Negative or outright hostile statements by some of those who (mistakenly) believe they are speaking on behalf of the whole church are commonplace, and so not news worthy. This is why I bit my tongue earlier this week and o refrained from commenting on the stupidity of Cardinal Lozano Barragan, who was widely reported as saying that (active) “homosexuals will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven,” However, more supportive statements from Vatican spokesmen are less common, and so are definitely newsworthy, as are some of the other responses to Barragan. Let’s begin with Barragan’s (quoted) remarks: the exact words are relevant to make sense of some of the responses:
“People are not born homosexual, they become homosexual, for different reasons: education issues or because they did not develop their own identity during adolescence.
“Perhaps they aren’t guilty but by acting against the dignity of the body they will certainly not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”
(In fairness, I should note he did add some qualifying remarks against “passing judgement”:
“Homosexuality is therefore a sin, but this does not justify any form of discrimination. God alone has the right to judge,” the cardinal said. “We on earth cannot condemn, and as human beings we all have the same rights.”
The problem of course, is that the kind of remarks he has made are already passing juedgment, and despite all his warning, far too many people hearing them use this kind of statement as an excuse and justification not for passing not just judgment, but also sentence and execution. Hate crimes are a problem the world over. But I digress.)
Barragan’s remarks are hghly offensive, so it was good to see a rebuttal from “Vatican spokesman” Rev Federico, Lombardi (no, I don’t know on what basis he is described as a “spokesman”):
But the Vatican distanced itself from the cardinal’s comments in a statement that was highly unusual because it indirectly criticised a top Church official. Father Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman, said the conservative website on which the cardinal made his comments should not be considered an authority on Catholic thinking “on complex and delicate issues such as homosexuality”.
“It would be better, for example, to refer to the catechism of the Catholic Church, which does talk about homosexual acts as “disordered”, but takes into account the fact that “the number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible”. Homosexuals must be welcomed with respect and sensitivity, and “every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided”, he wrote, quoting the catechism.
Unfortunately, he too modifies the general tone of his remarks with a qualifier:
The catechism goes on to say that “these persons” are called to fulfil God’s will, uniting to the “sacrifice of the Lord’s cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition”.
We can guess what he means by the “difficulties” we are to bear as Christ’s cross, but he spells it out: a life of “chastity”. I see it rather differently. If we are all called in our own situations to carry the Lord’s cross, the edition we have is the abuse and hostility we endure from people like Barragan, and the woeful sexual ignorance of the rest of the church, which sustains it.
I liked some of the other responses. The Italian gay rights group, Arcigay, agreed that gay men were not likely to enter heaven – at least, not Barragan’s heaven, which is a “murky and unjust place.”
A reader at the Baltimore Sun, parodying Barrigan’s remarks, observes that “People are not born Roman Catholic. They become Catholic for different reasons: usually because their parents indoctrinate them”, and preumably develop into bigots by faulty education, or by a failure to develop a personal identity during adolescence..
Perhaps the most intriguing response came from the Catholic News Agency, which is not usually noted for its supportive stance towards gay Catholics. The CNA’s main point was that the widely reported remarks of Barragan “must have” been misquoted.
Italian Vatican analyst Andrea Tornielli said this week that the statement, “Homosexualsand transsexuals will never enter the Kingdom of God,” attributed to Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Health Care, is “very likely” an “improper synthesis on the part of the interviewer,” Italian journalist Bruno Volpe.
When such conservative pillars of the church as CAN and a “Vatican Spokesmen” are so embarrassed by clearly homophobic words that they feel the necessity to distance themselves either by countering or denying them, perhaps there is some promising change (glacially slow it might be), after all.