Friday, September 16, 2016

Richard Sipe on Why Benedict XVI's Sexual Orientation Matters and Must Be Discussed Honestly

In a 2012 essay at his website entitled "Is Pope Benedict Gay?," Richard W. Sipe maintains that "[t]he time has passed when popes are immune from observation of their humanity even their human sexuality." Then he goes on to argue, with reference to Pope Benedict XVI, the following:

The fact that Benedict XVI has spoken out so vigorously and clearly about homosexually oriented men even those who practice celibacy makes him a prime target for investigation and speculation. If they are not suitable candidates for ordination to the priesthood (and their ordination is of questionable validity) what does that say of him and scores and scores of other prelates who are without doubt homosexually oriented? 
I have asked a number of Roman clerics and members of the Roman press corps if they think the pope is gay. None, of course, wish to be named for obvious reasons, but every one was convinced that Pope Benedict XVI is gay. I repeat what I said at the outset: this does not impute sin or the misbehavior that plagued Pope Paul VI, but it is a strong assertion about his orientation.

As Richard Sipe adds,

The question of this Pope's sexual orientation takes on special significance because he was the author of Vatican documents that claimed that although homosexual orientation is not sinful, "it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder."
I do not believe that. Rather I hold with E.O. Wilson who suggests, "a strong possibility that homosexuality is normal in a biological sense, that it is a distinctive beneficent behavior that evolved as an important element of early human social organization. Homosexuals may be the genetic carriers of some of mankind's rare altruistic impulses."


The emphasis the Vatican places on sexual behavior and especially pronouncements about the "intrinsic" evil of masturbation, contraception, homosexuality, invitro fertilization, gay marriage, etc. leave it open to special scrutiny and criticism.

A reminder about who Richard Sipe is: he's a former Benedictine priest who is among the foremost authorities in the world regarding the Catholic abuse crisis. He's a psychotherapist married to Marianne Benkert, who is also a psychologist psychiatrist.* He speaks from a position of great authority when he asserts that homosexuality is normal in a biological sense — and when he also maintains that, as Catholic authority figures pontificate about issues of human sexuality, their own personal lives and penchants can no longer be off the table for public discussion. 

(Thanks to Bill deHaas for reminding Commonweal readers of this Richard Sipe essay in a comment yesterday in this thread. I do appreciate the conversation Massimo Faggioli started with the thread. At the same time, I continue to think that the conversations of Commonweal regulars about these issues would be so much richer and more honest if said regulars, who are overwhelmingly heterosexual [and white and middle-class] did more to acknowledge their own unmerited power and privilege in Club Catholic as white, middle-class, heterosexual people. And if, having recognized this unmerited power and privilege and how it affects their worldview, they managed to find ways to stand in solidarity with those shoved outside Club Catholic — because they are, for instance, LGBTQ.)

* Thanks to Ruth Krall for sending me an email correcting my mistake here.

The photograph of Benedict's famous (or infamous) scarlet slippers is by Dieter Philippi, who has uploaded the photo to Wikimedia Commons with a Creative Commons license permitting online sharing.

No comments: