To the dismay of gay Catholics, Pope Benedict XVI tore into same-sex marriage, abortion, and assisted reproduction in a newly-published interview during which he also griped about being silenced and issued broad warnings that modern-day society is moving towards ostracizing anyone who opposes marriage equality.
The 93-year-old pope emeritus’ new comments, which tied same-sex marriage to the Antichrist, surfaced in a new biography about him, “Benedict XVI — A Life,” that features an interview with Benedict by journalist Peter Seewald of Germany.
“A century ago, anyone would have thought it absurd to talk about homosexual marriage,” Benedict said in the interview. “Today those who oppose it are excommunicated from society.”
Benedict continued to bemoan same-sex marriage as well as assisted reproduction, saying, “Modern society is in the middle of formulating an anti-Christian creed, and if one opposes it, one is being punished by society with excommunication. The fear of this spiritual power of the Antichrist is then only more than natural, and it really needs the help of prayers on the part of an entire diocese and of the Universal Church in order to resist it.”
The comments represent the latest in Benedict’s trend of voicing controversial remarks at a time when many expected him to fade out of the spotlight. In response to the comments, LGBTQ Catholics are voicing criticism while underscoring a message that the pope emeritus’ narrative belongs in the dustbin of history.
“Once again, the former pontiff Benedict has gone against his word and put himself in the public eye in this new book being released,” said Aaron Bianco, an out gay former pastoral associate at a Catholic Church in San Diego who was forced to resign due to vicious homophobia and harassment from alt-right groups. His story drew national attention.
“For so many LGBT members of the Church who want so desperately to belong to their rightful home and fight for a seat at the table, Benedict again knocks them down,” Bianco told Gay City News. “The gospel message of inclusion and love is so predominant in Jesus’ teaching. Why Benedict can’t see this is a shame. Benedict would be best to do as he said he would and keep quiet.”
Francis DeBernardo, the executive director of a national LGBTQ Catholic organization known as New Ways Ministry, offered a contrast between Benedict and Pope Francis, saying the current pope is preaching inclusion while his predecessor is stuck in the past. DeBernardo directly addressed Benedict’s comments about the views of same-sex marriage.
“A century ago, people would have thought it to be absurd to talk about traveling to the moon and beyond, about a vaccine for polio, and about carrying telephones that serve as small computers in our pockets,” DeBernardo said, referring to Benedict’s complaints about the way society has changed views about same-sex marriage over the last century. “Times and human understanding changes.”
He added, “Even within the Church, Pope Benedict’s ideas of equating culture war topics with extreme language like ‘antichrist’ are vanishing… Pope Benedict’s thoughts belong to an era of the Catholic Church which is nearing its end.”
The comments by Benedict, who resigned in 2013, were revealed just over one year after he penned a 6,000-word tirade blaming child sex abuse in the Catholic Church on the sexual revolution of the 1960s and cast blame on “homosexual cliques” that he said “could not provide support for preparation to the priestly vocation.”
Prior to assuming the papacy in 2005, Benedict, then known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, served his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In that role, he authored the inflammatory letter ironically titled “The Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons,” in which he wrote, “Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.”
The letter’s most disturbing section, however, involved hate crimes. There, he wrote, when gay people make claims that they are not disordered and seek civil rights protections, “neither the Church nor society at large should be surprised when other distorted notions and practices gain ground, and irrational and violent reactions increase.”
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