In his annual address to the Roman Curia, Pope Benedict mentioned that the Church cannot accept "gender ideology" because it is contrary to God's design for the human person. No one even vaguely familiar with Church teachings could possibly have been surprised by the Pope's statement; it reflects the constant teaching of the Church. Yet dozens of commentators have professed shock that the Pontiff would dare say such a thing.
The Pope's speech that ran for several pages, and the reference to sexuality occupied a couple of sentences. That didn't matter. It is axiomatic, among critics of Catholicism, that the Church is obsessed with sex. So when a Catholic leader says something about sexuality, the media fixate on it. Never mind the other 3,500 words of the papal address; these 50 words are the important ones-- the only important ones-- because they're about sex.
The Pope spoke to the Curia about the Synod of Bishops and the preaching of the Word of God.
Oh, yeah, sure. I know. But what did he say about sex?
The Pope spoke about World Youth Day and the missionary impulse of the Pauline year.
Sure, sure. All that stuff. What'd he say about sex?
The Pope spoke about protecting the environment, and saving humans from inhuman ideologies.
See? See?! He's obsessed! He can't let it go!
The newspaper headlines convey the sense of frenzy:
Pope Benedict at Christmas: Preaching bigotry disguised as compassion (San Francisco Chronicle)
Pope's Anti-Gay Remarks Spur Controversy (Sofia)
Gay groups angry at Pope remarks (BBC)
and my favorite example of hysteria:
Pope says gays could end human race (The First Post)
The UPI story is headlined more soberly: "Pope's speech draws criticism from gays." That's accurate, at least; gay activists did indeed criticize the Pope. Still it's telling that UPI felt the criticism was noteworthy. When was the last time gay activists did not criticize the Pope? For that matter, why do we need to know what gay activists think about the Pope's year-end discussions with the Roman Curia? What did the Albigensians think of the Pope's speech? Did proponents of the gold standard have any strong opinions? UPI readers will never know. Instead the UPI story informs us:
Gay and lesbian activists say a speech by Pope Benedict XVI comparing homosexuality to global warming was irresponsible and encouraged homophobia.
Irresponsible: an interesting word. Is it responsible for journalists to fasten on one passage from a text? Is it responsible to seek reactions exclusively from those activists who will predictably denounce the speaker? The Pope is not encouraging homophobia; he's encouraging Christianity. What are the media encouraging?
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