Well Being

Pope Benedict XIV Resigns; Humanity Might Now Be Doomed To Marriage Equality

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Pope Benedict

It's amazing how quickly Twitter went from being aflutter about the Grammy's and the State of the Union Address to cranking out Pope jokes like whoa. There have been some that made me giggle —

patton

rats

pareene

— probably because I really like meta-humor, Patton Oswalt and rat jokes. But in the middle of picturing Pope Benedict XIV all papal-geared out, flinging rats like they're ninja stars, I saw this:

threat

And it reminded me that Pope Benedict XVI wasn't just some harmless old guy with an imaginary rat-flinging habit and a crazy hat collection but really kind of a genuine jerk.

I was raised Catholic. I come from a big German Catholic family in Cincinnati, where Catholicism and Catholic schooling are huge (Our Lady of the Sacred Heart elementary class of '96, baby!). Though now an atheist, I still go to church with my mom when I'm home because it makes her happy.

One of our yearly traditions is Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. This year, before mass started, a man got up and “invited” non-Catholics to “please stay in their seats” during communion (where Catholics go to the alter and receive Eucharist and wine symbolizing the body and blood of Christ). Then he told Catholics who had any private disagreements with the church's teachings to stay put, too. Merry Christmas, everybody! God is love!

The rule that non-Catholics can't take communion is well-established in the Catholic church (though not generally much fussed about). But the private sin thoughts business is new — and a direct response to growing popular support among Catholics for things like marriage equality and birth control access.

Pope Benedict XVI didn't directly require parishes to make this pre-mass announcement; he did, however, create a culture incredibly and openly hostile to gay Catholics and homosexuals in general. A culture where Archbishops, church officials and individual priests and parishes felt it proper to tell ardent and devoted believers like my mom — on Christmas! — that she didn't hate gay people enough to receive Catholic sacrament.

When he first took office, in 2005, Pope Benedict XVI said:

“The various forms of the dissolution of matrimony today, like free unions, trial marriages and going up to pseudo-matrimonies by people of the same sex, are rather expressions of an anarchic freedome that wrongly passes for true freedom of man.”

During his final December Christmas address, Pope Benedict called support for same-sex marriage an attack “on the true structure of the family, made up of father, mother, and child.” In November 2012, he launched an extensive anti-gay marriage media blitz. In January 2012, he called gay marriage a threat “to the future of humanity.”

So good riddance, Ratzinger. I find it unlikely the next pope will address issues like contraception, homosexuality and women's role in the church with any more modernity, but perhaps at least we can hope for less hyperbole and less vitriol.