One Person’s “Lobby” Is Another Person’s “Ministry”

Pope Benedict XVI

The idea that a “gay lobby” inside the Vatican was working as a pressure group on papal decisions has once again surfaced, this time coming from Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI.  In a new book to be published in September, the former pope said he was aware of a “gay lobby” but that he effectively stopped them.

Crux reports:

“During the days following his historic resignation, many observers speculated that an alleged ‘gay lobby’ within the Vatican had pressured Benedict XVI to step down. In a new interview-book, the emeritus pope admits to the existence of such a lobby, but says it had only ‘four or five members’ and that he’d managed to dismantle it.

Benedict XVI, Final Conversations is the title of the book to be released worldwide on September 9.

“This is the first time a pope, or a pope emeritus, has acknowledged on the record that the Vatican either has or had a ‘gay lobby’. . . “

Since there had been so much speculation about the existence of such a group since 2013 when Benedict resigned, it was easy to believe that such a group was just a product of the rumor mill.  Yet, while it seems that Benedict’s confirmation of the group points to the veracity of its existence, I am still not so sure.

First of all, from the news reports about the book, it doesn’t seem that Benedict has produced any evidence of such a group’s existence. He doesn’t seem to have named names or given any details about how they worked or what policies they tried to influence.

While I don’t doubt the sincerity of Pope Benedict, I do question his perspective.  From the time he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith,  and up through his eight-year papacy, Benedict was staunchly opposed to any overtures or reconciliation with the LGBT community.  His public statements and official documents depicted LGBT people and issues in strongly negative terms.  He was the creator of the term “objectively disorder” to describe homosexual orientation and “intrinsically evil” to describe same-gender sexual activity.

Given his history and perspective, it is no wonder that Benedict might think of any person or group of people who might be asking for reforms of church teaching, policy, or pastoral practice on LGBT issues as a “lobby.”  “Lobby” is not just a neutral word.  It has strongly negative connotations of manipulation and undeserved influence.  Given his negative view of LGBT topics, I would not be surprised if Benedict were to say that Pope Francis is a member of a “gay lobby” because he called for the Church to apologize to lesbian and gay people.

In other words,  one person’s “lobby” is another person’s “ministry.”

I’ve worked full-time in LGBT ministry for over 20 years.  During that time, I have been called a “lobbyist” for LGBT rights many times by people who oppose the work I do.  Conservative Catholic groups have often referred to New Ways Ministry as a “gay lobby.” But neither of those depictions objectively describe the work that I or my organization do.  “Lobby” and “lobbyist” are often used pejoratively by opponents.

Another problem with the term “gay lobby” is knowing exactly what it means.  Were these supposed gay lobby members gay themselves, or were they individuals who advocated for change in the area of gay issues?  It’s hard to tell whether the term refers to the composition of the group or the topics which they tried to influence.

And if a gay lobby did exist, why is that so wrong?  Are there no other “lobby” groups in the Vatican?  Is no one else trying to get their points of view to be officially accepted?  Wouldn’t it be accurate to say that there is a very large and effective “male priesthood only” lobby in the Vatican?

Finally, from most of the public evidence, it would seem that if a gay lobby existed in Benedict’s Vatican, they really did a pretty poor job.  If they were really a manipulative, influential group, where is the evidence that anything changed positively on LGBT issues under Benedict’s reign?  From the evidence, it seems that there was a much larger, more powerful, and more effective anti-gay lobby working behind the scenes.  About the only thing that may be empirically verifiable from Benedict’s revelation about a gay lobby is his claim that he dismantled it.  And given their apparent ineffectiveness, it seems that dismantling such a group was probably a very easy task.

Of course, one way to solve the need for any sort of gay lobby is if the Vatican would be more transparent in its decision-making, more consultative in its process, and more open to public discussion about LGBT issues.  Then, the Church could forget all this silliness and focus on performing the works of mercy for a world in so much need.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related stories:

National Catholic Reporter: “Report: Benedict XVI’s memoirs say ‘gay lobby’ tried to wield power”

La Stampa: “Ratzinger: I managed to break up the “gay lobby” in the Vatican”

Bondings 2.0:Vatican Gay Lobby? Really?


10 replies
  1. Wilhelm Wonka
    Wilhelm Wonka says:

    If PE Benedict is going to be so pejorative in his use of language (as was the Spanish cardinal who expressed the phrase “gay empire”), then I’m sure he wouldn’t mind if he, and certain other high-ranking Roman Catholic clerics (including the Spanish cardinal), were addressed as the “anti-gay lobby”. Let’s be honest about Benedict: he has never said one, positive word about loving, committed gay relationships. If there is anyone truly anti-gay, it is Benedict.

    Sauce for the goose…

  2. Terence Weldon
    Terence Weldon says:

    Sound commentary, Frank. One could also ask, “What about the anti-gaylobby in the Vatican, that has worked so hard to suppress effective pastoral care for LGBT people, totally ignoring solid Catholic teaching on the importance of respect, compassion and sensitivity, and of opposition to all forms of unjust discrimination, and violence or malice, in speech or in action?
    We know from the insider view published by Msgr Charamsa, that this anti-gay lobby is powerful, right in the heart of the CDF which Benedict led for years, fuelled by closeted gay priests’ internalised self-hatred.
    This reminds me of the words of Cardinal Murphy O’Connor of Westminster, when he approved the relocation of the old “Soho Masses” from their base in an Anglican church to a Catholic parish. His public statement said that these Masses should be “pastoral, not political”. As a South African who lived for 50+ years under the rise and fall of apartheid, and very much aware of the constructive role played by the Catholic Church in the struggle for justice, I know that these cannot be so neatly separated. At times, the pastoral is political (as in ministering to the families of political prisoners). At others, the political can be profoundly pastoral.
    So it is here: the struggle for full lgbt inclusion in church is profoundly pastoral – and hence, a form of ministry.

  3. Tom Bower
    Tom Bower says:

    LOL Gay lobby?! If the LGBT movement had a group of friends in high places, did/do we need enemies? Talk about the babbling gibberish of an out of touch cleric with 16th C. fantasies and not quite hidden homoerotic tendencies; he worked his way to the Papacy towing the line of straight JPII. That B 16 was surprised he could become Pope is no surprise as no one dared to seriously challenge him given his crushing use of power. That New Ways has survived/thrived to today is a sign of God’s love for all.

  4. Loretta
    Loretta says:

    Francis, that was so well written. Your logic and humor were timed well and effectively. I think if Pope Francis read it that he would nod his head in agreement and grin. Thank you.

  5. John Hilgeman
    John Hilgeman says:

    Both John Paul II and Benedict XVI will go down in history as remarkably homophobic men. I still think of the document written by then Cardinal Ratzinger, and ordered published by John Paul II, that disdained the love of same sex couples, but that (while condemning violence against gay people) stated that no one should be surprised when people react violently against those who were working for the legalization of same sex behaviors and relationships. And then there was the over-the-top angry outburst by John Paul II when the international gathering of LGBT activists “had the gall” to assemble and march in Rome during a Holy Year that he had declared. These, along with many other statements from these two men, seemed to me to be indications of some unfinished internal business on their parts.

  6. bjmonda
    bjmonda says:

    Wonder what they Lobbied for More Bling and Free Red shoes, or a Loving Welcome to all God’s Children? Anybody know? If it was the later I saw no evidence of the Powerful lobby. The former, well that is a different story: The Coppa Magna crowd, stealing money from Children’s Hospital, breaking down walls to create a bigger palace… well YEA! We saw that?? HE IS GIVING “GAY” A BAD NAME! JUST CALL IT WHAT IT IS: PRINCES of the Church gone awry! THE GOLD BATH TUB BOYS,

  7. Michael Lopes
    Michael Lopes says:

    BXVI’s latest outrage, even though he is “hidden” from the public, is about a “gay lobby” of four or five people that he “broke up.” WHO made up this “gay lobby?” Could he be blaming innocent people who are being unjustly singled out? What happened to the members of the “gay lobby?”

  8. Larry
    Larry says:

    I thought that B16 was supposed to sit quietly in the corner after he couldn’t handle being a Pope [maybe rooting out the “gay lobby” took all his energy]. Now he is back on the scene but, I am sure, not atoning for any of his sins [which are many] but just polishing up his PR with his apologia book.


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