The Pope, His Secretary, and Gay Marriage

With all eyes, ears and cameras on a new pope, John Paul II, with no disrespect, is slowly becoming yesterday’s news. But during the two week media frenzy that was John Paul’s life, death and burial, I was a bit taken back by the lack of attention given to the late pope and his relationship with Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz – the pope’s private secretary of more than forty years. After all, Dziwisz was not only one of the pope’s most trusted aides but his closest friend.

Dziwisz slept in a bedroom next to the pope’s and was with the pope almost every waking moment. They dined together. Watched films together.

During the pope’s life, Dziwisz became one of the most influential voices in the Vatican. In death, he was at the pope’s bedside and was one of only two mentioned by name in the pope’s last will and testament.

His emotional last moment with the pope was seen by millions as Dziwisz tenderly placed a white veil over John Paul’s face, his final farewell.

But in an era where tabloid-fueled guesswork makes for good ratings, I’m baffled as to why no one dared imply the unimaginable – that the pope and his secretary might have had a deeper relationship – not just that of pope/secretary, friend or father-son.

Not that I personally think this is true or would ever do more than entertain the possibility, but did this not cross the mind of Larry King, Chris Matthews, or Brian Williams? After all, the day Monaco’s Prince Rainer was buried, Larry King was brazen enough to ask a panelist if the prince’s son, Albert, was gay. So, why not here?

And, if Dziwisz had been a faithful nun, would the media not have at least speculated?

The reason for this potential headline “going gently into that good night,” likely has nothing to do with the worth of the story or fear of papal disrespect, but everything to do with how most individuals, religious or not, perceive homosexual relationships – as strictly sexual in nature.

Working to change this perception might be the answer to the question on the minds of gay Catholics since Pope Benedict’s appointment, “What do we do now?” It might also be the Church’s answer to how it is to treat its gay parishioners and – more timely – how it should deal with the issue of gay marriage.

A good start might be more practical than divine – temporarily closing the good book and simply reexamining two accepted clinical terms: homosexual and heterosexual. Both are similar in that they imply sexual orientation. They are also similar in that they are each characterized by esthetic attraction, romantic love and sexual desire. What is different is obvious.

Although both basically mean the same, in the public sector, the images conjured by each could not be more polarizing.

Say or print the term heterosexual and the imagery is this: man and woman, romantic love, commitment, compatibility, marriage, children, and – more recently — the buzz phrase “sacred institution.”

On the contrary, mention homosexual and what immediately comes to mind is sex. And, even worse, sex between two males or two females. All other characterizations are off the table – especially by those morally opposed to homosexuality and – god forbid – gay marriage.

The problem here lies both in how homosexuality is defined in the eyes of church leaders and the fact that – by their definition — they are right. Homosexuality is a moral evil. After all, sex alone is not a foundation for anything pure. By itself, sex is a selfish pleasure that cannot sustain a relationship and taps more into an animal instinct than an ability to love and be loved.

What Catholics and other religious leaders have failed to include in their spiritual equation is the reality that for homosexuals, like heterosexuals, sexual attraction constitutes only a fraction of their sexual orientation. The remainder is, indeed, pure.