The Catholic Church Fails Gay People

When religion's at odds with human rights

This weekend, Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Spain coincided with a denouncement about same-sex marriage in the otherwise progressive European country. Criticizing Spain for its “aggressive secularism” (the predominantly Catholic country was among the first in Europe to legalize gay marriage), the Pope rallied behind the notion that gay rights somehow conflicts with Catholic teachings. But the statement, thankfully, coincided with a same-sex “kiss-in” by several hundred gay couples in Barcelona, according to The Advocate, who locked lips as the bullet-proof Popemobile passed by crowds of admirers and protestors alike.

This weekend’s backlash against the Roman Catholic Church also came on the heels of another anti-gay statement by a close friend of the pope, a Belgian Bishop, claiming that AIDS is punishment for the gay lifestyle. Archbishop Andre-Joseph called AIDS “justice” for gay men, and even said that pedophile priests, a serious scourge on the church’s credibility (and rightly so) in recent years, should go unpunished. The infuriating statement is already causing spokespeople close to the archbishop to back peddle, fearing a backlash more monumental than ever before when it comes to the lack of punitive repercussions pedophile priests have faced in the public courts.

Most of even the worst cases of sexual abuse in the church (like the priest who repeatedly raped hundreds of deaf boys in Wisconsin or the ongoing sex abuse scandals that have rocked Ireland) have gone unpunished. And it’s been the pope (then Cardinal Ratzinger) who’s led the charge of either relocating or “forgiving” these priests rather than throwing them to the legal wolves, so to speak, of justice.

So for the sake of simplicity, gay people, when you hear all about the pope’s fancy world-wind tour around Europe, consider what the real teachings of the Roman Catholic Church are all about  insofar as you’re concerned: Two loving adults of the same gender who wish to marry each other is sinful and should not be sanctioned by any religion or municipality in the world. But an adult (priest) molesting children against their will should be forgiven, so much so that the church will kindly cover up the misdeeds and proceed to relocate said priest to another congregation with a fresh new batch of children to prey upon.

And for these reasons, the Catholic Church – which has embraced incredibly conservative doctrine since Benedict has taken control of the pulpit – is seemingly out of step with global human rights issues, especially when you consider that people are still being slaughtered in many countries of the world simply for being gay.

Long criticized for its stance against women’s rights (particularly the right to choose and opposition to birth control), the church’s latest attempt to woo followers comes at the expense of gay rights worldwide. With dwindling church goers, in the U.S. especially, it may be time for religious leaders to reconsider its approach to sexuality, especially in light of priest pedophilia scandals that have angered parishioners around the world.

These issues also hit close to home. Locally, cases of molestation in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia were uncovered several years ago after a tireless Grand Jury Investigation by then-D.A. Lynn Abraham, despite the statute of limitations which meant most of the more than two-dozen accused priests could not be charged for their horrific crimes against minors. Church officials who covered up the crimes, namely Cardinals Bevilacqua and Krol, both named in the investigation, also failed to be prosecuted even after supposedly relocating accused priests with little or no retribution sought.

With so many of these stories coming to light after years of victims hiding their secrets, it makes the pope’s recent public relations renegade all the more painful, not to mention hypocritical, especially since much of the blame for this ongoing abuse seems to have been covered up by the church (and Benedict himself). As the church continues to throw stones at gay people, it continues to campaign to cover up its own misgivings.

And while homophobia pervades much of our society, both in Philadelphia and beyond, the institutionalized kind one finds in the guise of God’s love can be especially dangerous. For every two steps forward the LGBT community takes when dealing with issues of teen suicide, hate crimes and discrimination, the shadow of religion, especially the Roman Catholic Church’s anti-gay doctrine, makes the fight for equal rights more difficult and more complex – and wrought with more hypocritical thinking than you can shake a crozier at.