The pope's hateful Christmas message

The Catholic leader says gays can't fight human nature — and we agree

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Published December 21, 2012 5:16PM (EST)

                 (<a href=''>Jeffrey Bruno</a> via <a href=''>Shutterstock</a>)
(Jeffrey Bruno via Shutterstock)

In a stunning move, on Friday, Pope Benedict used his annual Christmas message to the Vatican to assert the dignity of gay men and women around the world, and to plead for universal tolerance. "People dispute the idea that they have a nature, given to them by their bodily identity, that serves as a defining element of the human being," he declared in a message aimed to end the shame and stigma of living in the closet and to abolish all forms of dangerous, destructive "conversion" therapy. Oh, wait. He was actually saying those things to once again marginalize and insult gay people. Carry on then, your holiness!

It's been a banner week for the Catholic Church to assert its unshakable loyalty to Team Hetero. Just a few days ago, the pope said that gay marriage was a threat to world peace. It's true: Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi are personally responsible for everything happening in Syria right now. On Friday, the pope continued with the theme, lamenting that sexual identity is "no longer a given element of nature that man has to accept and personally make sense of: It is a social role that we choose for ourselves, while in the past it was chosen for us by society." See, this is what we're fighting for, folks. To shake off the pernicious folly of having our orientation chosen for us by society.

It's laughable, in a horrifying, this-guy-is-supposedly-the-spiritual-leader-of-1.8-billion-people way, that the pope made his argument against gay and lesbian rights in almost precisely the same language that best states why tolerance is so important and so necessary. He made his appeal directly to the very essence of our humanity. And you've got to hand it to a man who sees zero irony in saying that it's gays who "deny their nature and decide that it is not something previously given to them, but that they make it for themselves," insisting that "the manipulation of nature, which we deplore today where our environment is concerned, now becomes man's fundamental choice where he himself is concerned." I guess expecting gay people to magically decide they're oriented toward the opposite sex is totally not a denial of nature, right?

Those of us who believe in human rights couldn't agree more that to stifle one's most basic essence is, to put it in Catholic terms, a sin. To warp anyone's human impulse toward love, to deny any person the right to family and companionship – if you believe in God, then these must surely be great offenses to God himself. Old men in pointy hats can keep saying that LGBT rights are an "attack" on the family, but what they don't realize is that when they're talking about "the power of love," they're talking about the power that's changing laws, that's making new marriages and new families all around the world, right now. "In the fight for the family, the very notion of being — of what being human really means — is being called into question," the pope says. "The question of the family … is the question of what it means to be a man, and what it is necessary to do to be true men." It sure is. And you know what? That's all any of us could wish for — the dignity of our own truth. The blessing of our nature.

Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a senior writer for Salon and author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

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