By Kilian Melloy -
|Pope Benedict XVI|
"When Benedict XVI passes before us, we’ll kiss, man with man or woman with woman," said Carole Marylene, one of the organizers behind Queer Kissing Flashmob, reported On Top Magazine.
Marriage equality has been legal in Spain for the last five years. Benedict XVI has objected strenuously, On Top noted, claiming that social "confusion: will result from extending legal parity to gay and lesbian families.
On Top previously reported on the pontiff’s anti-gay comments. In a Sept. 13 article, the publication quoted Benedict as saying, "[T]he Church sees with concern the growing attempt to eliminate the Christian concept of marriage and family from the consciousness of society. Marriage is manifested as a lasting union of love between a man and a woman."
The pope went on to say, "The Church cannot approve of legislative initiatives that involve a re-evaluation of alternative models of married life and family. They contribute to the weakening of the principles of natural law," claimed benedict, adding that marriage parity would "also [lead] to confusion about society’s values."
The kiss-in is planned for Nov. 7 at 9:00 a.m. At that time, Benedict will proceed from the Plaza de la Catedral in Barcelona to the Sagrada Familia, a church that was begun in 1882 and is still under construction. As the pontiff passes by Queer Kissing Flashmob, the kissing will commence. A Facebook page that has since been taken down listed over 1,500 supporters who planned to take part, reported On Top Magazine; the missing page was re-created and the new page shows more than 600 supporters, suggesting that the Flashmob could have 2,000 participants or more. The event is expected to include heterosexual couples as well as gays and lesbians.
The two-day trip to Spain is slated to include an audience between the pope and the country’s monarch. The pope will also meet with the country’s Catholic bishops, reported Catholic Herald, which published a detailed itinerary of the pope’s visit on Sept. 26.
The trip to Spain follows a visit to Britain last month. While in the U.K., Benedict was protested by crowds unhappy with the church’s institutionalized homophobia, the ongoing global crisis of pedophile priests, and Benedict’s own criticisms of British anti-discrimination laws, which protect GLBT citizens. The UK also allows gay and lesbian families to enter into "civil partnerships," which are not marriage but which provide the same rights and protections as marriage.
Prior to Benedict’s arrival, the U.K.’s leading Catholic cleric, Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster, spoke of gay Catholics as being in a "difficult" place because while the church does not condemn gays as being sinful for their sexual desires, it does condemn as "inherently evil" any expression of sexuality between two individuals of the same gender. The church also condemns sex outside of marriage, but insists that marriage should not be granted to same-sex couples.
Nichols commented on the church’s condemnation of same-sex physical intimacy when asked whether the church might, at some future date, come to embrace same-sex families. "There is in the Book of Nature an inherent connection between human sexuality and procreation; and those two things cannot ultimately be totally separate," Nichols said, echoing language used by the Catholic Church in decrying same-sex families. The church teaches that the correctness of heterosexual marriage is a matter of "natural law," but also essentially denies that there is a place in nature for homosexual pair-bonding. However, Nichols added, "People who are of a homosexual orientation say: ’Well, hang on a minute. How is the Book of Nature written in me?’ "
Nichols also acknowledged, obliquely, that even heterosexual couples fall short of the church’s requirements with regard to human sexuality and family issues. Among other things, the church condemns divorce and birth control. "That tradition says human sexuality is for an expression of total self-giving in fidelity in a way that is open to the creation of new life," explained Nichols. "Now, that’s tough, that’s a high ideal. I’m not sure many people have ever observed it in its totality, but it doesn’t mean to say it has no sense."
Nichols also opined that the church’s characterization of same-sex physical affection as "sinful" was a "misguided" attempt to shepherd its followers. "Fear is never a good motivation," the archbishop opined. "The whole point of the Catholic journey is that it is a journey, and we try to hold together high ideals and understanding. That is the same for people who struggle in whatever way with their sexuality. It’s an aim."
The archbishop’s comments drew fire from Catholic conservatives, who were quick to say that his failure to hew strictly to the church’s teachings endangered children, though without offering details of what form such "endangerment" took.
The papal visit to the U.K. was also criticized by Brits unhappy with the $32 million taxpayer tab attached to the trip. "Why should I, as a lesbian taxpayer, pay for his state visit when he is opposed to women’s rights to contraception, opposed to gays and gay marriage and opposed to human rights?" asked one protester, Calu Lema.
GLBT equality advocate Peter Tatchell summarized that objection and other points of contention in a speech he delivered in August that was critical of the Catholic hierarchy. "On so many important social issues, the Pope rejects human rights," Tatchell declared. "Pope Benedict opposes women’s ordination. Women are deemed unfit to preach the gospel," Tatchell said. "This is pure patriarchy, sexism and misogyny.
"The Pope says artificial contraception is a sin," Tatchell added. "He condemns poor parents to having large families that they can’t care for adequately. In some countries, priests spread the lie that contraception makes women sick." Tatchell also criticized the papal stance on in vitro fertilization and stem cell research, before addressing one particularly inflammatory point.
"Benedict XVI has denounced the use of condoms, even to stop the spread of HIV," Tatchell declared. "He has also claimed that condom usage may ’increase’ the rate of HIV infection. His dishonest teachings discourage a proven way to reduce HIV transmission, thereby putting millions of lives at risk."
As for the pope’s record on GLBT issues in general, Tatchell noted, "In 1992, When he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he authored a Vatican document that condemned homosexuality as an ’objective disorder’ and a ’strong tendency ordered towards an intrinsic moral evil.’ Rejecting the concept of gay human rights, the document asserted that there is no ’right’ to laws protecting homosexual people against discrimination, suggesting that the civil liberties of lesbians and gay men can be ’legitimately limited for objectively disordered external conduct.’ "
Tatchell went on to recollect, "The Pope has attacked same-sex marriages as ’evil’ and vilified supporters of gay equality as ’gravely immoral.’ He has also denounced homosexual equality as a ’deviant trend’ and condemned same-sex love as being ’without any social value.’ He even threatened to excommunicate Catholic legislators who voted for gay rights laws.
"While condemning loving, consenting adult same-sex relations, the Pontiff played a role in shielding Catholic clergy guilty of child sex abuse from prosecution," Tatchell added. "In 2001, Pope Benedict wrote a letter to all Catholic Bishops, which ordered papal silence concerning allegations of child sex abuse. He instructed the bishops to report all such cases to him in Rome, so the idea that he did not know about sex abuse by priests is nonsense. His letter did not tell Bishops to report the abusers to the police."
Benedict’s visit to the U.K. marked only the second visit there by a pontiff. John Paul II visited Britain in 1982, where he was met with cheering throngs.