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The new pope is perfect pick: John Paul II put a benevolent face to Joseph Ratzinger's cold-hearted anti-gay doctrine. Now that the curtains have been pulled back, the Wizard will speak for himself.


Washington Blade - April 22, 2005

Reaction to the selection of archconservative Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI has been met with understandable despair by many gay Catholics.

After all, Ratzinger, dubbed "God's rottweiler" for his unrelenting enforcement of traditionalist Catholic orthodoxy, has been chief architect and attack dog of Pope John Paul II's campaign against the dignity of gay people.

Ratzinger has written on the Vatican's behalf that homosexuality is an intrinsically "disordered" condition, that gays are to be condemned by our condition to lead chaste lives void entirely of romantic love, and that our brazen efforts to build relationships and families are a serious "evil" that must be fought by church and state alike.

He is, in short, a gay Catholic's worst nightmare. That said, he is also the absolutely perfect selection.

FOR MORE THAN a quarter century, Pope John Paul II has been the benevolent public face of Ratzinger's cold-hearted anti-gay doctrine.

The Polish Pope endeared himself to the masses by standing up to communism, by repeatedly traveling the globe, by surviving an assassination attempt, by waving from the "popemobile," and ultimately by succumbing only after a long struggle with Parkinson's.

The enormous outpouring of love and grief we witnessed after John Paul's death had everything to do with admiration of his life and almost nothing to do with the former pope's regressive take on social issues and authoritarian rule over the church.

In Ratzinger, the College of Cardinals has selected a much more genuine article: a man whose image will far more accurately represent his doctrinal views. By all accounts, Ratzinger lacks the many appealing qualities of his predecessor, and makes up for these deficiencies by amassing in excess the intolerant heartlessness that was always John Paul's dark side.

John Paul II, born Karol Wojtyla, came of age in Poland as it was swallowed up by the Nazis, and he endured first that totalitarian regime and then the communists who followed.

Joseph Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI, is only six years younger, but instead reached adulthood in Nazi Germany proper, and even joined the Hitler Youth for a time before serving in the German military. Ratzinger has said his participation was mandatory, but putting aside his culpability, the contrast in personal appeal couldn't be more striking.

Ratzinger has never tended a parish. Physically, he is straight out of central casting as the sharp-featured scary figure ready to condemn us all to Hell. In that, he far more accurately represents the embittered, arrogant and aloof men who have for years run the church, protected by John Paul's relatively sunny disposition.

HAPPILY THOSE DAYS are gone. The curtains have been pulled back, and the Wizard will be speaking for himself.

Now the world, especially Western Europe and the United States, will more clearly see the Vatican for what it really is. Now perhaps, we can more effectively make the case to our heterosexual brothers and sisters that these condemnations of our lives are in actuality condemnations of their own as well.

Media accounts typically lump together the Vatican's condemnations of homosexuality with the church's opposition to abortion and euthanasia, two obviously controversial and unsettled issues within the church and society more broadly.

But in reality, that is "mis-lumping" our alleged sin. The Catholic positions on abortion and euthanasia are drawn from the church's so-called "culture of life," which also includes opposition to the death penalty.

The condemnation of homosexuality, on the other hand, is properly lumped together with the Vatican's long-discredited opposition to premarital sex and birth control, positions that impact far more people and which were long ago rejected by the vast majority of the Western world.

Ratzinger has written on behalf of the church that homosexual acts are an "intrinsic moral evil" because they cannot "transmit life" through procreation. Putting aside the occasional lesbian couple wielding a vibrating turkey baster, he's got us there.

But he's also condemning the use of condoms and birth control, and the absolute commonplace view of sexuality as primarily an expression of romantic love or attraction, not simply procreation. And of course the church strictly prohibits pre-marital sex, a doctrine widely ignored by most Catholics.

Our advocates need to make clear that Ratzinger's condemnation of homosexuality is inextricably tied to his condemnation of condoms, the pill and premarital sex. Ratzinger himself has said that Catholic orthodoxy on these points is an all-or-nothing proposition, and we can only hope he'll keep repeating that pronouncement.

Even more chilling to most will be the flipside of Ratzinger Rules: what you are allowed to do. Unlike the more optimistic - if ultimately baseless - claim by evangelical Protestants that gays can change their sexual attraction, Ratzinger offers no sugar-coated happy ending.

If you're gay, an orientation he has acknowledged that "homosexual persons do not choose," then you are condemned to a live an entirely chaste live, with no prospect of romantic love.

The same goes with condom use: Because it offends Vatican teaching on sex and procreation, Ratzinger will continue John Paul's heartless campaign to prevent the distribution of condoms to fight HIV and AIDS, especially in Africa and Asia where the epidemic is most devastating.

You don't have to be gay to feel the cold shoulder of Joseph Ratzinger. And for that, we should all be grateful. Long live Pope Benedict XVI.


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Information in this article was accurate in April 22, 2005. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date. This material is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your doctor. Always discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating HIV.