“Gay lobby” controversy strikes Vatican as fears over next Pope hit LGBT community

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An Italian newspaper on Thursday reported that a so-called “Gay Lobby” inside the Catholic Church was an instrumental factor in Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to step down as Pontiff at the end of this month.

La Republica said that “outside influences, including a gay lobby” had been part of the Pope’s choosing to resign.

The Church announced on February 11 that Pope Benedict would retire at the end of February. In that statement, they cited mental and phsyical reasons for relinquishing his post atop of the largest Christian church in the world.

Pope Benedict announced on 11 February that he would resign at the end of the month, citing a decline in mental and physical ability as his reason for giving up the taxing position.

While the church is known for its anti-LGBT stances and promotion of heterosexual relationships, an unnamed Vatican source is quoted by the leading Italian newspaper as saying the Pope had commissioned a report to be conducted into what media called the “Vatileaks” scandal last year.

The report allegedly said that there was widespread breaking of commandments within the Vatican, in particular the sixth commandment, “thou shalt not steal,” and the seventh, “thou shalt not commit adultery.”

Although La Republica claims that the report and a 2010 discovery inside the church of leaders hiring male sex workers for sexual escapades were a major cause for the Pope’s resignation, the newspaper only cites an unnamed source.

The gay community in Italy has long been pushing for greater change and reform within the Catholic Church, but despite an opening on some levels, sexual relations and marriage equality remain in the traditional male-female stance for the institution.

Antonio, a 24-year-old gay activist in Rome, told 429Magazine that while “I appreciate the idea that the LGBT community in Italy could bring down a Pope, I doubt it was us.

“I really think it was what was going on inside the church, because the reports were pretty funny really. Priests and Cardinals having sex with men. That tells you a lot about the hypocrisy,” he added.

Italy and scandal aside, many in the LGBT community are already beginning to worry about who will take Benedict’s position next. Across the world, fears are increasing that the next Pope could be virulently anti-LGBT and continue the traditions of the past.

Making matters worse, Ghana’s Cardinal Peter Turkson, the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, has been touted as a potential African Pope.

He has previously said many of the laws imposed on gay people in Africa are an “exaggeration” by the media.

This statement left many activists in more than 30 African countries angered, where being gay or lesbian is punishable by lengthy imprisonment, and in Uganda could soon see the death penalty.

Last year, the National Catholic Register reported the Cardinal saying it is important people understand the ‘reasons’ why some African governments have created legislation against homosexuality.

Turkson argues the ‘intensity of the reaction is probably commensurate with tradition’, saying the African culture needs to be respected.

‘When you’re talking about what’s called “an alternative lifestyle”, are those human rights?’ he said.

‘There’s a subtle distinction between morality and human rights, and that’s what needs to be clarified,” he continued.

LGBT activists have repeatedly said over the past few years that they would like to see a policy of tolerance become part of the Catholic Church’s message, and have continued to call on the Vatican to make changes.

“We don’t expect the Church to change all its policies, but the message of Jesus Christ was one of compassion and killing people for being who they are doesn’t seem like Jesus,” said one Rwandan LGBT activist, who asked that their name remain anonymous.

For Africa, an African Pope would be a blessing, but for others could help change the ongoing battle for LGBT rights and equality if acceptance can be created.

429Magazine

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