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The Pope is not Gay: book review

By Ralph Seccombe - posted Tuesday, 28 September 2010

The Pope is Not Gay! is an entertaining and informative book on the attitude of the Catholic church towards homosexuals.

As the title indicates, the central thesis of the book is that the pope has gay tendencies. There is sufficient evidence, including very fetching colour photographs, to make me wonder.

Even if you dismiss the thesis or regard it as unimportant, there is plenty of substance in the book to make it a worthwhile read.


There is significant information about the life of the pope and of his private secretary and particular friend, Georg Gänswein, including a sketch of Ratzinger's Nazi past. It would be absurd to suggest that his experience made him a lifelong Nazi - but the book does not say that. On the other hand, it is reasonable to relate the experience of growing up in a repressive state to an enduring repressive attitude to homosexuality and indeed sex in general.

For me the most valuable part of the book is the detail it provides on the church's attitude to participation in political debate and to homosexuality, with extensive quotes from doctrine and the full text of key documents including the "Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons" issued in 1986 by Ratzinger as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, aka the Inquisition, and "Some Considerations concerning the Response to Legislative Proposals on the Non-Discrimination of Homosexual Persons" of 1992.

On this and other issues, the church, especially in the person of Josef Ratzinger, has worked to roll back the progress made by the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965).

Its starting point is that it is the only church: by definition, this gives it a unique platform. (During the papacy of John Paul II, Ratzinger refused to attend a prayer meeting with other - what do you call them? - churches.) Secondly, it makes an unqualified bid for power, claiming "responsibility" to prescribe conduct for non-Catholics. Its position is determined not only by God but also by "non-negotiable ethical principles" or "natural law." This is claimed to be independent of religious doctrine and hence applicable to all, not just the faithful.

On the other hand, the church makes a bow to the secular state by acknowledging that the recognition of civil and political rights, as well as the allocation of public services, may not be made dependent upon citizens' religious convictions or activities. If that were fully applied, it would have big implications for state subsidies for Catholic schools.

The church explicitly acknowledges the humanity of homosexuals and allows that it is not a sin to have homosexual tendencies. Tolerance stops there. Homosexuality is an "objective disorder." Turning a blind eye to science, the church also finds it "largely unexplained." Homosexual acts are "deviant" and under no circumstances to be tolerated. The church suggests that they are not even human. At least, it states that sexual relations are human under certain conditions within marriage, which leaves the fascinating implication that they are otherwise not human.


There is no doubt about the importance of making a homosexual union equivalent to marriage (which of course must be between a man and a woman): "with this move we are abandoning the whole of the moral history of humanity." No beating about the bush there.

"As in every moral disorder, homosexual activity prevents one's own fulfilment and happiness by acting contrary to the creative wisdom of God. The Church, in rejecting erroneous opinions regarding homosexuality, does not limit but rather defends personal freedom and dignity realistically and authentically understood."

The above paragraph seems to be saying that a prohibition is liberating. There are many instances of such turgid sophistry, some of which I found quite funny, once I had worked out the drift.

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The Pope is Not Gay! by Angelo Quattrocchi, translated by Romy Clark Giuliani, Verso, 2010 ( The author, who has worked as a journalist for Italian newspapers, is described as "anarchist and poet." The book has a charming pink cover and striking colour photographs of the subject.

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About the Author

Ralph Seccombe is a former public servant (Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the United Nations).

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