Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Earth doomed: gays and feminists to blame, says Pope

I see the Pope has sent a Christmas message of compassion and understanding to gays and transsexuals, claiming (in his usual restrained style) that their behaviour is as much a threat to the planet as the destruction of the rainforests. While he was at it, Benedict condemned gender theory for blurring the distinction between male and female, something that might lead to the 'self-destruction' of the human race, no less.

What can the Pope possibly be afraid of? If he's worried that an increase in homosexuality might threaten the continuation of the race, has no one told him about the far greater threat of over-population? And where's the harm in breaking down some of the rigidities of traditional gender roles? Does he think that improved opportunities for women and a decline in machismo are bad things? Why is Catholicism so keen to sacralise particular, historically-contingent gender arrangements, and can't Benedict see that the day will come when his statement will sound as foolish as his predecessors' blessing of racial and class inequalities?

And, without wishing to be disrespectful, isn't the spectacle of a man in a frilly dress, accurately described by Andrew Sullivan as 'an effeminate, delicate intellectual', condemning gender-bending, just a little absurd? This isn't to 'out' the Pope (though wouldn't it be wonderful to have an openly gay pontiff - given that the number of gay priests is estimated to be around 30%?), but to suggest that the virulence of official Catholic hostility to non-heterosexual behaviour may stem in part from a certain unconscious defensiveness, coupled with the obvious desire to perpetuate a deeply patriarchal power structure.

As a refreshing counterblast to this deeply depressing seasonal pontification, I recommend Polly Toynbee's thoroughly secular Christmas message in today's Guardian.

Here's Andrew Sullivan on Benedict's 'calculated affronts to the dignity of homosexual persons'.

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