There’s been some upheaval in various media about Pope Benedict XVI allegedly blessing Ugandan politician Rebecca Kadaga and thus supporting the proposed law which she supports, a law that would punish homosexuals in Uganda with either life imprisonment or the death penalty. In order to discover if the Holy Father truly supports such draconian measures against people with same sex attraction, let’s take a look at what really happened.
Speaker of Uganda’s Parliament Kadaga attended last Wednesday’s general audience. She was in Rome for an international meeting. At the audience she was able to shake hands with the pope and exchange a few words with him. This is fairly standard, as a selection of politicians, bishops and other people usually briefly meet the pope at the end of the Wednesday proceedings. In essence, it is an opportunity to say hello and exchange some well-wishes. The Holy Father may bless individuals, I imagine when people ask him to, although he also offers his blessings over all who attend the audience before meeting with individual. The brief meeting is pertinently not an official discussion requiring support for or condemnation of anything.
What does the blessing in this case mean? In the first place, it is not a sign of approval. Secondly, it is specifically granted to either an individual or a set group (for example, the attendants of the general audience). A blessing is the granting of Gods mercy and strength to a person. Ideally, a blessing will help someone in doing or saying what is right. It is not a computer program overwriting someone’s intentions and actions, but it may well help in realigning someone according to God’s will. In the case of the Rt. Hon. Kadaga (although it is not clear if she was indeed blessed by the Holy Father), it is hoped that the blessing she received will help change her mind.
The Catholic Church supports and upholds the sanctity of life, all life, regardless of age, sex, skin colour or, indeed, sexual preferences. The death penalty, for example, is incompatible with this. A legal bill that would allow the killing or imprisonment of people for the sexual orientation (or skin colour, sex, age or whatever) should then be opposed by Catholics.
But does the Church then not oppose homosexuals? No, she does not. She does, however, criticise homosexual acts. Not the person, but his or her actions. This is an important difference, and easily understood. Acts have consequences, even legal ones, but people have an innate dignity which must be protected.
So no, Pope Benedict did not give his blessings over the proposed bill that would so harshly punish homosexuals. He did greet the Ugandan delegation, received a gift from them, and possibly blessed the persons making up the delegation. The persons, not their actions.