Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Vatican Engages In More 'Popesplainin'--And It's Not Very Good 'splainin'

Funny how Sr Simone Campbell was not honored with a papal audience since she was also in Rome getting an award from the same group at the same conference for which Uganda's Rebecca Kadaga came to Rome specifically to attend.

One of the stories out of the Vatican from last week that utterly revolted me concerned the meeting between Pope Benedict and Uganda's Parliamentary President Rebecca Kadaga. Ms Kadaga promised the people of Uganda a Christmas present in the form of passage of the 'kill the gays' bill. Well, that's not going to happen. The bill has suddenly moved to the bottom of the priority list, but I'll have more on that after the following article. I too wondered what in the world the UnHoly See thought it was doing by allowing such a photo op as the one that leads this post. 

Needless to say the story became something of an internet sensation, forcing Pope Benedict's official popesplainer, Fr Lombardi to finally address the controversy, but through Vatican Insider, not Osservatore Romano. Interesting. I should warn readers I have a ton of comments with in the body of this article, but.... I just..... had to make them. 

“Why does Benedict XVI receive anti-gay politicians in audience?” 

"Tensions are high over the Pope’s meeting with the Ugandan parliament speaker who favours a law that would introduce life imprisonment as a punishment for “aggravated homosexuality”
Alessandro Speciale - Vatican Insider - 12/15/2012 As if the passage on marriage in the Pope’s Message for the World Day of Peace had not kicked up enough of a storm, another case has recently erupted on the Internet, rekindling hostilities between the homosexual community and the Catholic Church.
The woman at the centre of the row is the President of the Ugandan Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, who is in Rome for the 7th Consultative Assembly of Parliamentarians for the International Criminal Court and the Rule of Law, organised by the Italian Chamber of Deputies. During the assembly, a prize was awarded to American nun, Simone Campelle, leader of the “Nuns on the Bus” campaign against the Republicans’ cost-cutting budget plan. Kadaga kissed the Pope’s hand during the Wednesday General Audience on 12 December in the Vatican, which she attended as part of a group of Ugandan MPs.(Let's just throw in a sentence that has nothing to do with the story, but might make people feel less hostile since it refers to the most famous of the 'nuns on the bus' for how she and they defeated the 'Republican' budget plan. Nothing like using nuns you have specifically sent the CDF after like the Vatican has after Sr Simone's lobbying group NETWORK.  No shame, no shame, absolutely no shame.)
As speaker for the Ugandan Parliament, Kadaga publicly expressed her support  for the famous anti-homosexuality bill which, in its original version presented in 2009 by MP David Bahati, established the death penalty as punishment for those found guilty of “aggravated homosexuality”. According to the bill, a person commits this offence where “the person against whom the offence is committed is below the age of 18 years” or “the offender is a person living with HIV”. Ever since it was presented, the bill - renamed “Kill the Gay Bill” – has been at the centre of controversies and sharp criticisms on the part of the international community and human rights organizations.('aggravated homosexuality' is also defined as a long term relationship. Funny how that got left out.)
The provision is being discussed and it is unlikely it will be approved by the end of the year, despite Kadaga’s promises. In its current form, the bill no longer presents the death penalty as a punishment for “aggravated homosexuality”. Instead it stipulates life imprisonment for the offence, but the sentences for those who engage in relations with other people of the same sex – which are illegal in Uganda - have become tougher on the whole.(Either Vatican Insider is privy to information no one else knows, or this is really disingenous 'splainin'.  Every other source I've read, including Ugandan, says no one knows for sure if the death penalty statues have been removed. It's an assumption at this point. These details in the bill are very hush hush.)
The case exploded when certain elements of the Ugandan press made Kadaga’s brief meeting with the Pope - when the speaker kissed Benedict XVI’s hand and the two exchanged a quick greeting that lasted no more than 20-30 seconds –look by like a “blessing” from Pope Benedict XVI to the President of the country’s Parliament. According to Flavio Romani, president of the Italian LGBT association Arcigay, with “the blessing he gave yesterday in the Vatican to the Ugandan parliamentary delegation led by spokesman Rebecca Kadaga,  one of the arch promoters of the “Kill the Gay Bill”…he continues to present himself as an apostle of injustice, division and discrimination against gay, lesbian and transsexual people.”
Not so according to Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi who issued a statement to Vatican Insider: “relations with the delegation were not out of the ordinary and no blessing was given.” The group of Ugandan MPs greeted the Pope “just like any other individuals attending an audience with the Pope would” and this “is by no means a specific sign of approval of Kadaga’’s actions or proposals.” (Sure, and it would just be another day at the Vatican zoo if Benedict greeted any other individual who say....favored women's ordination. (as if they would get into an audience.)  Speaking of just another day at the zoo, how come no papal audience for Sr Simone Campbell and the nuns on the bus? After all, she and they actually got an award.  Ooops I forget, these audience things have nothing to do with making any political statements or giving any blessings to politicians, or lobbyists, or anti gay crusaders.)
Lombardi also reiterated the Catholic Church’s absolute opposition to the death penalty, regardless of the case or the country. (I hope all my right wing buddies picked up on 'absolute opposition' to the death penalty. No wishy washy cutting corners in the words 'absolute opposition'.  On the other hand, no mention of gays or treating gays with dignity and compassion, just the implication that it isn't OK to kill gays for being gays.)
A Wikileaks cable had shown how in 2009 the United States had been actively – and apparently successfully – committed to creating awareness among Holy See diplomats about Uganda’s anti-homosexuality bill. In December 2009, when the debate over the “Kill the Gay Bill” was at its peak the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the UN, Mgr. Celestino Migliore, condemned “all forms of violence and unjust discrimination against homosexual persons.” A few weeks later, the Archbishop of Kampala, Mgr. Cyprian K. Lwanga, condemned the bill because it targeted “the sinner not the sin” and did not reflect a very “Christian caring approach” to the issue of homosexuality. (Again, some interesting 'splainin'.  What this fails to mention is that in 2008 Migliore caused another uproar by notifying France that the UnHoly See would be the only European state that did not sign onto the French UN resolution to decriminalize homosexuality.  Reasoning:  “it would create new and implacable discriminations against opponents of same-sex marriage".  The Vatican thinks it is better to imprison gays than discriminate against people (like the Roman Catholic Church) who don't like the idea of same sex marriage.)


This entire Ugandan situation was a set up from the get go.  President Museveni got precisely what he wanted from the 'kill the gays' bill.  At the same time the Parliament under Ms Kadaga was blathering on about gays, they passed the Petroleum Bill which gives the entire over site of Ugandan oil production and exploration to one cabinet member under Museveni's control. It appears to me this was always the main prize and that gays were used as a distraction from this agenda.  It is not surprising then, why American C Street fundamentalists were the main instigating force in the attack on gays.  C Street is in the Koch brothers pockets.  Shock and awe, that all  of a sudden 'the kill the gays' bill is at the bottom of parliament's priority list.

But now it can get even better. When Ugandans watch the Museveni family and his supporters get even richer off Ugandan mineral and oil wealth they will get to hear how it's all the fault of the gays and having had to capitulate to Western agitators on the 'kill the gays' bill.  This will happen after Museveni is nominated for the Nobel peace prize by Dick Cheney.  That last is a joke.....I think.

I bet Fr Lombardi wishes he didn't have to continually cover for Pope Benedict's machinations.  I bet he wishes the just made Archbishop Ganswein would have to do this kind of dirty work.  But it's not to be, and so he offered this incredible piece of 'popesplainin' for an act that is too obvious to 'splain' away and this is really really bad 'slainin'.  I wonder how he sleeps at night. Probably only with the help of a lot of sacramental wine or really good meds.



  1. Extremely insightful as ever! I'm so happy you picked up on the connection to oil production. This seems to be the UnHoly See's (I love that name) primary interest in Africa as I noted in my blog "Apostolic Journeys or Trade Junkets." You are a fabulous see-er, seeing and noting the subtleties and back stories of the hierarchs as no one else does. Betty Clermont

    1. Thanks Betty, but your work has been a godsend for me. Your research has given me many leads and insights while confirming some of my deductions. For Catholics who care about what the UnHoly See is really up to, and has been seemingly ever, your work is stop numero uno.

      Sometimes though, this gets all too depressing and predictable.

  2. Interesting analysis. I would like to link to this post on my blog. Hope that is OK.

    1. By all means Frank and thanks.

    2. A very excellent article. This is so discouraging. The Vatican really needs to speak out loudly against what is going on in Uganda. Lets have some moral courage here.

  3. President Obama -

    Thabo Mbeki -

    Desmond Tutu -

    Rick Warren -

    Rowan Williams -

    The Anglican Archbishop of York -

    Catholic bishops [of Uganda] oppose gays Bill -

    Pope criticises Ugandan anti-gay bill - no hits.

    1. Nice job Rat. Talk about isolated in your own little world. You go Pope Benedict.

  4. Anti-gay violence was denounced in Vatican as early as three years ago ( Funny how that got left out. I'm in no doubt, though, that you will all post the link on your blogs now, so as not to mislead your readers!

    You can also look up the official documents of the Catholic Church (like that one:, published as early as in 1997) to see what has already been said on the approach towards homosexual people.

    Finally, a more thourough analysis would require a deeper look into how papal audiences are organized (for instance, how many people the Pope meets in every audience).

    Two other points, though:

    1. Admittedly, "the Holy See did not reference Uganda by name". More on this topic under link provided.

    2. I'm far from claiming that everything is all right with this audience. It manifestly isn't.

    1. Staszek, the Vatican has been mouthing statements about denouncing gay violence for at least two decades, but when they really need to put an emphasis on this issue of violence against gays, they won't act. It's empty rhetoric never backed by any action. In fact in Cardinal Ratzinger's "Halloween letter of 1986 he states this:

      "When such a claim is made and when homosexual activity is consequently condoned, or when civil legislation is introduced to protect behaviour to which no one has any conceivable right, neither the Church nor society at large should be surprised when other distorted notions and practices gain ground, and irrational and violent reactions increase."

      I will grant that Pope Benedict's writing translates very poorly into English, but this quote comes across as blaming the victim for the violence they suffer. Exactly like rape is a woman 'asking for it'.

      This was a typical Vatican photo op in which a clear statement was intended. Lombardi's 'splainin' is just an act of disinformation intended to soothe the qualms of Catholics who might actually be aware of this act. Oh for the good old days when hardly anyone paid attention to these audiences except diplomats looking for the real Vatican position on a given issue.

    2. I have the impression that when Vatican issues a statement that contradicts your claims, you call it "empty rhetoric". However, when Vatican issues a statement which confirms them, it suddenly gains a lot of weight. I don't think this is fair treatment.

      Moreover, the document I linked appears to have been published exactly at the time when "they really needed to put an emphasis on this issue of violence against gays".

      I do agree with you that now is another such occasion, though. The position I think we share is that a much more serious denouncement than Lombardi's ought to be made now (ought to *have been* made, actually). As a Catholic I'm saddened and anxious that it hasn't.

    3. Maybe our difference is more basic. I look at the maneuvering and statements from the Vatican primarily as acts of sovereign state that wields a great deal of global power. I believe the interests of the Holy See come before the interests of the spiritual well being of Catholics. There for I see a great of double speak coming from the Vatican. One real message intended for diplomatic folks under the auspices of a message ostensibly intended for the faithful. That's why I look for the actions that back the talk.

      In this case the actions under cut the talk and generates pure cognitive dissonance for rank and file Catholics, but not for Ugandan politicians.

  5. The difference may be more basic indeed. Well, thank you for the conversation! Even though I do not agree with your post, it certainly raises a number of important issues and I regret neither the reading nor the discussion.

    Best regards,

  6. en passant,
    could someone explain to me the difference between an 'enlightened Catholic' and an Episcopalian?

    1. Domics, the title of this blog is actually a pun. Occasionally I try to inject humor in what are too frequently not humorous situations.

      Here's my take on the difference between and enlightened Catholic and an Episcopalian. There isn't a great deal of difference in theology. The real difference lies in the fact the Episcopalian church is not a sovereign state with it's own bank and global diplomatic corps. The Episcopalian Church is not in the habit of telling national governments how to do their work or dictate legislation. There is no religion on the planet that remotely rivals Rome for influence peddling. Enlightened Catholics stick around to point out our Emperor in Rome is not primarily a follower of Christ, he is a ward politician and rules Catholicism like a fascist dictator.

    2. so to speak, why do you call yourself 'Catholic' and not simply 'Christian'. What is there in the Catholicism you prefer or you like than other Christian denominations?

    3. I actually refer to myself as a Christian in the Catholic tradition. I believe if one is not a Christian first, before one is a Catholic, then one is a member of a Catholic cult divorced from Christianity.

    4. interesting! and St Paul with his letters at what point of this tradition is located? within the Christianity or in the divorced 'Catholic cult'