US Catholic Faith in Real Life

The pope, sexuality, and the mainstream media

By Bryan Cones | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

Pope Benedict XVI has spawned another media tempest related to homosexuality; or at least he threw a bone to a hungry media, who then spawned the tempest. In his annual address to the papal household, in which the pope summarizes the year's events, B16 reflected on World Youth Day and reflected on the church's turn to environmentalism.

But then he made an interesting connection: He argued the church must "protect the human being against self-destruction. It is necessary to have something like an ecology of the human being, understood in the proper manner. It is not a surpassed metaphysics when Church speaks of the nature of the human being as man and woman, and demands that this order of creation be respected. ... That which is often expressed and understood by the term 'gender', is definitively resolved in the self-emancipation of the human being from creation and the Creator" (translation from the Vatican News Service). He then went on to talk about how heterosexual marriage was built into the order of creation.

Now obviously, the pope is making oblique reference to homosexuality, gender theory, and same-sex marriage, and there is an implicit (and, to my mind, unfortunate) suggestion that humanity needs saving from them all. But translated into headlines, however, this small bit of pope-speak becomes:

"Pope says humanity needs 'saving' from homosexuality" (National Post, Canada); "Pope puts stress on 'gay threat'" (BBC); "Save humanity from homosexuality--Pope" (Radio New Zealand). The U.S. media has so far given the issue scant coverage.

I found the best commentary at a blog by Damian Thompson from the UK Telegraph, which has a headline almost worthy of The Onion: "Pope revealed to be Catholic, shock, horror": "Benedict XVI stands accused today of ecclesiastical gay-bashing. When I was woken up very early this morning by a radio station looking for a quote, I was given the impression that he'd given a speech saying homosexuals were as big a threat to the planet as climate change. 

"That would have been an own goal, I admit. But look at the text of the Pope's speech to the Curia and he doesn't even come close to saying that. The point Benedict is making is that God's plan for creation encompasses both stewardship of the planet and the expression of human sexual relations within (and only within) marriage."

Of course it would help if I could find the entire text of the speech...