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St. John Paul II’s totally Catholic response when gay ‘pride’ parade came to Rome 18 years ago

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June 7, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – The late Pope Saint John Paul II did not equivocate or placate over the implications of a sizable celebration of homosexuality conducted in Rome during the Catholic Church’s Jubilee Year of 2000 – saying it was an “offense” to Christian values and an insult that commanded acrimony.

''In the name of the Church of Rome I can only express my deep sadness at the affront to the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 and the offence to the Christian values of a city that is so dear to the hearts of Catholics throughout the world,'' he told pilgrims in a Sunday message one day after thousands had marched in a gay pride parade in Rome.

The pope reaffirmed Church teaching on homosexuality, quoting the Catechism, and said the Catholic Church could not be silent about the truth.

''Homosexual acts are contrary to the natural law,'' John Paul II said in an address delivered from a balcony over St. Peter's Square July 9, 2000. 

''The Church cannot be silent about the truth, because she would fail in her fidelity to God the Creator and would not help to distinguish good from evil.''

A New York Post at the time portrayed John Paul II's criticism as “homophobia,” saying he was “angry” as he spoke out against the celebration of homosexuality. 

John Paul II’s response to the gay pride event in Rome and his precise articulation of Catholic sexual teaching highlights the dissimilarity between his governance and that of the Francis pontificate – the latter marked by confusion, ambiguity in teaching, and infamous remarks such as “Who am I to judge.”

The Rome parade was the main event for the international World Pride 2000, the Los Angeles Times reports, replete with “leather-clad motorcyclists,” “bare-breasted transsexuals,” and “drag queens in gaudy wigs.”

The Vatican had pushed to cancel the gay festival for months, according to the New York Times, but the July 10, 2000 address was the first time the pontiff personally spoke to the issue.

One day before his remarks in St. Peter’s Square on the day the gay pride parade was held, John Paul II had celebrated a special Jubilee Year Mass for inmates in Rome’s oldest prison, offering them his personal blessing and appealing for governments worldwide to reduce sentences for prisoners during the Holy Year.

Pope Boniface VIII established the “Holy Year” in the Church in 1,300. It is special a time when Catholics are called to conversion and is celebrated with sacred rites. 

John Paul II intended the Great Jubilee Year of 2000 as a time of repentance for individuals and for the Church as a whole, was a celebration of the mercy of God and forgiveness of sins. It had special significance for celebrating the 2000th anniversary of the birth of Christ and observing the beginning of the Third Millennium for the Church, and included simultaneous jubilee celebrations elsewhere in the world. 

The gay pride parade was Italy’s “first gay mega-gathering,” the LA Times said, topping the weeklong event that attracted gay activists from some 40 countries.

The report said there had been larger gay pride celebrations to date in the U.S. and northern European cities, “but this was one of the biggest in a mostly Catholic country,” and “it was the most highly politicized gay event anywhere in years, staged despite opposition from the Vatican …”

John Paul II clearly conveyed the Church’s perennial teaching on homosexuality to pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square that day in 2000.

"This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity."

"Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided," the pope continued.

The Catholic Church differentiates between human beings and the sexual urges they experience and it does not identify individuals by sexual inclinations. It holds that while same-sex attraction is not a sin, homosexual acts are sinful.

The Church says that sexual relations are reserved for marriage, which is between a man and woman (CCC-2360).

Church teaching also states that homosexual tendencies are objectively disordered, and that individuals who experience them “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided” (CCC-2358).

However the Church also teaches that homosexual acts are “acts of grave depravity” and they “are intrinsically disordered," and further that “under no circumstances can they be approved” (CCC-2357).

The Church states as well that, “homosexual persons are called to chastity” (CCC-2359), which is also what its teaching says about all people.

With the onset of pride month this year, observed annually by gay activists and their supporters in June, Providence, RI, Bishop Thomas Tobin cautioned Catholics about events celebrating gay pride month.

Pride events, most notably parades, have the repute for exceedingly vulgar dress and behavior, very often including public sex acts. Children are frequently present and exposed to the morally repugnant spectacles.

Bishop Tobin had tweeted, “Catholics should be very wary of events in the June LGBTQ month. It’s not a fun-filled, family-friendly celebration of respect. It promotes a lifestyle and agenda that, in the extreme, is morally offensive.”

Jesuit Father James Martin, editor-at-large for America magazine, a consultant to the Vatican for its communications, and an immense proponent of the normalization of homosexuality, tweeted the following day ostensibly in response that Catholics “need not be wary of pride month.”

“It’s a way for LGBT people to be proud that they are beloved children of God, they have families who love them as they are, and they have a right to be treated with "respect, compassion and sensitivity" after years of persecution,” Martin said.

Martin said in a subsequent tweet that, “Not every pride month event will be to everyone's taste, but the underlying point--LGBT people should be proud of who they are, after centuries of persecution and violence--is important,” and then continued to promote pride month.

Chaste same-sex attracted individuals and others reproved the idea that pride events do not have a focus on homosexual sex.

Daniel Mattson, a chaste same-sex-attracted Catholic and author of Why I Don’t Call Myself Gay, aptly shared the New York Post article from 2000 on JPII’s response to that year’s gay pride march in Rome on Twitter, and said, “If you see priests praising Gay Pride events, lets recall what St. John Paul II had to say about them.”

Update June 8: This report has been updated with a translation of John Paull II's comments provided by Vatican's website. 

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