The Callous Smile of Cardinal Turkson

As the white smoke billows out from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel, the World will be waiting to know who will be the man (not woman, that apparently, would be wrong) to take on the enormous challenges the Catholic Church currently faces.

One of the leading candidate to replace Pope Benedict, as the new Pontiff, is Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana. The media outlets love him on account of him not being European, or white. He may very well be the first black Pope, given that the Church will be under a lot of pressure to outwardly appear as if it is modernising in any way, and the election of another old, white, European is not likely to help that cause. However, the news media appears to be ignoring Turkson as a person, instead choosing to focus almost all of its attention on his ethnicity. His ethnicity must be noted, is irrelevant. The content of his character, and the beliefs he will bring with him to such a powerful position during a time of immense crises, are the key factors. And so this leaves the question, who is Peter Turkson?

Standing in front of the African Union Summit in January of 2012, Ban Ki-Moon asked all African Nations to stop prosecuting people for homosexuality, and to repeal all laws criminalising it, in accordance with the UN Declaration of Human Rights. Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana was not happy with this, and gave his response, not so subtly insisting that he does not believe that gay people should be afforded the same human rights as straight people:

We push for the rights of prisoners, the rights of others, and the last thing we want to do is infringe upon the rights of anyone. But when you’re talking about what’s called ‘an alternative lifestyle,’ are those human rights? Ban Ki-moon needs to recognize there’s a subtle distinction between morality and human rights, and that’s what needs to be clarified.

– He is quick to tell us that the Catholic Church defends ‘the rights of others’, but this does not extend to gay people, and those apparently aren’t worthy of the human rights his Church believes in. And so, instead of outright condemning the horrifying anti-gay laws which includes the death penalty, and even extradition back to Uganda for Ugandans known to be gay, outside of Uganda. This stigmatising (with ridiculous terms like “an alternative lifestyle” – alternative to what? I consider Catholicism to be an ‘alternative lifestyle’ to mine) has lead to newspapers and magazines in Uganda (wishing to win favour with the government) publishing the names and addresses of gay people in the country next to the headline “Hang them”. In other words, if you are Ugandan, you are trapped, in perpetual fear for your life. The Catholic Church itself opposes the anti-gay bill, and condemned it. Cardinal Peter Turkson suggested that the law that basically calls for a genocide against gay people, must be weighed against the rights of straight Ugandans to express their ‘culture’. As if the right to oppress, is a legitimate right that must be respected:

“Just as there’s a sense of a call for rights, there’s also a call to respect culture.”

His defence of violent African laws against homosexuality continues. His most bizarre rant came when asked about the child sex scandal that has engulfed the Catholic Church over the past few years. He doesn’t think the maybe blame the sexually repressed framework on which the Catholic Church operates, or anything else that might be considered a legitimate critique of the crises, instead, he decides it’s the fault of homosexuality is what leads to paedophilia:

“…African traditional systems kind of protect or have protected its population against this tendency (child abuse) a little bit. Because in several communities, in several cultures in Africa homosexuality or for that matter any affair between two sexes of the same kind are not countenanced in our society, so that cultural, if you want, the taboo that traditionally has been there, has served to keep this out.”

– Here, he is suggesting three things. Firstly, the ridiculous and totally unfounded idea that homosexuality is linked to paedophilia, perpetuation an even deeper stigmatisation of homosexuality, that the Catholic Church has been intrinsic in defining over the decades. And secondly, he weaves in another defence of African anti-gay laws, as if they are beneficial to society. And lastly, that the child abuse scandal, could not possibly happen in Africa, because the anti-gay laws prevent such a thing. Here, he is building on remarks already made by Yoweri Museveni, the Ugandan President. Museveni said:

“Before we came in touch with the Europeans, we had some few homosexuals…. Africans are by nature discreet people… We never exhibit our sexual acts in public. I have for instance never kissed my wife in public… The problem is exhibitionism… The second problem is trying to lure young children into homosexuality.”

– The ignorance is shocking. Museveni and Turkson are of the same belief that homosexuality, is the cause of child abuse. And apparently, that any show of affection, is a ‘problem’. Both of which (not being completely heterosexual, and showing affection in public), he believes are imported from European colonisation; the white man. The Cardinal, and the President of Uganda, believe that child abuse is caused by gay white people from Europe. Is it possible to be more absurd?

They appear to conveniently ignore the fact that one of the main causes of the spread of AIDs in young girls and women in African nations, is rape. By men. With girls. In fact, in 2007 Amnesty International reported that the Ugandan government was both covering up and supporting systematic rape of young girls. The report notes:

“Violence against women is endemic throughout Uganda”

– The Lord’s Resistance Army in the north of Uganda at the time, were responsible for kidnapped and forcing young girls into sexual slavery. Victims claim that Ugandan government officials, members of the police, and members of the judiciary in Uganda had abused them. One in four women, the report notes, say their first sexual encounter, was forced. All of this is glossed over as the President of Uganda, and the horrendous Cardinal Turkson stand atop their self-made moral ground, working tirelessly to keep up their ‘cultural tradition’ of stigmatising an innocent, and harmless section of the population they so instinctively hate.

He then turns his attention goes on to providing us with his reasons for why he isn’t a fan of reproductive rights for women, meaning contraception and abortion:

“There will be a racist agenda behind all of this”

“….The program being pushed does not reflect the true situation of women in the Third World, It derives from a certain thinking that you deal with poverty by eliminating the poor.”

– Cardinal Turkson believes those outside of Africa whom support condom use and are pro-choice, simply wish to de-populate the black population of Africa. Perhaps so we can take over, open the gates to all the gay, white child molesters.

So, that’s homophobic, racist, and anti-women’s rights. If this is the modernisation of the Catholic Church, it looks eerily similar to the pre-modernised Catholic Church.

When one of the most senior Cardinals in the Catholic Church, and one of the favourites for the Papacy spreads such vicious and bigoted senseless deceptions, further stigmatising a section of humanity who already face such oppressive measures that the Cardinal just wishes we’d all ‘respect’, it is little wonder that the Church, as an institution, is so widely disliked. View the grin on his face, whilst imagining the horror that a person in Uganda faces simply for being a sexuality that the Cardinal does not like; the violence he or she must face, and possible death. The smile suddenly becomes chilling, and callous and built on bigotry, and that is exactly how this awful man should be viewed. Electing this man to the Papacy would be an intolerable step backward, for an Institution already so far back, we need a telescope to see it.

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