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa continues to show his ignorance by talking about the “coincidence” that Passover falls the same week as Easter celebrations.

The Last Supper was a Passover Seder. The two holidays inextricably intertwined. But history seems to have to relevance to this Vatican.

Prosecuting child molesters is no different to this pope than slaughtering people because of their religion. I didn’t realize that child abuse was a Catholic value and that stopping it makes law enforcement officials in countries around the world anti-Catholic.

If the pope wants to make a comparison, he might trying comparing the surviving victims of abuse by priests to survivors of anti-Semitic hatred.

—  David Taffet