According to the International Herald Tribune today, Pope Benedict likened gay behavior to ecological destruction:
Pope Benedict said Monday that saving humanity from homosexual or transsexual behaviour was just as important as saving the rainforest from destruction.
The Church “should also protect man from the destruction of himself. A sort of ecology of man is needed,” the pontiff said in a holiday address to the Curia, the Vatican’s central administration.
“The tropical forests do deserve our protection. But man, as a creature, does not deserve any less.”
According to the article, the pope also said that:
. . . humanity needed to “listen to the language of creation” to understand the intended roles of man and woman. He compared behavior beyond traditional heterosexual relations as “a destruction of God’s work.”
The notion that homosexual behavior is, metaphorically, akin to rainforest destruction, is curious, and raises the question of how, exactly, these two things are analogous. Here are a few possibilities:
- The human soul, like a rainforest, is a delicate ecological system, and can be harmed by bad human behavior.
- The human body, like a rainforest, should not be intruded upon in “unnatural” ways, or it will cease to function.
- The human community, like a rainforest, is subject to threats from within, which must be weeded out.
Any time that humanity, as a whole, is likened metaphorically to an organic system, there is always the danger that someone or something will be identified as a “weed” or “pest” that must be purged from the system.
In this sense, the pope’s language is highly provocative—and even irresponsible and bigoted—for it puts homosexual behavior, and homosexuals generally, in the position of being something sinister—both in the community and outside the community at the same time.
Psychologically, this invites demonization of a group of people, and history offers us many tragic examples of organic metaphors that have gone bad (such as when Nazi Germany identified Jews as vermin and weeds to be driven out of the volkish community).
Another historical example includes the medieval “witch craze.” Witches, like medieval Jews, were thought of as being both in and outside of the community, and by inhabiting this “living-dead and in-out” zombie space, they were treated by the larger community with bigotry and suspicion, as well as outright persecution.
By using an organic metaphor for gay behavior (making it akin to rainforest destruction) the pope’s language invites the contemporary heterosexual community to engage, with homosexuals, in the types of social and psychological dynamics that led to the persecution of Jews and witches in Europe.
Especially troubling is the pope’s claim that the world needs an “ecology of man.” Such an “ecology” invites community cleansing, with gay people put in the position of being objectified as things that are dirty and in need of purging.