In what I just posted, I linked to an important statement by Brazilian theologian Leonardo Boff, which appeared at his blog site yesterday. It's about Boff's hopes as a new pope is elected.
Recently, Peter Wensierski interviewed Swiss theologian Hans Küng for the German newspaper Speigel. Wensierski asks Küng, "Who would you like to see lead your Church as pope?" Küng replies:
A pope who is not intellectually stuck in the Middle Ages, one who does not represent mediaeval theology, liturgy and religious order. I would like to see a pope who is open first to suggestions for reform and secondly, to the modern age. We need a pope who not only preaches freedom of the Church around the world but also supports, with his words and deeds, freedom and human rights within the Church -- of theologians, women and all Catholics who want to speak the truth about the state of the Church and are calling for change.
One possibility as stories about gay cabals in the Vatican and homophobic but gay-acting-out cardinals are leaked to the media now: the stage is being set for the election of a pope like Ghanaian cardinal Peter Turkson. I hear reports that many peace and justice Catholics in North America and Europe are strongly in favor of Turkson's election, because of his commitment to human rights--a commitment that Küng would (and I agree) like to see the new pope strongly endorse both in the world at large and in the church itself.
But there's a serious problem with Turkson: he has made statements in support of the draconian kind of anti-gay laws now being promoted in Uganda, and has suggested that the abuse scandal in the Catholic church has been caused by gay priests. In fact, he seems to think that homosexuality is equivalent to pedophilia, and that pedophilia doesn't exist in Africa because homosexuality doesn't exist there.
I'm told by friends who tell me that many peace and justice Catholics love Turkson that there's a strong contingent of those Catholics who are angry that anyone is raising questions about Turkson's stand on gay human rights. I'm not privy to the discussions about which these friends are sending me information, but as I've told them, they remind me very much of the kind of discussions that have gone on with the centrist faith-based Democrats who have tried in recent years to keep the Democratic party moderate on the issue of gay rights, by arguing that gay rights are a case apart when human rights are discussed.
"Real" human rights have to do with poor people and really marginal people--not the gays--in the mind of many folks working inside the Democratic faith-based industry that has developed from the second Bush presidency forward.
As I've repeatedly argued on this blog, you can't promote human rights and pretend that gay human rights shouldn't exist. When you do that--when you cut gay folks out of the human community and make them a case apart--you undermine your case for human rights in general. You undermine your case for human rights, period.
The fact that there are evidently strong groups of peace and justice Catholics who still want to follow this tack--human rights for everyone but gays--underscores for me how we're squandering the historic teachable moment now given to us as a Catholic community, about which I've just posted. If Turkson is elected pope, and if his commitment to human rights is part of the reason for his election, gay and lesbian Catholics might as well write ourselves out of the Catholic equation decisively--because we will have been written out.
As will gay and lesbian human beings around the world: written out of the human community by a leading religious group that claims a premier right to define and promote human rights . . . .
Did Benedict receive and bless Ugandan speaker Rebecca Kadaga, a strong proponent of that nation's kill-the-gays bill, in December 2012 because he knew he was headed for resignation and wanted to tip his hand for Turkson? I can't help wondering.
Turkson's election to the papacy would be a tragedy for the cause of human rights around the world.