Sunday, 30 December 2012

Times: Is Pope Benedict a homophobe?
Saturday, December 29, 2012, 09:58 by Fr Joe Borg

The Pope’s speech to the members of the Roman Curia on December 21 brought with it accusations that the Pope is a homophobe. It is not the first time that he had been so accused; in my opinion, mistakenly.

It is said that the word homophobe was coined by George Weinberg, a psychologist, in the 1960s. It describes a person who fears or hates homosexuals and homosexuality. It includes an attitude of contempt for homosexuals and is evidenced in hostile behaviour such as discrimination and violence. Some say that homophobes are closet gays.

The attribution of the above to Pope Benedict is totally amiss. One of the subjects addressed by the Pope in the above mentioned speech was the family. During this part of the speech he made a philosophical argument, based on a study by the Chief Rabbi of France, Gilles Berheim, in favour of the concept of family made up of father, mother and child. Among other things he strongly criticised the theory that describes gender as a cultural construct and not a natural one. Benedict also outlines some of the negative consequences, which in his opinion, would naturally flow that that position. His words apply to all adherents to this theory independently of their sexual orientation.

Are we to understand that everyone except the Pope is entitled to an opinion? Are we to believe that all movements and organisations, barring the Catholic Church, can lobby for different positions?

Quite naturally it is perfectly legitimate for other people to hold radically different points of view from his. Is this not what free speech, pluralism and democracy are all about? But these concepts should be applicable for the ecclesiastical goose as much as they are applicable for the secular gander. Consequently while counter arguments are totally acceptable, the vitriolic slurs against the Pope are inappropriate. Those who say that their position can only be defended by insulting those of a different opinion are demeaning their position much more that it can be demeaned by those of an opposing opinion.

I will reproduce in full the words of the Pope on the subject hoping, perhaps against hope, that there can be a rational and intelligent discussion.

The position of the Pope

Pope Benedict said the following:

"The great joy with which families from all over the world congregated in Milan indicates that, despite all impressions to the contrary, the family is still strong and vibrant today. But there is no denying the crisis that threatens it to its foundations – especially in the western world. ... The challenges involved are manifold. First of all there is the question of the human capacity to make a commitment or to avoid commitment. ... Man's refusal to make any commitment – which is becoming increasingly widespread as a result of a false understanding of freedom and self-realization as well as the desire to escape suffering – means that man remains closed in on himself and keeps his 'I' ultimately for himself, without really rising above it. ... When such commitment is repudiated, the key figures of human existence likewise vanish: father, mother, child – essential elements of the experience of being human are lost".

"The Chief Rabbi of France, Gilles Bernheim, has shown in a very detailed and profoundly moving study that the attack we are currently experiencing on the true structure of the family, made up of father, mother, and child, goes much deeper. While up to now we regarded a false understanding of the nature of human freedom as one cause of the crisis of the family, it is now becoming clear that the very notion of being – of what being human really means – is being called into question. He quotes the famous saying of Simone de Beauvoir: 'one is not born a woman, one becomes so' (on ne naît pas femme, on le devient). These words lay the foundation for what is put forward today under the term 'gender' as a new philosophy of sexuality. According to this philosophy, sex is no longer a given element of nature, that man has to accept and personally make sense of: it is a social role that we choose for ourselves, while in the past it was chosen for us by society. ... People dispute the idea that they have a nature, given by their bodily identity that serves as a defining element of the human being. They deny their nature and decide that it is not something previously given to them, but that they make it for themselves. According to the biblical creation account, being created by God as male and female pertains to the essence of the human creature. This duality is an essential aspect of what being human is all about, as ordained by God. This very duality as something previously given is what is now disputed. ... Man calls his nature into question. From now on he is merely spirit and will. The manipulation of nature, which we deplore today where our environment is concerned, now becomes man's fundamental choice where he himself is concerned. ... But if there is no pre-ordained duality of man and woman in creation, then neither is the family any longer a reality established by creation. Likewise, the child has lost the place he had occupied hitherto and the dignity pertaining to him. Bernheim shows that now, perforce, from being a subject of rights, the child has become an object to which people have a right and which they have a right to obtain. When the freedom to be creative becomes the freedom to create oneself, then necessarily the Maker Himself is denied and ultimately man too is stripped of his dignity as a creature of God, as the image of God at the core of his being".

Best wishes for the New Year to the Editor, his staff as well as to all ecclesiastical geese and secular ganders.

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