Opinion, by Michael Royster
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – ¡Habemus papam! Or, rather, perhaps, given that Roman Catholics are a minority among the world’s seven billion people: ¡Habeunt papam! [¡You/They Have a Pope!] Or, rather, perhaps, given that Benedict XVI is now Pope Emeritus, ¡Habemos papam et emeritum! There’s apparently no plural for Pope in Latin.
Whatever the plural is, Pope Francis seems to appeal to Latin American “Presidentas”. La Presidenta Argentina, a/k/a Cristina Kirchner, traveled over to Rome for a papal audience, as did A Presidenta Brasileira, a/k/a Dilma Rousseff. Both have now had their fifteen seconds of fame and an opportunity to tell the new Pope something political.
Dilma, who was initially against any meeting at all, decided the political fallout from snubbing the Pope’s inauguration would be disastrous in a year when the Pope is expected to come to Rio for Catholic Youth Day. As of this writing Dilma is reported to have congratulated the new Pope Francisco on his concern for the poor and the hungry; however, she is also reported to have pleaded for greater comprehension of people with “differential options”.
This phrase, of course, is code for people whose sexual orientation is different from heterosexual monogamy, and includes quite a large number of people in Brazil. The official position of the Roman Catholic Church, and of almost all the Evangelical churches that have had logarithmic growth in Brazil, is that the only permissible sexual activity is that between married persons of different sexes.
Dilma currently has another political problem, connected with the same topic. The congressional coalition, in its empty but hydra-headed wisdom, decided to award the chairmanship of the Congressional Commission on Human Rights to an Evangelical pastor, one of the leaders of the radical religious right in Congress.
The Congressional Commission on Human Rights has long had, as one of its principal objectives, the elimination of discrimination against gays and others with “differential” sexual options. The newly appointed Chair, however, does not believe humans have the “right” to engage in any sexual activity except those appropriate for heterosexual monogamy. For him, any other sexual activity is sinful, which makes it not a human right, but a human wrong.
The new Pope’s position is no different. When he was “merely” Cardinal Bergoglio, he was an outspoken critic of legislation promoted by La Presidenta Cristina, which permits marriage between people of the same sex. His comments caused a brief media spat, and the two of them have not spoken for years, until her pilgrimage to Rome this week.
There, in a nicely calculated political move by the new Pope, she was “prima inter pares” i.e. the very first Head of State granted an audience. Audiences aside, Cristina and Dilma and all the rest of the world know full well that the Catholic church’s position on human sexuality is not going to change during this Papacy.
The Curmudgeon’s view is that Dilma should have asked the Pope to intercede with São Pedro to have him stop raining on Petrópolis (the City of Peter) so that its citizens will stop drowning in mudslides every year or so. Or, better yet, perhaps she should ask him to intercede with the federal, state and municipal authorities, all of which have done absolutely nothing in the past years to rectify the calamitous situation in the hills above Rio.
Michael Royster, aka THE CURMUDGEON first saw Rio forty-plus years ago, fetched up on these shores exactly 35 years ago, still loves it, notwithstanding being a charter member of the most persecuted minority in (North) America today, the WASPs (google it!)(get over it!)