Monday, September 15, 2008

Like Oil and Holy Water

Here's the sort of math I understand: Pope Benedict XVI + gays = a hoo-hah.

Europe offers two recent examples of how charged, how volatile the relationship is between the Pope and homosexuals.

Prior to the pontiff's arrival in France for a four-day visit, the French daily newspaper Le Figaro reported that French police were spying on groups critical of the Pope. Those under surveillance included ACT-UP, at loggerheads with Benedict over condom use to prevent HIV/AIDS, and LGBT groups, at loggerheads with Benedict over just about everything.

The spies wanted to learn about plans for protests. The newspaper reported that French authorities were hot to avoid what happened in July when the Pope visited Australia.

It didn't rain men in Sydney, but it did rain condoms.

About 500 people protesting Benedict's opposition to homosexuality and contraception tossed condoms at Catholics who were on a pilgrimage walk as part of the church's World Youth Day. Protesters chanted, "Pope go homo, gay is great," and sang, "Pope is wrong, put a condom on."

Those protesting the Pope's visit included gays, contraception advocates, survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests—and members of a cult that believes Jesus was sent by aliens. The latter actually make me a tad sympathetic toward His Holiness.

If French authorities learned about planned protests by spying on LGBT groups, what actions would they be motivated to take? Outlaw cloudbursts of condoms? Forbid chants with puns?

I don't know enough about the French take on civil liberties to gauge how irked the LGBT folks might be at having been spied on by their government. If they feel their rights have been violated, perhaps they'll take a symbolic step: stop eating "frites" and start eating "freedom fries."

France's anti-terror squad conducted the surveillance. Boy, are ACT-UP and the other groups appalled that they're lumped together with al-Qaeda, or honored that they're taken as such a serious threat? After all, ACT-UP is likely to stage a die-in, while al-Qaeda opts to arrange the real thing.

Meanwhile in Italy a comedian is in big trouble for a joke about the Pope and gays. In July stand-up comic Sabina Guzzanti performed at an anti-politics rally in Rome organized by a satirist. She said that Pope Benedict XVI would "go to hell and be pursued by two big, gay and very active devils."

There's a picture.

Now Guzzanti is in devilishly hot water. In Italy it's a crime to "offend the honor" of the Pope or the president. Saying Guzzanti's words exceeded satire, the Rome city prosecutor is seeking permission from the federal justice minister to begin criminal proceedings against the comedian.

Conviction could land her in prison for up to five years. That's a place where she might learn a thing or two about same-sex pursuit.

This isn't the only time Guzzanti has pushed the Italian envelope. Recently she suggested that the equal opportunities minister, who had worked in the past as a topless model, earned her job by performing oral sex on the prime minister.

Obviously Guzzanti is not making friends in high places.

Now her joke about the Pope being pursued by lecherous gay devils has her under investigation for "vilification" of the pontiff.

Pope Benedict XVI has often vilified gays, but authorities have yet to place him under investigation.

The pontiff could take a step toward reducing the friction between himself and the international gay community by telling Italian authorities to leave Guzzanti alone. Until Benedict throttles back on his antagonism toward LGBT people, the mutual dislike and electrically charged atmosphere will continue. Which means that many of the places on earth he visits will experience electrical storms and condom showers.