Catholic

March against Pope’s intolerance

Cameron urged to “distance” from Pope’s “bigoted” views

Saturday 18 September 2010
Assemble 1.30pm Hyde Park Corner, London W1K 1QZ (by the start of Piccadilly)
March to Downing Street for a rally at 3.30pm

This Saturday’s Protest the Pope march and rally will condemn the Pope’s sexism and homophobia, his collusion with the cover up of child sex abuse, and his welcome back into the church of the holocaust-denying bishop, Richard Williamson.

The British government is being urged to publicly distance itself from the Pope’s “bigoted, backward” teachings.

Speakers at the rally include Richard Dawkins, Catholic priest Father Bernard Lynch, President of the National Secular Society Terry Sanderson, Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association Andrew Copson, LGBT human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, science writer Ben Goldacre, sex abuse survivor, Sue Cox, Iranian secularist Maryam Namazie and Asian feminist campaigner Pragna Patel of Southall Black Sisters.

Protest the Pope co-organiser Peter Tatchell said:

“We are urging David Cameron and Nick Clegg to disassociate the British government from the Pope’s often harsh, intolerant views.

“Pope Benedict XVI does not deserve the honour of a State Visit. He says women are unfit to be priests, childless couples should be denied fertility treatment and potentially life-saving embryonic stem cell research ought to be banned. The Pope insists that rape victims should be denied an abortion, using condoms to stop the spread of HIV is immoral and gay people are not entitled to equal human rights. On all these issues, Benedict is out of step with the majority of British people, including many Catholics.

“Most shockingly, the Pope is accused of covering up child sex abuse by clergy. In 2001, he wrote to every Catholic bishop in the world, ordering them to report all child sex abuse cases to him in Rome. They did. He therefore cannot claim that he was unaware of sex abuse. Moreover, his letter to the bishops demanded that they observe ‘Papal secrecy.’ It did not advise them to report abusers to the police.

“Even today, the Pope refuses to open the Vatican’s sex abuse files and hand them to the relevant police forces worldwide. Many people see his inaction as collusion with sex crimes against children. Such a person should not be feted by our government,” said Mr Tatchell.

Details of the Protest the Pope march and rally on 18 September:

http://www.protest-the-pope.org.uk/2010/07/march-and-rally-main-event-for-the-protest-the-pope-campaign/

Info about other Protest the Pope events:

http://www.protest-the-pope.org.uk/category/events/upcoming/

Pope cover up of gay Cardinal Newman

Letters reveal Newman loved Father Ambrose St. John

“He was my earthy light…I was his first and last,” wrote Newman

This Sunday, Pope Benedict will make a saint of the nineteenth century English theologian, Cardinal John Henry Newman, while denying the strong evidence that Newman was gay and loved Father Ambrose St John.

The Pope’s sainting of Newman will take place near Birmingham, England, on Sunday, during his current Papal tour of Britain.

“Newman and St John were mentally and spiritually in love; sharing a long-term same-sex relationship. They were inseparable. They lived together for over 30 years, like a married husband and wife,” said human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who has studied the evidence of Newman’s homosexual orientation.

See here:
http://www.google.co.uk/books?id=b6O01T7JsvQC&printsec=frontcover&dq=Alan+Bray,+The+Friend&lr=&as_brr=0&ei=YYi2SNrXCJWyyQSXuZSGBw&sig=ACfU3U3yK482o_HYMtOEdWS5WlnllgqrmQ#PPA290,M1

“Newman wrote in his diary about Ambrose’s love for him: ‘From the first he loved me with an intensity of love, which was unaccountable.’ He later added: ‘As far as this world was concerned, I was his first and last,’” added Mr Tatchell.

“Newman also stated that St John had come to him as the angel Raphael came to Tobias, as Ruth to Naomi.

“Reflecting on St John’s death, Newman stated: ‘This is the greatest affliction I have had in my life….he was my earthly light.’

“Newman and St John were buried side-by-side in the same grave when Newman died in 1890. It was what Newman wanted. He wrote to his executors shortly before his death stating emphatically: ‘I wish, with all my heart, to be buried in Father Ambrose St John’s grave – and I give this as my last, my imperative will.’

“It is impossible to know whether the relationship between Newman and St John involved a sexual dimension. Equally, it is impossible to be certain that it did not. There is no proof that Newman was heterosexual or that he abstained from sex. The Pope cannot substantiate these claims.

“To err on the side of caution, it is likely that both men had a gay orientation but chose to abstain from sex. Sexual abstinence does not, however, alter a person’s orientation. A person can be gay and sublimate their gayness into spiritual and other non-sexual relations and pursuits.

“Ahead of making Newman a saint, the Vatican has sought to suppress knowledge of Newman’s relationship with St John. Last year, against Newman’s wishes, it ordered that his grave be dug up, in order to separate the two men and to turn Newman’s bones into holy relics. However, the grave was empty. His remains had fully decomposed. The Vatican’s heartless plans were thwarted by nature. 

“This homophobic desecration of Newman’s grave and the denial of Newman’s gayness is entirely consistent with the Vatican’s long-standing cover up of its many past and present gay priests, bishops, cardinals and popes. Pope Benedict has a well-known anti-gay agenda. He is too bigoted to concede that Newman loved a man.

“Newman was, of course, unaware that he might one day achieve sainthood. But he was mindful that the church might, after his death, seek to intervene in determining the placement of his remains. Although a modest man, he was conscious of his international status as a Cardinal and an esteemed Catholic theologian. He feared there might be attempts after he died to transfer his body to a mausoleum. That is why Newman three times added notes to his instructions to his executors which, according to the scholarship of the Christian historian Alan Bray, variously “confirm”, “insist” and “command” that he be buried with St John.
http://www.google.co.uk/books?id=b6O01T7JsvQC&printsec=frontcover&dq=Alan+Bray,+The+Friend&lr=&as_brr=0&ei=YYi2SNrXCJWyyQSXuZSGBw&sig=ACfU3U3yK482o_HYMtOEdWS5WlnllgqrmQ#PPA290,M1

“Nothing could be clearer. Newman was absolutely insistent that should be buried forever alongside the man with whom he shared his life, home and love.

“The Pope’s spin doctors have gone out of their way to rubbish claims that Newman was gay. He was a cardinal and deeply devout, they say; claiming that such a person would never have a gay relationship. This is nonsense. Thousands of Catholic priests, and even some bishops and cardinals, are gay and have active same-sex relationships.

“The Catholic hierarchy denies the Newman’s homosexuality in the same way that it denies the existence of thousands of gay clerics and in the same way that it has lied about sex abusing priests and has covered up their crimes against children.

“The Vatican is well known for lying and suppressing the truth. It lied, for example, in its anti-safe sex propaganda which claimed that condoms have tiny holes through which the HIV virus can pass.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2003/oct/09/aids

“The lies and denials about Newman should be treated with the same contempt.

“Although we cannot know for certain, it is not unreasonable to believe that Cardinal Newman might have had a loving, stable, long-term same-sex relationship. The passion of his letters and writings about Ambrose suggest this possibility.

“Down the ages, lots of clergy have had gay relationships. Indeed, at least a quarter of the current Catholic priesthood is estimated to be gay. Many are in long-term gay relationships. Why should anyone be surprised by the suggestion that Cardinal Newman might have had a same-sex relationship? It would not be extraordinary. It is fairly normal in the priesthood.

“Newman was not exactly macho. His soft, gentle, effeminate demeanour is typical of what we often associate with some gay men (and some straight men too). There were allegations during his lifetime about his circle of young homosexual friends. Platonic relations and close friendships with women did not feature at all in his life,” said Mr Tatchell. 

Perhaps we should look to Newman’s memorial stone at Birmingham Oratory for clues. It has an inscription that could be read as a posthumous coming out concerning their relationship:

“Ex umbris et imaginibus in veritatem” (from shadow and images into truth)

Some people say that Newman’s body lying in a grave with the body of Father Ambrose reveals the truth about their love and relationship.

March against Pope’s homophobia

Gay speakers headline anti-Pope march & rally

Saturday 18 September 2010
Assemble 1.30pm Hyde Park Corner, London W1K 1QZ (by the start of Piccadilly)
March to Downing Street for a rally at 3.30pm

This Saturday’s Protest the Pope march and rally will condemn the Pope’s opposition to gay equality and his claim that all gay people posses a tendency towards “evil.”

Many of the leading speakers at the rally are gay, including Catholic priest Father Bernard Lynch, President of the National Secular Society Terry Sanderson, Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association Andrew Copson and LGBT human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.

Other (non-gay) speakers include Richard Dawkins, science writer Ben Goldacre, sex abuse survivor Sue Cox, Iranian secularist Maryam Namazie and Asian feminist campaigner Pragna Patel of Southall Black Sisters.

Protest the Pope co-organiser Peter Tatchell said:

“In 1986 and 1992, when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Pope authored a Vatican document that condemned homosexuality as an ‘objective disorder’ and a strong tendency 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.’ He said discrimination against LGBT people was justified in professions such as teaching, youth work and the military.

http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Some+considerations+concerning+the+Catholic+response+to+legislative…-a0128671084

“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 deny mass and excommunicate Catholic legislators who voted for gay rights laws,” said Mr Tatchell.

Details of the Protest the Pope march and rally on 18 September:

http://www.protest-the-pope.org.uk/2010/07/march-and-rally-main-event-for-the-protest-the-pope-campaign/

Info about other Protest the Pope events:

http://www.protest-the-pope.org.uk/category/events/upcoming/

EuroPride 2006

Peter Tatchell mocks the Pope’s homophobia at EuroPride, London, 1 July 2006.
[Photo: Andy Harley, UK Gay News]

Guardian: How gay is too gay?

In fact, in this country at least, it can be argued that the major religions between them constitute the last great bastion of official homophobia. As David Allison of Outrage!, another gay rights group, puts it: “The churches have stood against every form of social progress since the year dot. The further people go towards civil liberties, the less reliant they are on the church.”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2005/nov/30/religion.gayrights

Gay Protest Disrupts Cardinal Winning Lecture

Gay campaigners protesting against Section 28 interrupted a lecture by Cardinal Winning in Croydon, south London, on the evening of Tuesday, 7th March.

The brief peaceful protest took place in St. Mary’s Catholic Church Hall, where the Cardinal was giving the 12th annual Cobb Memorial Lecture, in honour of the First World War conscientious objector, Charles Cobb.

The Cardinal’s lecture was on the themes of social justice, respect and solidarity.

Twenty minutes into his lecture, when Cardinal Winning was extolling the importance of respecting other people, Peter Tatchell of OutRage!, who was sitting in the audience, shouted out: “Why don’t you respect gay people? Why do you oppose gay human rights?”

Ignoring the interjection, the Cardinal continued his lecture.

Six members of the gay rights group OutRage! then walked onto the platform and surrounded Cardinal Winning, holding up placards emblazoned with the words “Stop Crucifying Queers” and “Apologise for Church Homophobia”.

Mr. Tatchell took the microphone and criticised the Cardinal’s support for laws that discriminate against lesbians and gay men. Another OutRage! member, Huw Williams, shouted at Cardinal Winning: “It’s about time you stopped supporting discrimination”.

Church officials ripped down the placards and tried unsucessfully to hustle the protesters off the platform.

The police were called and eventually the protesters left peacefully. One member of OutRage! was arrested but was later released without charge outside the meeting.

“It is hypocritical for Cardinal Winning to talk about justice, respect and solidarity, when he denies these things to lesbians and gay men”, said Peter Tatchell.

“Inviting the Cardinal to give this lecture is an insult to the memory of Charles Cobb. Whereas Cobb took a stand against injustice, Cardinal Winning endorses the injustice of antigay discrimination.

“Cardinal Winning opposes gay equality on Section 28, the age of consent, marriage, employment, military service and the fostering and adoption of children.

“He has condemned love between people of the same sex as a ‘disorder’ and ‘perversion’, and he endorses the Catholic catechism’s denunciation of homosexuality as a ‘grave depravity’”, said Mr. Tatchell.

PHOTOS: ISF news agency – 01628-54.25.54

PHOTOS: Piers Allerdyce – 0976-72.43.90

FURTHER INFORMATION: Peter Tatchell – 020-74.03.17.90

Time to Apologise for 2000 Years of Christian Homophobia

An Open Letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury

Archbishop of Canterbury,
Lambeth Palace,
London SE1 7JU

14th December, 1999

Dear George Carey,

You and your church will shortly mark the Millennium by celebrating 2,000 years of Christianity. But many lesbians and gay men will not be celebrating with you. We will be mourning two millennia of Christian homophobia, which has inflicted terrible pain on homosexual people.

The church has incited prejudice, discrimination and violence against queers for 20 centuries.

Over the last 2,000 years, church homophobia has led to hundreds of millions of homosexuals worldwide being rejected and reviled by their families, driven to depression and suicide, discriminated against by antigay laws, and condemned to death for the ’sin’ of sodomy.

The church has never expressed any remorse for its persecution of queers. Your Millennium address is an opportunity to atone for the genocide inflicted on us. We ask you to express your sorrow for the church’s crimes against queer humanity, and to apologise to the lesbian and gay community.

Leviticus 20:13 demands that homosexuals be put to death. For over 1,800 years, the Christian churches followed that Biblical injunction, sponsoring a Homo Holocaust and organising the mass murder of queers.

We were stoned to death in antiquity, burned alive during the medieval era, and, in this country, hanged from gallows until the mid-nineteenth century.

This slaughter of sodomites was conducted in Britain by the church itself prior to the 1500’s, and thereafter by the State — with the official blessing of your predecessors, the Archbishops of Canterbury.

While the church no longer advocates the death penalty for homosexuals, it still preaches a gospel of sexual apartheid, arguing that homosexuality should not be accorded the same moral or legal status as heterosexuality.

This straight supremacist doctrine is used to justify the treatment of queers as second class citizens. Most Christians, including yourself, continue to support discrimination against gay people with regard to the age of consent, marriage, employment and fostering and adoption.

The time has come for Christian contrition. An apology is long overdue for the suffering inflicted on queers by the church.

Peter Tatchell
OutRage!

Decima Exhibition: Art or Blasphemy?

The Catholic Media Office and Evangelical Alliance have written to complain about the exhibition “Was Jesus a Homosexual?” currently on show at London’s Decima Gallery.

Although the Catholic Media Office declined to send anyone to view the exhibition, the Evangelical Alliance sent a Free Presbyterian priest (the same extremist sect as the notorious Rev. Dr. Ian Paisley) on the evening of Saturday, 10th March, to protest against the exhibition.

While some of the exhibits apparently offend doctrinaire Christians with no sense of humour, the artists have obviously derived great satisfaction from producing their work. Items include a “brass rubbing” by Gilbert & George, and Prof. James Kirkup’s poem “The Love That Dares To Speak Its Name” which led in the 1970’s to the prosecution of “Gay News” by Mrs. Mary Whitehouse.

Evidence supporting the thesis that Jesus was gay was uncovered in 1958: as reported by OutRage! before the 1998 Lambeth Conference. The presbyterian priest, believing homosexuality to be a sin, considered this notion blasphemous.

Rart & Sete
“Fuc King Wan King Suc King Spun King” 1999 (detail)
Shane Wheatcroft
“The Sins of Saint Sebastian” 1999
Shane Wheatcroft
“Sleazus H Christ” 1999

The exhibition runs until Sunday, 18th April. The Gallery is at 3, Decima Studios, Decima Road, London SE1; tel/fax 020-74.03.60.20.

Sweden, Ecce Homo

The “Ecce Homo” exhibition by Swedish artist Elisabeth Ohlson last summer was held in Sweden’s most important cathedral, Uppsala.

The exhibition included a controversial painting of the Last Supper, depicting Jesus in high heels and the Apostles in drag: but was defended by Lutheran Archbishop Hammar, and indeed by all the Swedish bishops bar one.

When the Pope then cancelled an audience with the Archbishop, Hammar held a press conference, stating that “as a church leader, I’m not only an institution, I have a duty to push for development”.

What do YOU know about Cardinal Ratzinger’s Sexuality

Information sought about Vatican Homophobe

OutRage! needs information about Cardinal Ratzinger, head of the Vatican’s Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, (which is responsible for defining Roman Catholic doctrine and keeping Catholic clergy and theologians in line). What do you know about his sexuality? Is there someone you know who might have inside knowledge? We need details that can be corroborated. Can you help?

We do not know whether Ratzinger is gay: but, if he is, he deserves to be outed because he is arguably the most homophobic of all Vatican leaders, being responsible for two of the most virulently antigay declarations ever made by the Catholic leadership.

In 1986, Cardinal Ratzinger wrote the infamous Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons. Ratzinger wrote that a homosexual orientation, even if the person is totally celibate, is a “tendency” toward an “intrinsic moral evil”. Moreover, a homosexual inclination is both an “objective disorder” and a “moral disorder”, which is “contrary to the creative wisdom of God”. “Special concern and pastoral attention should be directed towards those who have this condition, lest they be led to believe that the living out of this orientation in homosexual activity is a morally acceptable option. It is not.” Ratzinger’s 1986 Letter concludes that pastoral care for homosexual persons should include “the assistance of the psychological, sociological and medical sciences”, and that “all support should be withdrawn from any organisations which seek to undermine the teachings of the Church, which are ambiguous about it, or which ignore it entirely”.

In July 1992, the Vatican issued a further proclamation authorised by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and by Pope John Paul II, entitled “Some Considerations Concerning the Catholic Response to Legislative Proposals on the Non-Discrimination of Homosexual Persons”.

This document was designed to mobilise Catholic opinion against equal rights legislation for lesbians and gay men. It describes homosexuality as an “objective disorder” and a “tendency ordered towards an intrinsic moral evil”. Rejecting the concept of homosexual “human rights”, it asserts there is “no right” to homosexuality; adding that the civil liberties of lesbians and gay men can be “legitimately limited for objectively disordered external conduct”.

While condemning “unjust” discrimination, the Vatican document says that some forms of antigay discrimination are “not unjust” and may even be “obligatory”: especially with regard to “the consignment of children to adoption or foster care, in employment of teachers or coaches, and in military recruitment”.

Most shocking of all, the 1992 document suggests that when lesbians and gay men demand civil rights, “neither the Church nor society should be surprised when … irrational and violent reactions increase”.

This implies that by asking for human rights, lesbians and gay men encourage homophobic prejudice and violence: we bring hatred upon ourselves, and are responsible for our own suffering. The Catholic Church, it seems, blames the victims of homophobia, not the perpetrators.

Born in 1927 in Bavaria, Ratzinger was already a professor of theology by the age of 31, holding prestigious positions in Freising, Bonn, Münster, Tübingen, and Regensburg.

Throughout the 1960’s he held influential positions on Vatican commissions dealing with church law and education, rising in 1977 to become the Archbishop of Munich and be appointed a cardinal.

In 1981, Ratzinger moved to the Vatican in his position as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, where he authored the two key homophobic Catholic declarations of 1986 and 1992, endorsing discrimination against lesbian and gay people.

Please email OutRage! with any useful information or contacts. Help us expose this religious homophobe, who is damaging the lives of queers.

Catholic Homophobia

by Peter Tatchell

In November 1992, after 359 years, the Catholic Church finally admitted it was wrong to condemn Galileo as a heretic for arguing that the Earth was not the centre of the universe. How many centuries will it take before the Vatican acknowledges the equally historic wrong it has perpetrated against lesbians and gay men?

In medieval times, “abominable sodomites” were burnt alive at the stake on the orders of the Papal Inquisitors. As recently as the early nineteenth century, homosexuals were still being strung up on gallows in Britain with the blessing of Catholic leaders. This persecution isn’t over yet. The Vatican is still crucifying queers.

The latest Catechism, which sets out the basic doctrines of the Roman Church, was published in Britain in 1994. It is the first major revision of the Catechism since 1566. To the dismay of lesbians and gay men, it continues to reflect the prescientific ignorance and antihomosexual prejudice of the medieval era.

The new Catechism describes homosexual acts as a “grave depravity” and “intrinsically disordered”. It states that lesbian and gay relationships are “contrary to natural law … and do not proceed from genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved”.

Characterising the homosexual condition as “a trial” for most lesbians and gay men but never acknowledging prejudice as the reason, the Catechism concludes: “Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery … they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection”.

In other words, lesbians and gay men are flawed human beings who can redeem themselves only by renouncing the feelings that are integral to their sexual and emotional orientation.

The one concession to liberal opinion in the Catechism is that lesbians and gay men should be “accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity”. However, this apparent liberalism is immediately contradicted by the doctrine that only “unjust” discrimination is to be avoided, which implies that some forms of antigay discrimination are justifiable according to Catholic theology.

This was confirmed in a 1993 letter to the lesbian and gay rights group OutRage! from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. Written on behalf of Cardinal Hume, the letter expressed the Catholic Church’s support for discrimination against lesbians and gay men with regard to marriage and immigration rights, social housing, joint property, taxation, and welfare benefits. It turned down a request to endorse a reduction in the gay male age of consent to 16, to establish parity with heterosexuals. Indeed, there is no homosexual law reform which Cardinal Hume and his bishops feel able to support. They have given their official blessing to every key aspect of legal bias against lesbians and gay men.

However much the Catholic church may deny it, these prejudiced declarations offer theological legitimacy and a veneer of respectability to antigay hatred. They are the latest in a long line of antigay pronouncements by the Catholic Church.

In 1986, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, head of the Vatican’s Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (responsible for defining Roman Catholic doctrine and keeping Catholic clergy and theologians in line) issued a “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons”. Ratzinger wrote that a homosexual orientation, even if the person is totally celibate, is a “tendency” toward an “intrinsic moral evil”. Moreover, a homosexual inclination is both an “objective disorder” and a “moral disorder”, which is “contrary to the creative wisdom of God”. “Special concern and pastoral attention should be directed towards those who have this condition, lest they be led to believe that the living out of this orientation in homosexual activity is a morally acceptable option. It is not.” Ratzinger’s 1986 Letter concludes that pastoral care for homosexual persons should include “the assistance of the psychological, sociological and medical sciences”, and that “all support should be withdrawn from any organisations which seek to undermine the teachings of the Church, which are ambigous about it, or which ignore it entirely”.

In July 1992, the Vatican issued a further proclamation authorised by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and by Pope John Paul II, entitled “Some Considerations Concerning the Catholic Response to Legislative Proposals on the Non-Discrimination of Homosexual Persons”.

This document was designed to mobilise Catholic opinion against equal rights legislation for lesbians and gay men. It describes homosexuality as an “objective disorder” and a “tendency ordered towards an intrinsic moral evil”. Rejecting the concept of homosexual “human rights”, it asserts there is “no right” to homosexuality; adding that the civil liberties of lesbians and gay men can be “legitimately limited for objectively disordered external conduct”.

While condemning “unjust” discrimination, the Vatican document says that some forms of antigay discrimination are “not unjust” and may even be “obligatory”: especially with regard to “the consignment of children to adoption or foster care, in employment of teachers or coaches, and in military recruitment”.

Most shocking of all, the 1992 document suggests that when lesbians and gay men demand civil rights, “neither the Church nor society should be surprised when … irrational and violent reactions increase”.

This implies that by asking for human rights, lesbians and gay men encourage homophobic prejudice and violence: we bring hatred upon ourselves, and are responsible for our own suffering. The Catholic Church, it seems, blames the victims of homophobia, not the perpetrators.

More recently, in February 1994, the Pope attacked the European Parliament’s support for the repeal of antigay legislation in member states. Condemning homosexuality as an “aberrant deviation”, he described proposals to remove discrimination as an “attack on the family” and accused Euro-MP’s of “inappropriately conferring an institutional value on deviant behaviour”.

This Vatican offensive against homosexual equality is threatening personal suffering worldwide. In Italy, Bologna City Council in 1993 introduced an equal opportunities policy to give homosexual couples access to municipal housing on the same basis as heterosexual partners.

The Catholic Church responded, with the backing of the neofascist MSI party, by announcing plans to mount a legal challenge. Cardinal Silvio Oddi condemned Bologna’s decision as “bestiality” and warned that “divine retribution” would fall upon the city.

Cardinal John O’Connor, in the United States, ordered that gay Catholics dying of Aids should be refused the last rites unless they repent of their “sin” and renounce their partners. The New York diocese has supported a ban on Irish Catholic lesbians and gay men marching in New York’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parade. It is opposing attempts by the city’s education authorities to encourage greater understanding and acceptance of homosexuals through the inclusion of nonjudgemental information about homosexual issues in the school curriculum.

In Nicaragua, Cardinal Obando y Bravo attacked homosexuality as “immoral” and publicly aligned the Catholic Church with the recriminalisation of lesbian and gay sexuality by President Chamorro’s right-wing UNO coalition. Article 204 of the new criminal code stipulates three years’ imprisonment for anyone who “induces, promotes, propagandises or practises in scandalous form concubinage between two people of the same sex”. This legislation penalises not only victimless homosexual behaviour, but also the advocacy of homosexual human rights and a homosexual lifestyle.

At the 1995 UN International Women’s Conference in Beijing, the Vatican opposed discussions on lesbian human rights and backed moves to block the participation of lesbian organisations and delegates.

The following year, a new Vatican handbook on education condemned homosexual relationships as a “disorder”, and urged Catholic parents to remove their children from sex education classes that discuss gay sexuality and teach safer sex.

Also in 1996, the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore called on its readers to vote against political candidates who back legal equality for lesbians and gays. Attacking a huge same-sex partnership ceremony in San Francisco where dozens of homosexual couples made declarations of commitment with the endorsement of Mayor Willie Brown, the newspaper said: “The citizen who … favours the election of a candidate formally committed to translating homosexual demands into law, cannot be without censure. Gay marriage fundamentally undermines the family model on which human civilisation was built … The legislature cannot be turned into a clerk for changing habits, least of all deviant trends.”

Here in Britain, at the height of the 1994 Parliamentary debate on the Age of Consent, Cardinal Hume declared that “homosexual genital acts, even between consenting adults, are morally wrong”. He urged Parliament to be “cautious”. Hume did not have to overtly oppose an equal age of consent for gay men. His condemnation of homosexual acts and his failure to come out in favour of equality at 16 were, by default, an endorsement of discrimination.

This stance is symptomatic of the Catholic Church’s support for a wide range of legislation in this country which renders lesbians and gay men second class citizens. Under a “segregationist” legal system which treats us differently and unequally compared with heterosexual people, we can be denied custody of our children, sacked from work, arrested for consenting sexual relations, and refused the right to marry the person we love. All these things can be done to us, with the full sanction of the law, and with the moral approval of the Catholic bishops, for no other reason than we happen to be homosexual.

Because of prejudice, over 30 per cent of all lesbians and gay men have been beaten up by queer-bashers, according to three surveys in the early 1990’s, including one funded by the Home Office. Other research shows that one in eight lesbian and gay teenagers are thrown out of their homes by hateful parents and one in five are driven to attempt suicide.

The Catholic Church pays lip-service to opposing this victimisation, without doing a single practical thing to challenge homophobia. Instead, it requires all Catholics to learn and follow the teachings of a Catechism which, whatever its intention, gives theological succour to bigots everywhere.