Is Benedict XVI gay? Gay Catholic writer Andrew Sullivan thinks so. Last week, Sullivan blogged about his impression that the resigned pope is gay, making headlines in the LGBT press with this speculation.
Sullivan uses as his evidence the fact that Benedict’s secretary, Msgr. Georg Ganswein, will continue working for the new pope, while he lives with Benedict in the monastery on the Vatican grounds where the former pontiff plans to retire. Sullivan writes:
So Benedict’s handsome male companion will continue to live with him, while working for the other Pope during the day. Are we supposed to think that’s, well, a normal arrangement?
Sullivan fills out his evidence with a book review written by Colm Toibin of Angela Quattrochi’s book Is the Pope Gay?:
“When asked if he felt nervous in the presence of the Holy Father, Gänswein replied that he sometimes did and added: ‘But it is also true that the fact of meeting each other and being together on a daily basis creates a sense of “familiarity”, which makes you feel less nervous. But obviously I know who the Holy Father is and so I know how to behave appropriately. There are always some situations, however, when the heart beats a little stronger than usual.’ “
Sullivan comments on this quotation:
“This man – clearly in some kind of love with Ratzinger (and vice-versa) will now be working for the new Pope as secretary in the day and spending the nights with the Pope Emeritus. This is not the Vatican. It’s Melrose Place.”
While the possibility that Benedict is, in fact, gay is certainly a viable one, speculation such as Sullivan’s tends to make me uneasy for several reasons. First, there is a subtle presumption that any male-male relationship has to prove that it is not homosexual. If the gay movement can make any contribution to the world, I think one of those is that it can help males see that they need not be afraid of being close to one other and expressing affection for one another. Speculating that all male-male relationships are potentially homosexual creates a climate of suspicion, which is, in fact, homophobic.
Second, while it is very true that many people with strong anti-gay stances are, in fact, gay themselves, I also know that such is not always the case. Straight people can be homophobes, too.
Third, speculation about a famous anti-gay person’s sexuality leads nowhere. It is Benedict’s policies, not his orientation (however repressed it may be), which make him a harmful influence to pro-LGBT initiatives. Let’s suppose for a second that Benedict is gay. His orientation wouldn’t make his policies any more or less harmful. Yes, there would be a certain amount of hypocrisy involved, and that would be difficult to accept, but I don’t think it would change the pope’s policies any.
Last week, when Bondings 2.o posted about the accusations of sexual misconduct by Scottish Cardinal Keith O’Brien, one of our loyal blog readers, Bob Miailovich, commented:
“Self-hatred and internalized homophobia among gay folk is something we are well acquainted with. O’Brien deserves our pity as a gay man who hates himself so deeply.”
If Benedict is, in fact, gay, then he must be living with an incredible amount of cognitive dissonance in order to so publicly and vehemently denounce LGBT people. He is causing great harm to himself, as well as to others.
Is Benedict gay? I would hope that if he is gay that people in the Catholic LGBT movement would express attitudes toward sexual orientation and secrecy that would allow him to “come out” when he is ready to do so. That is the approach that I suggest we do with all people, regardless of their station in life.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry