New Spanish Cardinal Believes that Homosexuality is a “Defect”

Viñeta de Carlos Latuff subida a Twitter por el usuario Álvaro Escudero. Libre de derechos.

Cartoon by Carlos Latuff posted on Twitter by Álvaro Escudero. This image is royalty-free.

The Spanish cardinal Fernando Sebastián Aguilar, recently appointed by Pope Francis, has sparked controversy over his statements in an interview with the newspaper Sur [es]. When asked: “Do you see homosexuality as a defect from a moral point of view?” he responded by saying: 

Sí. Muchos se quejan y no lo toleran, pero con todos los respetos digo que la homosexualidad es una manera deficiente de manifestar la sexualidad, porque ésta tiene una estructura y un fin, que es el de la procreación. Una homosexualidad que no puede alcanzar ese fin está fallando. Eso no es un ultraje para nadie. En nuestro cuerpo tenemos muchas deficiencias. (…) El señalar a un homosexual una deficiencia no es una ofensa, es una ayuda porque muchos casos de homosexualidad se pueden recuperar y normalizar con un tratamiento adecuado. (…)

“Yes. Many people complain about this and won’t tolerate it, but with all respect I am saying that homosexuality is a defective way of expressing sexuality because sex has a structure and a purpose, which is procreation. A homosexuality which cannot achieve this [procreation] is failing. This is not an insult to anybody. Our bodies have many defects. (…) To point out this defect to a homosexual is not offensive, it is a way of helping them because many cases of homosexuality can be cured and individuals can become normal again with the right treatment. (…)”

One paragraph alone has stirred up an explosion of reactions on social media sites. Many responded to his statements and countless web users left comments on news webpages. On the webpage where the interview [es] was published, drymartino countered the cardinal using his own argument:

Ser cura es una manera deficiente de manifestar la sexualidad, porque ésta tiene una estructura y un fin, que es el de la procreación. Un cura que no puede alcanzar ese fin está fallando.

“Being a priest is a defective way of expressing sexuality, because sex has a structure and a purpose, which is procreation. A priest who cannot achieve this [procreation]  is failing.”

In El País, irisiss commented:

Yo también conozco a homófobos que, a pesar de padecer una enfermedad que consiste en odiar sin lógica, viven tan felices con su ignorancia, aunque deberían estar tratados.

El arzobispo Sebastián con el papa Francisco. Foto del blog  Iglesiaactualidad

Archbishop Sebastián with Pope Francis. Photo from the blog Iglesiaactualidad

“I also know homophobes who, despite suffering from an illness which consists of hating without logical reasoning, live quite happily in their ignorance even though they should be treated.” 

Furthermore, many criticised Pope Francis for appointing a cardinal who is clearly out of sync with the progressive, modern image which the Catholic Church would like to portray. The user atila left this comment under the op-ed written by Enric Sopena in [es]:

Si alguien cree que el Papa Francisco está al servicio de los pueblos está muy equivocado, no es mas un populista demagogo, al servicio de las clases pudientes y reaccionarias, información hay mas que de sobra de quien es quien, y nombrar cardenal a un fascista no es ignorancia del Papa, sino de seguir la estela de sus recientes antepasados. Menos hipocresía Francisco.

“Whoever believes that Pope Francis is serving the people is very much mistaken. He’s nothing more than a populist demagogue at the service of the reactionary ruling classes. There is more than enough information about who is who, and appointing a fascist cardinal doesn’t show ignorance on the Pope’s part, but his desire to continue in the footsteps of his predecessors. Less hypocrisy please, Francis.”

Pedro Zerolo, a socialist politician, homosexual and LGTB rights activist tweeted:

If the Pope believes in what he says, he should condemn the cardinals he has appointed who label homosexuals as ‘unwell’. 

Pedro Zerolo himself was recently the involuntary protagonist of an unfortunate incident with another religious figure. After having announced that he had cancer, a priest well-known for his extremist ideas claimed on an extreme right-wing television channel [es] that Zerolo’s illness was due to “Divine Providence trying to set an example to those who make a mockery of virtue”. The show host replied by saying, “I wouldn’t change my dog’s life for the life of Pedro Zerolo”.

The National Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Transexuals and Bisexuals (FELGTB) has severely condemned [es] the cardinal’s statements:

Mantener que la homosexualidad es una patología es una aseveración anticientífica, una forma de ponerse en ridículo y de perpetuar el estigma contra el colectivo de la diversidad sexual y de género. (…)

No queremos que la Iglesia católica pida perdón a nuestro colectivo dentro de 200 años por el dolor que nos está infringiendo hoy su jerarquía. Queremos que sean conscientes de que sus palabras incitan al odio, a un sufrimiento que puede llevar al suicidio a nuestros jóvenes. (…)

“To claim that homosexuality is a disease is an unscientific assertion, it’s a way of setting yourself up for ridicule and perpetuating the stigma of sexual and gender diversity. (…) We don’t want the Catholic Church to apologise to our community in 200 years’ time for the pain their hierarchy has been causing us. We would like them to be aware that their words preach hatred and lead to suffering which can end in our youth committing suicide. (…)”

Biochemist Pere Estupinya has also refuted the cardinal’s statements using scientific studies in the article of his blog “Homophobes need to be cured, not homosexuals”, [es] by concluding:

Lo que todos los estudios siguiendo a pacientes en terapias psicológicas reparativas concluyen es que efectivamente alguien puede evitar comportarse como homosexual, pero no dejar de serlo. Y lo más importante: este proceso suele venir acompañado de un enorme daño psicológico.

“All studies on patients being treated with psychological therapy effectively show that somebody can avoid behaving in a homosexual manner, but cannot stop being homosexual. And more importantly, this process is often accompanied by serious psychological harm.”

Large numbers of tweeters also viciously criticised Sebastián’s homophobic theory:

Mr. Cardinal, if being homosexual is a defect, perhaps you could tell us what happens when a Virgin and a dove make a baby?

[Translation note: This is a Biblical reference. Certain Christians believe that the Holy Spirit descended upon the Virgin Mary in the form of a dove and she conceived baby Jesus, Son of God]  

Hey, maybe a fascist cardinal can be cured with the right treatment and we’ll get our loveable little old man back?

The Church accepts that it may be plagued with deficiencies: new cardinal assures us that homosexuality is a “deficiency…”

Homosexuality has a cure – I completely agree with that. I'd even go as far as to say that it has curates, nuns and even one or two cardinals..

El futuro cardenal Sebastián, en una rueda de prensa el 13 de enero de 2014. Captura de pantalla de un vídeo subido a YouTube por DIOCESISTV.

The future cardinal Sebastián, in a press conference on the 13th January 2014. Screen shot from a video posted on YouTube by DIOCESISTV

The Cardinal’s inclination towards highly conservative views was already well-known. In 2007 when Sebastián was the archbishop of Pamplona, he released a publication [es] in which he urged Catholics to vote for “political parties that remain faithful to all of the Church’s social doctrine, such as the Comunión Tradicionalista Carlista (Carlist Party), Alternativa Española [es], Tercio de Acción Política [es], and Falange Española de las JONS”, all of which form part of the extreme Right-wing minority. He has also attacked the Socialist Party on several occasions, such as in 2008 when he criticised the policies of the Spanish socialist party PSOE (Partido Socialista Obrero Español) by saying that “analysing things objectively, there is no compatibility” between being a Christian and being socialist. In the words of Javier Lozano in Libertad Digital [es]:

Este posicionamiento de un obispo que había sido vicepresidente de la Conferencia Episcopal lo justificaba con ejemplos: “El tratamiento de la familia, el tratamiento del aborto, la campaña de la eutanasia, y la asignatura de Educación para la Ciudadanía”. Cosas “que no puedo entender”, afirmaba.

“The bishop, who had been the vice president at the Episcopal Conference, justified his position with the following examples: ‘Policies on the family and abortion, the campaign for euthanasia and the choice to have a civic education.’ These are things which he said that he ‘couldn’t fathom’ “. 

Fernando Sebastián will only be a cardinal emeritus as he is 85 years old and therefore can no longer vote in the conclave.

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