Another unholy mess created by a message from the Pope

The Pope ruined my Christmas.

What is it about the Judeo-Christian-Islamic religious tradition that leads so many of its most prominent spokespersons to make hateful, bigoted, life-diminishing and personal security-endangering statements when it comes to human sexuality? Perhaps there was something inherent in the environment and culture of the Fertile Crescent, and of the Middle East in general, that predisposed the religions it brought forth to declare anathema anything other than abstinence and heterosexual behaviour (the latter only in a setting of monogamy or polygyny, not polyandry, of course).  Even so, one would have hoped that the civilising influence of Greek and Hellenistic culture would have filtered most of the sexual bigotry out of the European religious mainstream, and out of its offshoots in the former European colonies.

Apparently not.  The current Pope, Benedict XVI is right at home in the abhorrent main-stream Christian tradition of sexual intolerance.  In his address Christmas greetings to the members of the Roman Curia and Prelature (December 22, 2008)’ (available thus far only in German and Italian from the Vatican website), the Pope makes a number of extremist, bigoted and intolerant statements about homosexuality and transsexuality.

People are responsible for those results of their words and actions that can reasonably be foreseen.  Those uttering the statements or carrying out these acts may not have intended these consequences.  They may even deplore them.  If, however, these consequences could be foreseen even by a bear of very little brain, let alone by a pontiff with, by all accounts, a mass of grey matter between the ears, then the person using these words or engaging in these actions is responsible even for these unintended consequences.  This statement by the Pope will lead to more harassment of homosexuals  and transgendered persons and to more discrimination against them in a range of activities, including participation in religious worship.  It will probably lead to more acts of violence against homosexuals and transsexuals.

In his address, Pope Benedict argues that saving humanity from homosexual or transsexual behaviour is as important as saving the rain forest from destruction.  He also urged humanity to listen to the “language of creation” to understand the intended roles of man and woman.  Finally, he argued that behaviour beyond traditional heterosexual relations between a man and woman (married – preferably to each other) was a “destruction of God’s work”.

How a man reputed to be as educated and intelligent as Benedict XVI can confuse the accumulated prejudice of centuries of dysfunctional organised religion with the message of the founder of Christianity is a mystery to me.  Christ, as far as we know from the gospels, never said a word about homosexuality – let along about transgender sexuality.  We don’t know whether He was single, married or divorced, monogamous or polygamous, straight,  gay, or interested in transgender sexuality.  We know nothing of Him between His early teens and His early thirties.  When He starts His ministry He travels around with 12 male disciples and associates with a number of female camp followers.  We know He liked wine – His first miracle was to change water into wine – but know nothing of His other interest, hobbies and vices.

Christ taught us to love God and to love our neighbour as ourself – the two Great Commandments from both the Old and the New Testaments.  If  my neighbour is gay, lesbian, transgendered or transsexual, God’s glory is revealed in his or her  sexuality as much as it is in the sexuality of my heterosexual neighbour or in the voluntary abstinence of the Pope.  If my neighbour is an adult and wishes to express his sexuality with another consenting adult, that sexual sharing is blessed by God regardless of whether is it homosexual, transgender or heterosexual, whenever it enhances the humanity of the other.  Did God make a mistake when She allowed homosexuality to evolve in the human species, as it has in countless other animals?  Or was She only joking?

Surely, whether something qualifies as right or wrong, moral or immoral, righteous or sinful depends on whether the act, the deed or the behaviour is both motivated by and expresses respect and love for all  others affected by it?  Homosexuality and homosexual behaviour, transgender sexualty and sexual behaviour and any form of sexuality and sexuality that does not hurt or diminish others but confirms and affirms them, cannot possibly contradict the teachings of Christ.  His church, unfortunately, is another matter.   When the teachings of an institutional expression of Christianity like the Roman Catholic Church are so radically at variance with the fundamental teachings of the founder of the religion, voluntary receivership and liquidation, with the proceeds distributed amongst the wretched of the earth,  may be the best solution.

I consider the Pope’s views on sexuality, as expressed in his 22 December statement, to be a violation of everything Christ taught us and stood for.  It is deeply un-Christian and must be rejected and fought wherever similar hateful prejudice and bigotry rear their ugly heads.

Maverecon: Willem Buiter

Willem Buiter's blog ran until December 2009. This blog is no longer active but it remains open as an archive.

Professor of European Political Economy, London School of Economics and Political Science; former chief economist of the EBRD, former external member of the MPC; adviser to international organisations, governments, central banks and private financial institutions.

Willem Buiter's website

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