Several GLBT blogs (including the Quotable Queer from Indy) and organizations are immediately jumping to the "Benedict XVI will be no friend to our community" call-to-arms. In a recent press release, Matt Foreman, the executive director for the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force said "Today, the princes of the Roman Catholic Church elected as Pope a man whose record has been one of unrelenting, venomous hatred for gay people, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger."
Pope John Paul II obviously wasn't a force for gay and lesbian civil rights either. DignityUSA.com, the website for the GLBT Catholic organization says that during John Paul's papacy, GLBT folk were "demonized by Church leaders and made the scapegoat for weakened family structures in Western societies and for the sexual abuse scandals that rocked the church in the United States and in Europe."
DignityUSA's president, Sam Sinnett, commented shortly after John Paul II's death: "While we join millions around the world in earnest prayer for the Pope's eternal salvation and the future of our Church, we remember that this papacy has used harsh and derogatory language such as 'objectively disordered and intrinsically evil' to describe gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people."
In 1896, the Vatican issued the now infamous "Halloween letter." Who wrote the homophobic screed? Ratzinger, the dean of the powerful College of Cardinals, who served John Paul II as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Papal historians are wondering whether Ratzinger's choice of Benedict as his papal name has any significance. Seems Benedict XV (1914-1922) was a moderate who followed a fundamentalist that issued a crackdown on "modernism." Speculation abounds as to whether this is Ratzinger's way of signaling that he wants to change his image of doctrinal hard-liner. Doubtful.