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December 23, 2008


Hannibal Lectern

I'm curious as to what you believe is wrong with what he said.

Hannibal Lectern


Were you aware that the translation of the Pope's remarks was botched (by Reuters on the original news feed I believe)? Perhaps you should refer to the corrected translated version of the Pope's remarks to ensure that you are disputing the proper argument.


Do you still believe the BBC? Read the original speech and spot the difference (no mention of homosexuality).
In most jobs this sort in inaccuracy would result in instant dismissal but if you are a BBC reporter you can write whatever you want against the Catholic Church and people (even selfdefined critical thinkers) would believe it.


This will sound outlandish: it fills my heart with joy to hear religious figures pronouncing such views.
I'd better explain: each time we hear such gibberish it becomes clearer that iron-age institutions are completely unsuited for the modern age. The recent wrangling in the See of Canterbury over the status of women is another example of religions choke-grip on morality actually retarding the development of a modern ethics.
Of course, the Pope's reprehensible utterance will nourish the ignorance of zealots and homophobes, but they are likely unreachable anyway. Those opposed to bigotry will be enraged and, perhaps, encouraged to action (think Mill). Those undecided, or who rarely think about such things, will surely feel an uncomfortable twinge at the discordant clang such an utterance causes in the zeitgeist.
In all, handled correctly, I think this is a win.

nigel warburton

I'm interested to hear that some commentators here believe the Pope didn't really mean what most of the world's press report him as having said. It is hard to know what his point could possibly have been. He may have put his foot in it again (remember his comments about Islam and the Enlightenment?).

See, for example,


Vitor Guerreiro

I think the pope should be allowed to say whatever he likes, as anyone else. If we demand that they watch their tongue, we are participating in a political lie. People should have the right to say silly things because that's the only way we are able to explain to people why they are silly. It would be a whole lot better that political leaders always said clearly what they truly believe, instead of packing those statements behind a handbasket of semantical bull.

To be offended by a statemtent is indeed the most silly attitude we can assume. Because I can only be offended by something if I find there is some truth in that statement. Let me explain:

If I enjoy a certain music and someone says it's rubbish, I will disagree and explain why I think it is not rubbish. The same should be done with all kinds of statements. We must stop pretending there are no racists and homofobic medieval minded people. Instead, we should allow them to freely express their beliefs (and not packed behing semantics) and openly criticize them for what they are.



I agree with Chris isn't this just another example of religion killing itself??? I especially found it amusing that at the end of the BBC article you linked to there was a subnote about the pope's declaration that world youth day was more then a mere spectacle. Ha!

João Feliz

Christmas is a silly season and stupidity must be acceptable as free speech; and so naughty words - the man is a fuck up! (May I say this here? I have been reading Mr. Fairman´s "Fuck" -http://law.bepress.com/expresso/eps/1087 -)
Oh, Merry Christmas!

Hannibal Lectern


It seems odd that someone as well educated as yourself, living in a country with a notorious history of Catholic persecution and barring Catholics from many professions until relatively recently, wouldn't understand the importance of reading primary sources when criticizing a thinker. You insist on relying on journalist's hackish attempts to translate, rather than going to a reliable translation before criticizing the point which you think he made.

As well, I was wondering if homophobia is treatable with over the counter antibiotics or if the medical profession currently recommends more serious interventions such as forcible injections and reeducation camps.

I remember quite well the Pope's comments on Islam and the Enlightenment, perhaps you could put up a separate post discussing what you believe he said versus what he actually said.

Chris H

Hannibal Lectern,
Do you have a link to the 'primary sources' in this case? You're right, we should scrutinise them when possible. Presumably you have? I can't find it - please share.

nigel warburton

I agree with Vitor that the Pope shouldn't be prevented from saying things like this. I wouldn't want to censor him, just draw attention to the absurdity of his pronouncement. He is in a special position here as spokesperson for a Church, so he probably should be aware that his words have predictable effects, though. He can call it as he sees it, but shouldn't expect to be taken too seriously as a moral authority if he comes out with this sort of thing (assuming, of course, that the BBC and The Times etc. have reported him correctly - let's have some chapter and verse of the alleged errors in reporting, Hannibal).

Hannibal Lectern

"let's have some chapter and verse of the alleged errors in reporting, Hannibal"

Italian freelancer Teresa Benedetta who is fluent in both Italian and English, fisked the Reuters headline at the link below. Scroll down the page aways to hit the Reuters headline:

Pope likens 'saving' gays to saving the rainforest, and then follow Teresa's comments in blue. BTW, this is considered a common occurrence among Italian Vatican watchers to see the Pope's remarks routinely butchered in hackmeister translations into English.


I'll post the 2 versions in my next comments for ease of reference.

Hannibal Lectern

Oops. I forgot to give attribution myself, on the excerpts I just posted. They come from the Curt Jester blog:


Chris H

Hannibal Lectern,
I've had a look at your link. It's not really a primary source. The criticism you level at mainstream news outlets can surely be applied to your own source, can it not?

João Feliz

Oh, you devious BBC bastards!, the man sounds much better in italian (http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/speeches/2008/december/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20081222_curia-romana_it.html), if you read loud and fast it seems like music!

But then:
"Non è una metafisica superata, se la Chiesa parla della natura dell’essere umano come uomo e donna e chiede che quest’ordine della creazione venga rispettato. Qui si tratta di fatto della fede nel Creatore e dell’ascolto del linguaggio della creazione, il cui disprezzo sarebbe un’autodistruzione dell’uomo e quindi una distruzione dell’opera stessa di Dio. Ciò che spesso viene espresso ed inteso con il termine “gender”, si risolve in definitiva nella autoemancipazione dell’uomo dal creato e dal Creatore."

And again, not very ecumenic:
"Le foreste tropicali meritano, sì, la nostra protezione, ma non la merita meno l’uomo come creatura, nella quale è iscritto un messaggio che non significa contraddizione della nostra libertà, ma la sua condizione. Grandi teologi della Scolastica hanno qualificato il matrimonio, cioè il legame per tutta la vita tra uomo e donna, come sacramento della creazione, che lo stesso Creatore ha istituito e che Cristo – senza modificare il messaggio della creazione – ha poi accolto nella storia della sua alleanza con gli uomini."

He never uses the words "homosexuality" or "gay", but is still a bigoted and intolerant view.

Hannibal Lectern

"He never uses the words "homosexuality" or "gay""


"but is still a bigoted and intolerant view"

How is it a bigoted and intolerant view? Does he advocate slitting their throats or dropping walls on them?

Hannibal LecternHann

From Sandro Magister


Here is the (mostly complete) English translation of the bigoted and intolerant view. Notice the headline. Oh, and notice the reference to Nietzsche.


"Faith in the creator Spirit is an essential element of the Christian creed"

by Benedict XVI

[...] The presence of the Word of God, of God himself in the present hour of history, was also the subject [as well as at the Synod] in the pastoral visits of this year: their true meaning can only be that of serving this presence. On these occasions, the Church makes itself publicly perceptible, and with itself the faith, and therefore at least the question of God. This public manifestation of the faith challenges all of those who seek to understand the present time and the forces at work in it.

It is especially the phenomenon of the World Youth Days that is increasingly becoming the subject of analysis. [...] The analyses in vogue tend to consider these days as a variation of modern youth culture, as a sort of rock festival adapted for ecclesial purposes, with the pope as its star. With or without the faith, these festivals are seen as essentially the same thing, and in this way the idea is to eliminate the question of God. There are also Catholic voices that tend in this direction, viewing all of this as a grand spectacle, beautiful but of little significance for the question of the faith and the presence of the Gospel in our time. They are seen as moments of ecstatic celebration, while in the end leaving everything as it was before, without influencing life in a more profound way.

In this way, however, the uniqueness of these days and the distinctive character of their joy, of their creative power of communion, find no explanation. First of all, it is important to consider the fact that the World Youth Days do not consist only in the one week during which they are made publicly visible to the world. There is a long exterior and interior journey that leads to them. The cross, accompanied by the image of the Mother of the Lord, makes a pilgrimage through the various countries. The faith, in its way, needs to be seen and touched. The encounter with the cross, which is touched and carried, becomes an interior encounter with Him who died on the cross for us. The encounter with the cross elicits from deep within the young people the memory of that God who wanted to become man and suffer with us. And we see the woman whom He has given us as Mother. The solemn Days are simply the culmination of a long journey in which we encounter one another, and together encounter Christ. In Australia, it was no coincidence that the long Via Cruicis became the culminating event of those days. This summarized once again everything that had happened in the preceding years, and pointed to Him who reunites all of us: the God who loves us even to the Cross. In this way, even the pope is not the star around whom everything revolves. He is entirely and solely vicar. He points to the Other who is in our midst. In the end, the solemn liturgy is the center of everything, because there takes place in it that which we cannot accomplish, although we are always awaiting it. He is present. He comes into our midst. The heavens split open, and this makes the earth luminous. It is this that makes life joyful and open, and unites us with each other in a joy that cannot be compared to the ecstasy of a rock festival. Friedrich Nietzsche once said: "Ability does not lie in organizing a feast, but in finding people capable of enjoying it." According to Scripture, joy is the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22): this fruit was abundantly evident during the days in Sydney. Just as a long journey precedes the World Youth Days, so also it leads to the path that follows. Friendships are formed that encourage a different lifestyle, and sustain it from within. The great Days have, not least, the aim of bringing about these friendships, and in this way creating environments of faith, which at the same time are environments of hope and practical charity.

Joy as the fruit of the Holy Spirit: in this way, we have come to the central theme of Sydney, which, in fact, was the Holy Spirit. In this retrospective, I would like to make reference in summary fashion to the orientation implicit in this theme. Keeping in mind the testimony of Scripture and Tradition, it is easy to recognize four dimensions of the theme "Holy Spirit."

1. First of all, there is the affirmation that comes to us at the beginning of the account of creation: there, the creator Spirit is described as hovering over the waters, creating the world and continually renewing it. Faith in the creator Spirit is an essential element of the Christian creed. The fact that matter carries within itself a mathematical structure, or is full of spirit, is the foundation upon which the modern natural sciences are based. It is only because matter is structured in an intelligent way that our spirit is capable of interpreting it and of actively remodeling it. The fact that this intelligent structure comes from the same creator Spirit who also gave spirit to us brings with it a duty and a responsibility. It is in faith concerning creation that the ultimate foundation of our responsibility for the earth is found. This is not simply our property, which we can exploit according to our interests and desires. It is, instead, a gift of the Creator who designed its intrinsic order, and in this way provided the instructions for us to consult as administrators of his creation. The fact that the earth, the cosmos, reflect the creator Spirit also means that their rational structures that, beyond mathematical order, become almost palpable in experimentation also bear within themselves an ethical orientation. The Spirit who shaped them is more than mathematics: he is Goodness in person, who, through the language of creation, shows us the way of the just life.

Because faith in the Creator is an essential part of the Christian creed, the Church cannot and must not limit itself to transmitting to its faithful the message of salvation alone. It has a responsibility toward creation, and must exercise this responsibility in public as well. And in doing so, it must defend not only the earth, water, and air as gifts of creation belonging to all. It must also protect man against his own destruction. Something like an ecology of man is needed, understood in the proper sense. It is not an outdated metaphysics if the Church speaks of the nature of the human being as man and woman, and asks that this order of creation be respected. In fact, this is a matter of faith in the Creator and of listening to the language of creation, disdain toward which would be the self-destruction of man, and therefore the destruction of the very work of God. What is often expressed and understood by the term "gender" is ultimately resolved in the self-emancipation of man from creation and from the Creator. Man wants to create himself, and to arrange always and exclusively that which concerns him. But this means living contrary to the truth, living contrary to the creator Spirit. Yes, the rainforests deserve our protection, but man deserves it no less, as a creature in whom a message is inscribed that does not mean the contradiction of our freedom, but its precondition. Great scholastic theologians have described marriage, meaning the lifelong bond between man and woman, as a sacrament of creation, which the Creator himself instituted and which Christ – without modifying the message of creation – incorporated into the history of his covenant with men. It is part of the proclamation that the Church must make on behalf of the creator Spirit present in nature as a whole, and in a special way in the nature of man, created in the image of God. It is beginning from this perspective that one should reread the encyclical "Humanae Vitae": the intention of Pope Paul VI was to defend love against sexuality as consumption, the future against the exclusive presumption of the present, and the nature of man against its manipulation.

2. Just a few more brief notes about the other dimensions of pneumatology. If the creator Spirit manifests himself first of all in the silent grandeur of the universe, in its intelligence structure, the faith, in addition to this, tells us something unexpected, that this Spirit also speaks, as it were, in human words, has entered into history and, as the force that shapes history, is also a Spirit who speaks, and moreover is the Word that comes to us in the writings of the Old and New Testament. The significance of this for us was expressed in a marvelous way by St. Ambrose in one of his letters: "Even now, while I read the sacred Scriptures, God walks in Paradise" (Letter 49, 3). In reading the Scriptures, even today we can almost wander through the garden of Paradise, and encounter God who is walking there: between the theme of World Youth Day in Australia and the theme of the Synod of Bishops, there is a profound interior connection. The two themes "Holy Spirit" and "Word of God" go together. But in reading the Scriptures, we also learn that Christ and the Holy Spirit are inseparable. If Paul, with astonishing conciseness, affirms "The Lord is the Spirit" (2 Cor. 3:17), what appears in the background is not only the Trinitarian unity between the Son and the Holy Spirit, but above all their unity regarding the history of salvation: in the passion and resurrection of Christ, the veils of merely literal meaning are torn, and the presence of the God who is speaking is made visible. In reading the Scriptures together with Christ, we learn to hear in the human words the voice of the Holy Spirit, and we discover the unity of the Bible.

3. With this, we have now come to the third dimension of the pneumatology, which consists precisely in the inseparability of Christ and the Holy Spirit. It may be that the most beautiful way in which this is shown is in St. John's account of the first appearance of the Risen One to his disciples: the Lord breathes on his disciples, and in this way gives them the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the breath of Christ. And just as the breath of God, at the dawn of creation, transformed the dust of the earth into living man, so also the breath of Christ welcomes us into ontological communion with the Son, which makes us a new creation. For this reason, it is the Holy Spirit who makes us say together with the son: Abba, Father!" (John 20:22; Romans 8:15).

4. In this way, as the fourth dimension, there emerges spontaneously the connection between the Spirit and the Church. Paul, in first Corinthians 12 and in Romans 12, illustrated the Church as the body of Christ, and in this way as an organism of the Holy Spirit, in which the gifts of the Holy Spirit bind individuals into a single living whole. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Body of Christ. In the entirety of this Body we find our duty, we live for one another and in dependence on one another, profoundly living by Him who lived and suffered for us, and who through his Spirit draws us to himself in the unity of all the children of God. "Do you also want to live by the Spirit of Christ? Then be in the Body of Christ," Augustine says in this regard (Tract. in Jo. 26, 13).

With the theme "Holy Spirit," which oriented the days in Australia, and in a more concealed way the weeks of the Synod as well, the entire breadth of the Christian faith is made visible, a breadth which from responsibility for creation and for the existence of man in harmony with creation leads, through the themes of Scripture and of the history of salvation, to Christ, and from there to the living community of the Church, in its order and responsibility as also in its vastness and freedom, which expresses itself as much in the multiplicity of charisms as in the Pentecostal image of the multitude of languages and cultures.

Joy is an essential part of the feast. The feast can be organized, but joy cannot. It can only be offered as a gift; and, in fact, it has been given to us in abundance: for this we are thankful. Just as Paul describes joy as a fruit of the Holy Spirit, so also John in his Gospel closely associates the Spirit and joy. The Holy Spirit gives us joy. And he is joy. Joy is the gift that contains all other gifts. It is the expression of happiness, of being in harmony with oneself, which derives only from being in harmony with God and with his creation. It is part of the nature of joy to spread itself, to communicate itself. The missionary spirit of the Church is nothing other than the impulse to communicate the joy that has been given to us. May this always be alive within us, and therefore spread to the world in its tribulations: this is my wish at the end of this year. Together with lively gratitude for all of your efforts and work, I wish for all of you that this joy that comes from God may be given to us abundantly in the new year as well. [...]

Hannibal Lectern

I'm also surprised that no one has mentioned then Josef Cardinal Ratzinger's (now Pope B16) conversation and dialogue with Jurgen Habermas. It seems to me that those who believe in Humanist Philosophy would be interested in a landmark European conversation between a theist and a secularist and the points of agreement.

Some of those themes are echoed in this address. In particular, the ethical problems of genetic technology and Eugenics.


Great speech. Thanks, Hannibal.

João Feliz

One can be a racist without using the words "nigger" or "boy", and can even be very "philosophical" or "theological" about it.
One can be bigoted and intolerant without being so blunt and straightforward as my village´s priest, but if the Pope is speaking to the world, "urbe et orbi", and not just to his friends and mates, what else can he possibly mean by this (now in english):

"It is not an outdated metaphysics if the Church speaks of the nature of the human being as man and woman, and asks that this order of creation be respected. In fact, this is a matter of faith in the Creator and of listening to the language of creation, disdain toward which would be the self-destruction of man, and therefore the destruction of the very work of God. What is often expressed and understood by the term "gender" is ultimately resolved in the self-emancipation of man from creation and from the Creator.
Yes, the rainforests deserve our protection, but man deserves it no less, as a creature in whom a message is inscribed that does not mean the contradiction of our freedom, but its precondition. Great scholastic theologians have described marriage, meaning the lifelong bond between man and woman, as a sacrament of creation, which the Creator himself instituted and which Christ – without modifying the message of creation – incorporated into the history of his covenant with men."

Vitor Guerreiro

The question is not what the pope means, the question is: ist it nonsense? If yes, why?

The problem about considering the expression of views "uncorrect", the problema about demanding political lie from political spokespersons, is that we loose the habit of sustaining by rational argument our most beloved ideas. If I go on my entire life repeating enviromentalist slogans, merely reproaching whoever holds the opposite view, I'm not only missing the point, I'm also vulnerable to idiot arguments because I can't even remember how to argue for myself - i've been shielding my opinions all this time with the "political correctness" crap.

People who hold racist or homophobic beliefs will but refrain from expressing them will continue to hold them but with less chances that they will be rebuked in an open discussion. People tend to cut the arguments and move on the the accusation of "seriousness" and "immorality" of expressing the view in question.

Also, the statement that the pope should mind his tongue because what he says has effects is a bad argument. It is the same argument used by the murderers of an american citizen in Iraq following the Abu Grahib events. Maybe 9/11 was a mere consequence of american foreign policy... well, maybe there is a causal link there, but surely moral responsability for terrorist acts belongs to the performer of the action. It was not the spanish government who killed madrid civilians in March, 2004.

How can we protect against the nasty effects of racist opinions? Prohibiting? No, we must produce the best refutation of those ideas, explain people why they are wrong and mostly: do not teach young people to interiorize mindless slogans just because they are "nice", instead, teach them to evaluate arguments, impartially... no better weapon possible against bigotry and all kinds of human idiocy. Then they will think for themselves what is wrong with racist and homophobic arguments, instead of just repeating slogans.

It's like Orwell said: the problem with a gramophone culture is not the song being played but the fact that it comes from a gramophone. A gramophone playing a "nice" message in someone's head is just as dangerous to democracy as a gramophone playing a nasty message. The problem is the gramophone. Destroying the bloody gramophone is philosophy's task.

Victor Guerreiro

Vitor Guerreiro

I didn't explain my comparison of the "effects of the pope's speach" argument to the abu grahib and 9/11 sore attemps at justification.

The basis for this comparison is the same as Mill's argument against criminalizing opinion: if we limit people's freedom of expression on the basis of "offence" we must ban every form of speech because anyone will or can be offended by anything.

Likewise, if we limit freedom of speech, even of political leaders, as regards its possible effects, we must ban all speech, because you can never now what kind of nut jobs are going to get out of the blue and perform immoral or illegal actions, based on some crazy interpretation (or a literal one) of what you said.

"Offence" and "possible effects" are too vague to be able to limit freedom of expression. When we prosecute people for causing a riot or harming someone by slander, we do not criminalize expression but something else.

The possible effects argument resembles the argument used to criticize danish cartoonists, blaming them for the violence that ensued. It is the same argument used by John Le Carre to criticize Salman Rushdie, the "he brought this on himself" rhetoric.


Everard izard

I don't see the objection Nige, what is wrong with being homophonic?

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