UC Riverside professor Jennifer Scheper Hughes, who has studied Benedict’s reaction to liberation theology in Latin America both before and during his papacy, suggests that he leaves a painful legacy for Roman Catholics in the region. Says Hughes,
“Both as Cardinal Ratzinger and as Pope, Benedict devoted himself to a process of undermining, silencing, and marginalizing the theologians, priests, and religious who committed themselves to the liberation of the poor. His legacy in Latin America is precisely this: the systematic dismantling of the infrastructure of liberation theology. Some in Latin America may hope that this period of antagonism has now come to a close. Others are, by now, far more cynical.”
DignityUSA, the advocacy group for LGBT Catholics, has called on supporters “for a period of prayer and reflection as we prepare for the conclave” to elect a new pope who may put an “end to statements that inflict harm on already marginalized people, depict us as less than fully human, and lend credence to those seeking to justify discrimination.”
“It’s hard to identify a figure who has been more oppressive to LGBT people in the religious world than Pope Benedict,” says DignityUSA Executive Director Marianne Duddy-Burke.
From the labeling of homosexuality as “objectively disordered” and “intrinsically evil” in magisterial documents he developed as a cardinal, to condemnations of transgendered people as mentally ill, to more recent attacks on marriage equality as a deterrent to world peace, says Duddy-Burke, the current pope has actively worked to undermine the full equality of LGBT people and denigrated their human dignity. Duddy-Burke notes that the announcement of Benedict’s retirement on the eve of the Christian Lenten season provides an opportunity for deep reflection on the harm such words and actions do within and beyond the Church. She hopes such reflection will fuel action among the faithful in the pews.
The condom use issue has apparently (according to the report I’ve quoted below) been “studied” for awhile now at the Vatican, which was also apparently going to issue some sort of paper on the subject awhile back, but didn’t due to opposition.
Vatican spokespeople are scrambling to make it crystal clear that the Pope’s statement was in no way a change from the Church’s current position on contraception, and of course it isn’t. I find it hard to believe anyone would think that it is; the Pope seemed to me to be very clear that the discussion revolved around the disease prevention rather than contraception.
A lot of non-Catholics, of course, will still be thinking, “OMG, the Catholic Church is still so old-fashioned and backwards!”. Many US Catholics feel the same way. What many Catholics realize, however, that many non-Catholics might not, is what a big deal the Pope’s statements were, given that the Vatican is an institution that measures time in terms of centuries, not years or even decades, and its processes involve rounds of discussion, research, contemplation, writing, and that cycle repeats over and over again, which makes for a very very slow process for addressing any issue.
(CBS/AP) Pope Benedict XVI wanted to “kick-start a debate” when he said some condom use may be justified, Vatican insiders say, raising hopes and fears that the church may be starting to back away from its condom ban for its flock of 1 billion Catholics.
Benedict said in an interview that for some people, such as male prostitutes, using condoms could be assuming moral responsibility because the intent was to reduce infection. The pope did not suggest using condoms as birth control, which is banned by the church, or mention the use of condoms by female prostitutes.
Theologians have long been studying the possibility of condoning such limited condom use as a lesser evil. There were reports years ago that the Vatican was considering a document on the subject, but opposition to any change has apparently blocked publication.
One Vatican official said Monday he believes the pope just “decided to do it” and get a debate going.
For the deeply conservative Benedict, it seemed like a bold leap into modernity - and the worst nightmare of many at the Vatican. The pope’s comments set off a firestorm among Catholics, politicians and health workers that is certain to reverberate for a long time despite frantic damage control at the Vatican.
In a sign of the tensions within the Vatican, the Holy See’s chief spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, rushed out a statement to counter any impression that the church might lift its ban on artificial birth control. Lombardi stressed that the pope’s comment neither “reforms or changes” church teaching.
“The reasoning of the pope cannot certainly be defined as a revolutionary turn,” he said.
While much of the world hailed Benedict’s statement, seeing it as a major step toward lifting the church ban, conservatives were mortified and insist the pontiff was not “justifying” condom use from a theological point of view.
True, Benedict made only a tiny opening, but he stepped where no pope has gone since Pope John Paul II’s 1968 encyclical “Humane Vitae” that was supposed to have closed debate on church policy barring Catholics from using condoms and other artificial means of contraception.
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Some Catholic believers in the Americas greeted Pope Benedict XVI’s comments on condoms as a sign that the church was stepping into the modern debate in the fight against AIDS, though the church was adamant Sunday that nothing has changed in its views banning contraception.
Churchgoers had praise and wariness for the pope’s comments that condoms could be morally justified in some limited situations, such as for male prostitutes wanting to prevent the spread of HIV.
Others cautioned it could open a doctrinal Pandora’s box. And the exact meaning of what the pope said was still up for interpretation.
Pope Benedict XVI says that condom use is acceptable “in certain cases”, notably “to reduce the risk of infection” with HIV, in a book due out Tuesday, apparently softening his once hardline stance.
In a series of interviews published in his native German, the 83-year-old Benedict is asked whether “the Catholic Church is not fundamentally against the use of condoms.”
“It of course does not see it as a real and moral solution,” the pope replies.
“In certain cases, where the intention is to reduce the risk of infection, it can nevertheless be a first step on the way to another, more humane sexuality,” said the head of the world’s 1.1 billion Catholics.