Commentary  The Pope’s offensive

An open letter to Benedict XVI, re: anti-discrimination laws

Dear Pope Benedict XVI,
Hi. This is Eric. I was reading the news and I saw that you recently wrote an open letter saying some controversial things, so I figured I’d write an open letter back. Recently in England, many Catholic adoption agencies closed because of new laws that prevented them from discriminating against same-sex couples. In response to this development, you said that “the effect of some of the legislation designed to achieve this goal [of equality] has been to impose unjust limitations on the freedom of religious communities to act in accordance with their beliefs. In some respects, it actually violates the natural law upon which the equality of all human beings is grounded.”

I just wanted to address a flaw that I saw in your logic. Basically, what you’re trying to say is that these new laws are denying your organization, the Catholic Church, the right to discriminate, and are therefore discriminatory. The request I ask of you is to mind your own business. I know that you’re the Pope and all – arguably the most prestigious and respected title in the world – and that you may think it’s your prerogative to spread the word of God (and have no reason to listen to the advice of a 20-year-old university student), but when you decry laws that prevent bigotry and claim discrimination against your own religious group, that’s hypocritical. Granted, it’s a little hypocritical of me to tell you to mind your own business when I am neither British, Catholic, homosexual, nor a prospective adopter, but as a humanitarian, I have a problem with what you are saying.

In addition, you went on to say, “Fidelity to the Gospel in no way restricts the freedom of others – on the contrary, it serves their freedom by offering them the truth,” suggesting that people who believe in real equality are wayward souls who haven’t seen the light. You demand that people follow your views. After all, this anti-discrimination law – which would be forced upon your religion – is a violation of “natural law.”

The problem isn’t religion or the Catholic Church. I’ve never been one to condemn religious groups – my atheist friends can attest to that. However, the problem is that you’re using your platform as the Pope to attack legislation that denies you the right to discriminate. That is, you’re fighting for your right to be intolerant by upholding an antiquated belief that is inherently prejudiced. Though you say that “fidelity to the Gospel” doesn’t “restrict the freedom of others,” you do restrict the freedom of others. What I found a little funny was that when these adoption agencies closed because of the new law, it was as if they were saying, “The law won’t let us discriminate anymore. I guess we should close up shop rather than adjust our policies.” The new law doesn’t stop you from practicing your religion and spreading your teachings; it only stops you from discriminating in secular society.

In the light of contemporary social issues, it seems that many people have trouble minding their own business. What does it matter to opponents of equal marriage in Maine and New Jersey if people of the same sex get married? The hypocrisy is especially obvious in the United States where right-wingers – ever-wary of the government infringing on individual rights – fervently petition the government to limit other people’s rights. Why are these people so vehemently opposed to something that ultimately has no impact on their lives? I don’t mean to imply that only those who subscribe to a certain religious morality, or all religious people, oppose equal rights. I also don’t believe that people should ignore the plight of others. But there are humanitarian efforts, and then there are intolerant acts of bigotry. Complaining about the laws that deny you the right to discriminate is closer to the latter. It’s time you realized that.


Eric Wen is a U2 English Literature student. Write him a closed letter at Open ones go to