Media should not resort to sensationalized gay scapegoating in Vatican coverage

Italy's largest newspaper, La Repubblica (Italian), has linked the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI to an internal Vatican report that discusses the "Vatileaks" scandal. However, as the story picks up steam, the headlines are focusing on one particular alleged lobby group, the "gay lobby." I've already seen the headline, "Did gays in the Vatican drive Benedict out?" (David Gibson says no. And so does common sense.)

It would be very easy to turn a story about a power struggle within the Vatican into a piece of propaganda that blames gay people for the woes of the Roman Catholic Church. No doubt, anti-gay activists will attempt to do that. But gay people within the church, at any level, is not a scandal. It's a historical reality.

LGBT people have always been a part of the Church, serving various roles. Just like anyone else, gay people often feel the call to ministry, and many have followed that call. No amount of anti-gay language or prohibitions on openly gay clergy can stop everyone who is following their calling from God. It is also safe to assume that some of these gay people are highly gifted, and will recognized for their gifts and be given assignments that use those gifts.

Even though LGBT people are an active part of the Church, there is no "gay lobby" at the Vatican. There are a variety of Roman Catholic LGBT advocacy organizations both within and outside of the formal structure of the Roman Catholic Church. GLAAD works with several of them, and we have lifted up their voices in our media advocacy. But terms like "gay lobby" (and the even more scintillating "gay mafia") conjures up the image of a secret sect sneaking around under the cover of darkness, like the stuff of Dan Brown novels.

The reporting by La Repubblica and those who have carried the story has focused on some of the more sensational aspects of the report: blackmail, clandestine meetings, scandal. Juicy stuff. Add that to the fact that the Roman Catholic hierarchy, and Pope Benedict himself, has been very public in their opposition to LGBT equality both within and outside the church.

It is possible, though not probable, that names may be released or leaked in connection with this report. If there is credibility to these reports, it will not be a surprise to find that some involved may be among those who have been the most outspoken against the LGBT people striving to live with integrity, honor, and openness in the way we were blessed to be created.

The real scandal is the jockeying for power that occurs within any church, even as faithful LGBT people are being driven away from faith communities. The real scandal is that such harsh anti-LGBT language may inspire a parent to kick out their child upon coming out about being LGBT. The real scandal is that qualified people with the gifts for ministry are being forced to choose between service to the church or honesty to one's self and others.

GLAAD calls on the media to exercise diligence when investigating and reporting on the story of Benedict's abdication. Voices that place blame at the feet of LGBT people need to be put into context. GLAAD's Commentator Accountability Project is one way to vet or understand what some of the leading Catholic anti-LGBT activists have said about LGBT people in the past.

For media to learn more about LGBT people in the Catholic Church, GLAAD suggests contacting Equally Blessed a coalition (of the Catholic organizations: Call To Action, DignityUSA, Fortunate Families, and New Ways Ministry) committed to full equality for LGBT people in church and civil society.

Jim Naughton

Equally Blessed Media Contact