Reporter Jeff Rosen of Sinclair Broadcasting asked House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, at a press conference in the Capitol December 5th if she hated Donald Trump. Showing a rare sign of anger and pointing her finger directly at Rosen, Pelosi shot back with a deep sting of moral indignation in her tone that, “I don’t hate anybody. I don’t hate anybody. Not anybody in the world.”
“So, don’t you accuse me of hate. And as a Catholic, I resent your using the word ‘hate’ in a sentence that addresses me. I don’t hate anyone. I was raised in a way that is full, a heart full of love, and always pray for the president. And I still pray for the president. I pray for the president all the time. So, don’t mess with me when it comes to words like that.”
By invoking her religious upbringing and practice, she asserted her deeply held belief that Catholic doctrines and traditions compel its flock to treat people with compassion and genuine love. But while we may respect and truly admire Pelosi’s political brilliance, and though Christianity generally and specifically Catholicism may stand as “love” to many Christians, its meanings are very different for others.
Acts in the name of Jesus may reflect a glorious past for many Christians, but for others, it can and does invoke the inglorious Crusades, Inquisitions, forced conversions, a justification for religious wars “in the name of God,” Christian hegemony, and privilege for some at the expense of many.
Pope Urban II summoned the First Crusade in Clermont, France to “liberate” Jerusalem from Muslims. In the summer of 1096, as the crusade began, they murdered several thousand Jews along their way in the lands along the Rhine River, looted and destroyed their homes.
As the Crusaders stated, “Because why should we go off to attack the unbelievers in the Holy Land and leave the unbelievers in our midst untouched?” They accused Jews of being treacherous auxiliaries of Muslims. According to Pope Urban II, “Let us first avenge ourselves on them [the Jews] and exterminate them from among the nations so that the name of Israel will no longer be remembered, or let them adopt our faith.” Catholic “Love”?
When the Crusaders reached Jerusalem in 1099, they pillaged Muslim buildings and killed thousands. The massacre of the Muslim population of Jerusalem reached epic proportions. In addition, the invaders burned the synagogue on the Temple Mount to the ground with all the Jews inside.
One Crusader, an eyewitness to the event, wrote: “Men rode in blood up to their knees and bridle reins. It was a just and splendid judgment by God that this place would be filled with the blood of the unbelievers.”
The Crusades lasted from 1040 to 1350. By 1204, however, the tide began to turn against the Western European invaders, as the Mamluk Dynasty in Egypt drove them out of Palestine and Syria.
The Catholic Church, as one such religious institution, has wronged and at times murdered those who have advanced beliefs that ran contrary to Church “teachings.”
For example, the Church convicted physicist and astronomer Galileo Galilei on the charge of heresy by insisting that the Earth revolves around the Sun, rather than, as per Church teaching, the Earth was the immovable center of the universe with the Sun revolving around the Earth. The Church forced Galileo to spend the remainder of his life into the 16th century under house arrest. It took the Church under Pope Paul II approximately 350 years to finally admit that they got it wrong.
A key factor in the development of orthodox Catholic ethics since the 13th century is the concept of “Natural Law,” which includes a set of standards that the Church has inferred follow an ordering of nature.
Thomas Aquinas, a Dominican scholar born in 1225, was an early exponent of “natural law,” which asserts that morality is based on certain constraints of human nature. Aquinas believed that same-sex sexuality (and any sexual act not intended specifically for procreation, including masturbation) and gender non-conformity are vices against nature, which violate the will of God.
Joan of Arc, the teenager who helped defeat the English in her native France, became one of the greatest heroes in French history. Despite this, she was tried by the Catholic Church on the charge of heresy in rejecting Church authority in preference for direct inspiration from God, and most importantly, by donning men’s clothing. The Church murdered Joan by burning at the stake in 1431.
The “Inquisition,” begun in 12th-century France to end religious dissent, was organized by an assemblage of Catholic Church institutions. During the late Middles Ages and early Renaissance eras, the Inquisition, led by the Dominican Order, used its horrific tactics in response to the Protestant Reformation while expanding to other European countries by the 15th century, most notably Spain and Portugal and their colonial territories in Africa, Asia, and the Americas.
Spanish and Portuguese inquisitorial courts focused on Jewish anusim (forced abandonment of Judaism and conversation to Catholicism) and forced Muslim converts to Catholicism, and often expelled Jews and Muslims from the Iberian Peninsula that they had not murdered
On Sexuality and Gender Diversity
The “modern” Roman Catholic Church Catechism 2357 related to same-sex sexuality:
Basing itself upon Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered. They are contrary to natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of love [i.e., children]. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.
In January 2011, Pope Benedict XVI delivered a New Year’s speech to diplomats from approximately 180 countries, declaring that marriage for same-sex couples “threatens human dignity and the future of humanity itself,” and in 2008, during Benedict’s end-of-the-year Vatican address, he asserted that humanity needs to “listen to the language of creation” to realize the intended roles of man and woman.
He warned of the “blurring” of the natural distinctions between males and females and called for humanity to protect itself from self-destruction. The Pope compared behavior beyond traditional heterosexual relations as “a destruction of God’s work.”
The Church teaches that as embodied spiritual creatures, human beings were created male and female so that in the complementarity of the sexes, they can reflect the inner unity of the Creator. This was recognized and confirmed by the Lord Jesus who instituted the sacrament of marriage to celebrate the divine plan of the loving and life-giving union of men and women.
Pope Francis, in his relatively short time serving as the leader of the Catholic Church, has talked about inclusion and acceptance for diversity thereby, at least in his words, hoped to take the Church out of the 17th Century where it has remained stuck for some time and carry it on the wings of a dove to at least the 19th if not the 20th or 21st century regarding the concerns of LGBTQ people.
But alas, the dove has died as has the hope. His policies on topics of same-sex sexuality have remained unchanged. Even more troubling, the Pope has further tightened Church restrictions on trans identities.
The Vatican hierarchy fenced off Alex Salinas, a 21-year-old trans man from Cadiz, Spain, by informing him that it had denied his request to become the godparent of his nephew because being transgender is incongruent with Catholic teaching.
According to the Church’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, its doctrine-enforcing agency, transgender status “reveals in a public way an attitude opposite to the moral imperative of solving the problem of sexual identity according to the truth of one’s own sexuality. Therefore, it is evident that this person does not possess the requirement of leading a life according to the faith and in the position of godfather and is, therefore, unable to be admitted to the position of godfather or godmother.”
In his April 2016 letter focusing on marriage and the family titled Amoris Laetitia (“The Joy of Love”), Pope Francis sternly warned against gender affirmation procedures when he stressed that “conditioning children into believing a lifetime of chemical and surgical impersonation of the opposite sex is normal and healthful is child abuse.”
Pope Francis wrote on the archdiocesan website, July 1, 2016, that “Catholic belief, rooted in Scripture, reserves all expressions of sexual intimacy to a man and a woman covenanted to each other in a valid marriage,” calling this an “unchangeable” tenet.
And he commanded of same-sex sexual attractions:
Those with predominant same-sex attractions are therefore called to struggle to live chastely for the kingdom of God. In this endeavor, they have need of support, friendship, and understanding if they fail. They should be counseled, like everyone else, to have frequent recourse to the Sacrament of Penance, where they should be treated with gentleness and compassion.
Gentleness? Compassion? Love? How “gentle,” “compassionate,” and “loving” is it for any person or institution to extort one’s sexuality for the honor of being permitted to rest among the flock, to find acceptance from one’s family, friends, peers? How realistic is it to live in a dualistic binary separation splitting the mind from the body, in which the mind holds sway over the “sins” of the flesh?
Later, in a meeting with Bishops during his pilgrimage to Poland in July 2016, Francis talked about current times in which, “We are living a moment of annihilation of man as an image of God.” Francis referenced Pope Benedict XVI, his still-living predecessor, who branded these times as “the epoch of sin against God the Creator.”
Frances took this occasion to inflict another tirade against trans people when he warned: “Today, in schools they are teaching this to children – to children! – that everyone can choose their gender.” He condemned this on what he cited as “ideological colonizing” backed by “very influential countries,” which he did not name. One such “colonization,” he said, “I’ll say it clearly with its first and last name – is gender.”
When religious leaders preach their damaging interpretations of their sacred texts on issues of same-sex relationships or identities and gender non-conformity within and outside their respective houses of worship, they must be held accountable and responsible for aiding and abetting those who target and harass, bully, physically assault, and murder people perceived as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or trans.
Nearly every two days, a person is killed somewhere in the world for expressing gender nonconformity. The vast majority of murders are of trans women of color.
In addition, religious leaders and entire denominations must be held accountable as accomplices in the suicides of those who are the targets of these abusive actions, and who grow up in a religious denomination and larger society that teaches them to deny, to hide, and to hate themselves.
Numerous investigations have shown clear evidence that literally hundreds of Catholic priests sexually molested thousands of young people during the past decades while the Church hierarchy either ignored the incidents or simply transferred abusive priests to other parishes. An influential Catholic Bishop accused Pope Francis of engaging in an active coverup and has demanded the Pope’s resignation.
If the Church truly wishes to protect young people, it must initiate policies to turn over to local law enforcement agencies priests and other persons suspected of child sexual abuse and immediately terminate their service once charges are proven. In addition, any Church official found to have covered up such allegations must be terminated and reported to law enforcement.
The Church must permit women to achieve the highest ranks within the hierarchy including seminarians, priests, bishops, cardinals, and pope. Church patriarchal domination and dictatorial control must end!
Several organizations like Catholic Charities of Buffalo have terminated its adoption program because New York’s anti-discrimination laws ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
A few years ago, a similar decision was reached by Catholic Charities of Rockford, Illinois, an adoption and foster care agency, which shut its doors rather than place young people in the guardianship of LGBTQ people or in same-sex headed households. Illinois law mandates that any agency receiving state funds cannot discriminate against same-sex couples, and since Catholic Charities accepts such funding, it must abide by the terms of the law.
Rather than tossing out the babies while retaining the bigotry, the Catholic Church must rethink its outdated and self-destructive policies lest it finds itself tossed to the trash heap of history.
And the practice of so-called Catholic Conversion Therapy – the brutal and inhumane practice of attempting to “convert” lesbian, gay, and bisexual Catholics to heterosexuality and transgender Catholics to accept cisgender identities and means of expression – must also end, with a full apology issued from the highest levels of the Church for the damage to body and soul it has wrought.
These manipulative, tyrannical, and bogus “Christian therapies” have been harshly condemned by reputable psychiatric organizations. For example, the American Psychological Association passed a resolution, August 14, 1997, which read in part:
Whereas societal ignorance and prejudice about same-gender sexual orientation put some gay, lesbian, bisexual and questioning individuals at risk for presenting for ‘conversion’ treatment due to family or social coercion and/or lack of information…. Whereas some mental health professionals advocate treatments of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people based on the premise that homosexuality is a mental disorder…. Therefore be it resolved that the American Psychological Association opposes portrayals of lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth and adults as mentally ill due to their sexual orientation and supports the dissemination of accurate information about sexual orientation and mental health, and appropriate interventions in order to counteract bias that is based in ignorance or unfounded beliefs about sexual orientation.
In addition, the APA, in 2008, passed a resolution, “Transgender, Gender Identity, & Gender Expression” opposing “all public and private discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived gender identity and expression and urges the repeal of discriminatory laws and policies.”
The Catholic Church and other conservative religious denominations force people to accept the definition of themselves and their identities that the Church dictates. In this way, these religious institutions attempt to deprive the individual a sense of their own subjectivity and agency. These denominations promote the process of heteronormativity – where heterosexual values and ideologies of gender expression and sexuality – remain the norm.
The demographic group of “recovering Catholics” is probably the fastest-growing identity group in the United States second only to atheists and for good reason.
Though the Church faithful and religious scholars have touted Pope Francis as “the Liberal Pope,” and as the change agent of liberal reforms, and while he talks a good game, he has taken little real action in bringing the Church out of the Middle Ages into even the 16th let alone the 21st Christian century.
But possibly the time has come for the Church to fade into actual irrelevance as it has long since faded virtually.
The Catholic Church talks in doublespeak saying “we love you,” “we welcome you,” “we offer you ‘Christian love,’” and “we are here to help you change your unwanted attractions and gender behaviors,” which we, by the way, define as “gravely disordered.”
Is this love? Or does is this cruelty, discrimination, and, yes, sexuality and gender abuse?
Of course, other religions like Judaism and Islamd have perpetrated cruel actions including confiscation of land, forced expulsions, and murder against the “non-believers.” But when anyone, including Nancy Pelosi, talks about “Catholic Love” as if it is a given and as a recognized fact, she must be challenged for spreading false and, yes, fake news.
Will it take another 350 years for the Catholic Church to finally admit they got it wrong?