Column: The Prada Papacy

By Eric Naing

A Vatican decree, to be issued on Nov. 29, aims to rid the Catholic Church of priests who have “deeply rooted homosexual tendencies” or “support so-called gay culture.” If so, then why is the new pope running around in Gucci sunglasses, red Prada loafers and shiny sequin vestments?

The Catholic Church has been plagued by scandal and charges of corruption. Here I was thinking that the problem was pedophilia and a corrupt Catholic leadership that did nothing to stop it, but I guess I was mistaken. At least according to the Vatican, the real problem all along was with those dastardly homosexuals.

According to the decree, which was leaked to the press last week, men who display so-called homosexual tendencies or even support homosexuality would not be allowed into seminaries. Those with “transitory” homosexual tendencies must remain celibate for three years until they are allowed to become deacons.

Many critics have noted that it will be exceedingly difficult to actually enforce such a decree. The Rev. Eugene Lauer of the National Pastoral Life Center told the News & Observer: “I have no idea how they will apply it. It will be just a nightmare.”

And there very well may be Church leaders and Vatican officials who themselves are homosexuals. Considering the loose definition of “homosexual tendencies,” anyone could he accused of being gay. As the Rev. Donald Cozzens of John Carroll University warns, “the hunters may turn out to be the hunted.”

Take, for example, Pope Benedict XVI. Judging by his fashion sense, he seems to have fully embraced the concepts of high fashion and true fabulousness. Shunning the tailors who have dressed popes for more than 200 years, this chic Catholic has turned to a much younger fashion house, which, according to Newsweek, “has provided the pope with dazzling new vestments (some with shimmering, sequinlike details).”

This fashionista father has also been seen sporting a pair of Gucci sunglasses and bright red Prada loafers while cruising around in his Popemobile. Seriously, who does the Pope think he is in those red shoes and sequins robes, Judy Garland? Liberace?

Citing the problem of shrinking seminaries, the Rev. Richard John Neuhaus of First Things magazine claims the decree will help by attracting prospective priests who have been scared off by “the presence, and sometimes dominance, of a gay culture” in the Catholic Church. If this truly is the reason why fewer people are becoming priests, I’m pretty sure the Prada Pope is not helping the situation.

It is disheartening that the Vatican would embrace something that sounds more like Saudi Arabian social policy than a Catholic decree. If the Catholic Church wants to attract more priests, it should embrace a policy of acceptance and not ignorantly turn away good Catholics even if they are gay.

According to this new decree, even Father Mychal F. Judge, who was injured while giving the holy sacrament to a fallen firefighter and later died in the lobby of the World Trade center on Sept. 11, 2001, would be unfit for the priesthood. Father Judge definitely exhibited “deeply rooted homosexual tendencies” when he told close friends he was gay. He also was known to “support so-called gay culture” by advocating gay rights and conducting funerals for those who died of AIDS.

Bishop William Skylstad, president of the U.S. Conference of Bishops, was right when he said, “witch hunts and gay bashing have no place in the church. There are many wonderful and excellent priests in the church who have a gay orientation, are chaste and celibate, and are very effective ministers of the Gospel.”

This decree is nothing more than a Papal red herring, meant to scapegoat homosexuals and distract us all from the real problems in the Catholic Church. If the Vatican truly wanted to make a difference they should consider letting priests get married, or maybe they should genuinely do something about that child molestation thing.

As it has many times in the past, the Catholic Church needs to modernize. Only through acceptance, and not through intolerance, can it survive.

Eric Naing is a senior in LAS. His column appears every Monday. He can be reached at [email protected]