Paul Vallely: Theological point that was lost in translation

The idea the Pope was 'gay-bashing' to celebrate Christmas is seriously ill-informed

Related Topics

Sometimes you can be too clever for your own good. Of no one is this more true than an intellectually-dense theologian who happens to be the leader of the world's billion Catholics. Step forward Pope Benedict XVI.

The hapless pontiff has been reported around the globe as saying that saving humanity from homosexual or trans-sexual behaviour is as important as saving the rainforest. That is not what he said at all. In fact, his end-of-year address to Vatican bureaucrats does not even mention homosexuality. There is nothing even about sexual orientation and certainly no attack on same-sex marriages.

What it does attack, rather opaquely, is gender theory – the idea that gender is not something entirely to do with what we inherit from nature, but something which is also socially constructed. Or, as the philosopher Simone de Beauvoir put it: "One is not born a woman, one becomes one."

This the Pope sees as part of a wider malaise in which human beings want to control every aspect of life, sometimes paying no respect to the natural God-given order of things. What he actually seems to have in his sights is not homosexuality, but questions of bioethics and reproductive health. His concern is more cloning and whether children born by IVF have a right to a father. What he is resisting is the sense that all manner of advances must be pursued for the glory of science without regard to whether or not they are a good idea ethically.

It's also, inevitably, about abortion. The Pope here is echoing long-standing Vatican concerns that secular visions on women's health issues, as espoused by official bodies such as the UN, are rooted in an errant view which always allows the rights of women to trump the rights of unborn children.

Part of the problem is that because his remarks were an in-house address for his staff, he spoke in impenetrable theological shorthand. They were published only in German and Italian and many of those who have written lurid headlines about attacks on homosexuality have relied on secondhand accounts. There was also just a single paragraph in the end-of-term report that flits across a huge range of subjects over just six pages – and which is most concerned with green issues and fending off traditionalist criticisms of his role in World Youth Day in Sydney earlier this year.

The Catholic Church has some pretty unappetising doctrines on homosexuality, to be sure. But the idea that the Pope was doing a bit of "gay-bashing" to celebrate Christmas is seriously ill-informed.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron faces the press as he arrives in Brussels for the EU leaders summit on Thursday reuters  

On the Tusk of a dilemma: Cameron's latest EU renegotiation foe

Andrew Grice
John Profumo and his wife Valerie Robson in 1959  

Stephen Ward’s trial was disgraceful. There can be no justification for it

Geoffrey Robertson QC
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas