Monday, April 04, 2005

Pope Dies (365

by Malcolm Thornberry European Bureau Chief

Posted: April 2, 2005 2:59 pm ET Updated: 10:11 pm ET

(Vatican City) Pope John Paul II has died ending what is regarded as the most homophobic pontificate in history.

The Pope has been a constant voice of opposition to gay civil rights, same-sex marriage, and the use of condoms to prevent AIDS.

As Catholics around the world began to mourn John Paul II, The Rainbow Sash, an international organization of LGBT Catholics, remembered a pope of contradictions.

On the one hand, John Paul was a man of personal integrity, single minded dedication to what he perceived to be his duty, and had a commitment to an almost mystical holiness of life.

On the other, "what cannot be said of this Pope is that he reached out to the Gay and Lesbian Community," Rainbow Sash said in a statement .

"With all his journeys this was one journey he could not, or would not take. He believed in Universal Truths, he could not allow those truths to be challenged in any way, especially by the reality of Gay and Lesbian lives."

The Pope's most recent attack on gays and lesbians came in his final book, "Memory and Identity," published last month. (story)

The pope writes that gay marriage is "insidious" and "attempts to pit human rights against the family and against man."

He also writes that lawmakers must resist the "pressures" put on them to legalize same-sex unions.

In January, in a meeting with diplomats accredited to the Vatican the Pope said that families "must necessarily be that of a union between a man and a woman founded on marriage."

A month earlier, in a pre-Christmas message the Pope accused gays of an "aggressive attempt to legally undermine the family." (story)

"Attacks on marriage and the family, from an ideological and legal aspect, are becoming stronger and more radical every day," he said in a statement to be read in churches worldwide.

"Who destroys this fundamental fabric causes a profound injury to society and provokes often irreparable damage."

Last June, shortly after Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero announced he would bring in a bill to legalize gay marriage, he was summoned to the Vatican for a severe tongue lashing from John Paul. (story)

In a private audience the pope told Zapatero that his government must conserve ethical and moral values rooted in its Christian culture.

Following the 15 minute meeting the two emerged and the pope read a public address to Zapatero in which he made clear his concern about gay marriage, telling him that the Spanish government must "give due attention to ethical values that are so rooted in the religious and cultural tradition of the population."

Zapatero later said he appreciated the Pope's view but had no intention of dropping the legislation.

Last summer, in advance of the US election, President Bush met with the Pope at the Vatican. (story) Bush implored the Pope to increase Catholic condemnation of gay marriage in the weeks leading up to the election, and that the request also was made by the president to senior Vatican officials.

Shortly after the meeting US bishops stepped up their assaults on same-sex marriage, becoming actively involved in campaigns in 11 states where constitutional bans on gay marriage were on the ballot. Voters in all 11 states approved the amendments.

The Pope and other Vatican officials have called for the repeal of gay rights legislation passed by the European Union.

Two years ago, the Vatican released a 12 page directive to priests around the world calling for a proactive stand to stop governments from legalizing same-sex marriage and for a repeal of those those already on the books that give rights, including adoption, to gay couples. (story)

"Legal recognition of homosexual unions or placing them on the same level as marriage would mean not only the approval of deviant behavior ... but would also obscure basic values which belong to the common inheritance of humanity," the document said.

On the subject of HIV/AIDS, the Pope in January attacked the use of condoms, (story) after a leading Spanish prelate said that bishops support the use of contraceptives to fight AIDS. The prelate quickly backtracked after the Vatican intervened.

Education, chastity and sexual fidelity are the responsible methods to combat AIDS, the Pope said.

John Paul's pontificate was also marked by the priest abuse scandal in the US. The Vatican turned a blind eye as abusive priests were moved from parish to parish.

When the scandal broke the Church was slow in cooperating with law enforcement and fought lawsuits brought by abuse victims.

But, John Paul is also credited with helping bring about the end of Communism, speaking out against the war in Iraq, and mending fences with the Jewish community. Early in pontificate there was an assassination attempt on him. Years later he met the man convicted of the attempt and said he forgave him.

Cardinals will gather in Rome to chose a successor. That person likely will continue the Church's assault on gays. The leading candidates were all appointed by John Paul and are all theological conservatives.

© 2005


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