(CNSNews.com) - A homosexual-rights activist whom President Obama appointed last month to a White House advisory council had--just three weeks before his appointment--posted a statement on the Web site of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s most prominent homosexual-rights organization, accusing Pope Benedict XVI, leader of the Roman Catholic Church, of “hurting people in the name of Jesus.”
The activist had previously posted statements on the HRC Web site accusing the Catholic Church of “insulting” Jesus and of “sending a message that violence and human rights abuses against LGBT people are acceptable.”
In March, the HRC also posted a photograph of the pope and a statement attacking him on a new Web site the group created that month that it says is designed for “calling out those who maliciously use lies and misinformation to interfere with the LGBT community’s path to equality.”
President Obama appointed the HRC activist, Harry Knox, to his Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships on April 6.
Knox was then, and remains, director of the HRC’s Religion and Faith Program. The HRC describes itself as “America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality.”
On the day Obama appointed Knox as one of his advisers, the HRC posted a statement by Knox about his new role in the administration.
In the statement, Knox said, “[O]f course, we will support the President in living up to his promise that government has no place in funding bigotry against any group of people.”
On March 31, a week before the White House officially announced the appointment, the Associated Press reported that Knox would be invited to join the presidential advisory council.
Just two weeks before that, on March 17, Knox published a statement on the HRC Web site accusing Pope Benedict XVI of “hurting people in the name of Jesus” and “morally reprehensible” behavior in spreading “blatant falsehoods.” The statement was in reaction to remarks the pope made to reporters that very same day as he flew from Rome to Cameroon in Africa.
On the flight, the pope responded to six questions from reporters. According to a transcript of the conversation posted on the Vatican Web site, French journalist Philippe Visseyrias asked the following: “Your Holiness, among the many ills that beset Africa, one of the most pressing is the spread of AIDs. The position of the Catholic Church on the way to fight it is often considered unrealistic and ineffective. Will you address this theme during the journey? Holy Father, would you be able to respond in French to this question?”
The pope answered: “I would say the opposite. I think that the most efficient, most truly present player in the fight against AIDs is the Catholic Church herself, with her movements and her various organizations. I think of the Sant’Egidio community that does so much, visibly and also behind the scenes, in the struggle against AIDs. I think of the Camillians, and so much more besides. I think of all the sisters who take care of the sick. I would say that this problem of AIDs cannot be overcome merely with money, necessary though it is. If there is no human dimension, if Africans do not help [by responsible behaviour], the problem cannot be overcome by the distribution of prophylactics: on the contrary, they increase it.
“The solution,” the pope continued, “must have two elements: Firstly, bringing out the human dimension of sexuality, that is to say a spiritual and human renewal that would bring with it a new way of behaving towards others, and secondly, true friendship offered above all to those who are suffering, a willingness to make sacrifices and to practice self-denial, to be alongside the suffering.
“And so these are the factors that help and that lead to real progress: our twofold effort to renew humanity inwardly, to give spiritual and human strength for proper conduct towards our bodies and those of others, and this capacity to suffer with those who are suffering, to remain present in situations of trial,” said the pope. “It seems to me that this is the proper response, and the Church does this, thereby offering an enormous and important contribution. We thank all who do so.”
Following the pope’s remarks, the Associated Press released an instant dispatch datelined “Aboard the Papal Plane.”
This AP dispatch reported the pope’s statement as follows: “Pope Benedict XVI said Tuesday that the distribution of condoms is not the answer in the fight against AIDS in Africa. … The Vatican encourages sexual abstinence to fight the spread of the disease. ‘You can't resolve it with the distribution of condoms,’ the pope told reporters aboard the Alitalia plane headed to Yaounde, Cameroon. ‘On the contrary, it increases the problem.’”
'Hurting People in the Name of Jesus'
Knox’s statement—citing the Associated Press--and claiming that the pope was “hurting people in the name of Jesus” and had spoken “blatant falsehoods” appeared on the HRC website that same day.
“The Pope’s statement that condoms don’t help control the spread of HIV, but rather condoms increase infection rates, is hurting people in the name of Jesus,” said Knox. “On a continent where millions of people are infected with HIV, it is morally reprehensible to spread such blatant falsehoods. The Pope’s rejection of scientifically proven prevention methods is forcing Catholics in Africa to choose between their faith and the health of their entire community. Jesus was about helping the marginalized and downtrodden, not harming them further.”
This was not the first time Knox or HRC had attacked Pope Benedict XVI or the Catholic Church.
In 2007, in another written statement posted on HRC’s Web site, Knox accused the Catholic Church of behavior that was “immoral and insulting to Jesus” and doing “spiritual and emotional violence.”
That statement was in reaction to an incident that took place in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Cheyenne, Wyo.
As reported at the time by the Associated Press, two lesbians who lived in that diocese, Leah Vader and Lynne Huskinson, first put an engagement notice than a wedding notice in the local newspaper.
The lesbian couple was then married in Canada in August of 2006. On returning to Wyoming, they wrote a letter to a state legislator stating their opposition to a proposed state ban on same-sex marriages. This letter was read in the state legislature.
The lesbian couple also did an interview with a local newspaper talking about their lesbian relationship. The interview was conducted on Ash Wednesday, according to the Associated Press, and the paper that did the interview ran photos of the couple showing the ashes on their foreheads that they had received that day when they attended Mass.
In response to the couple’s public exposition of their lesbian relationship, the AP reported, the couple’s pastor “ran reminders of the church's teachings in the parish bulletin as a warning.”
Eventually, the pastor sent the couple a letter, saying: “It is with a heavy heart, in obedience to the instruction of Bishop David Ricken, that I must inform you that, because of your union and your public advocacy of same-sex unions, that you are unable to receive Communion."
'Immoral and Insulting to Jesus'
On April 6, 2007, Harry Knox responded for the HRC, delivering his opinion about the moral validity of the Catholic Church’s teaching on the circumstances under which a Catholic is qualified to receive Holy Communion.
“In this holy Lenten season, it is immoral and insulting to Jesus to use the body and blood of Christ the reconciler as a weapon to silence free speech and demean the love of a committed, legally married couple,” said Knox. “The Human Rights Campaign grieves with the couple, Leah Vader and Lynn Huskinson, over this act of spiritual and emotional violence perpetrated against them.”
This December, Knox and the HRC accused the Catholic Church of “sending a message that violence and human rights abuses against LGBT people are acceptable” because the church would not sign a United Nations resolution that not only called for decriminalizing homosexuality but also equating all sexual orientations.
In explanation its position on the UN resolution, the church said that all unjust discrimination against homosexuals must be stopped and that the church opposed criminal penalties for homosexuality. Nonetheless, the church said a resolution such as the one presented at the UN that required governments to hold all sexual orientations as equal paved the way for attempts to pressure nations to legalize same-sex marriage.
Vatican Spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi explained that under the resolution countries that “do not put every sexual orientation on exactly the same level can be considered contrary to the respect of human rights.”
Harry Knox and the HRC responded by signing a statement with other pro-homosexual groups stating that the church’s position was “immoral” and sent a message that violence against homosexuals was acceptable.
“As faith leaders we were shocked by Vatican opposition to this proposed initiative,” said the statement signed by Knox and posted on the HRC Web site. “By refusing to sign a basic statement opposing inhumane treatment of LGBT people, the Vatican is sending a message that violence and human rights abuses against LGBT people are acceptable. Most Catholics, and indeed most Catholic teachings, tell us that all people are entitled to live with basic human dignity without the threat of violence. The Catholics we know believe that Scripture asks us to be our brother and our sister’s keeper. Many are speaking out against this immoral stance in the name of religion.”
This March, HRC launched a new Web site called EndtheLies.org. A March 5 HRC statement said it was designed “to confront right-wing lies and distortions repeatedly used to defeat LGBT equality measures.”
“EndtheLies.org features an interactive wall with videos, audio, pictures and quotes, calling out those who maliciously use lies and misinformation to interfere with the LGBT community’s path to equality,” stated HRC.
The wall features an image of Pope Benedict XVI and this statement: “Pope Benedict XVI has called same-sex relationships ‘a destruction of God’s work,’ opposed a U.N. resolution decriminalizing homosexuality, and claimed in March 2009 that the use of condoms increases HIV infections.”
As Fred Lucas of CNSNews.com reported on April 6, Knox told the Bay Area Reporter on March 17 that the pope was a “discredited leader.” This was the same day that Knox posted the statement on the HRC Web site saying that the pope was “hurting people in the name of Jesus.”
Knox was speaking to the publication--which says it serves the “gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities”--about efforts by the Catholic Church and the Knights of Columbus to enact California’s Proposition 8, which prohibited same-sex marriage in the state.
“The Knights of Columbus do a great deal of good in the name of Jesus Christ, but in this particular case, they were foot soldiers of a discredited army of oppression," Knox told the Bay Area Reporter. Knox went on to say that the Knights of Columbus “‘followed discredited leaders,’ including bishops and Pope Benedict XVI. ‘A pope who literally today said condoms don't help in control of AIDS.’”
In an interview with Lucas on April 6, Knox told CNSNews.com that he “absolutely” stood by his criticism of the pope.
“The pope needs to start telling the truth about condom use,” Knox said. “We are eager to help him do that. Until he is willing to do that and able, he’s doing a great deal more harm than good—not just in Africa but around the world. It is endangering people’s lives.”
Rep. Mike Pence (R.-Ind.) called on President Obama to withdraw Knox’s appointment in light of his comments to the Bay Area Reporter.
No Comment from White House
Last month, CNSNews.com White House Correspondent Fred Lucas asked the White House in writing whether the president would withdraw the appointment as Pence requested, and whether President Obama agreed with Knox’s statement that the pope is a “discredited leader” and, if not, did he believe Knox should apologize.
On April 15, White House Spokeswoman Jen Psaki told CNSNews.com, “We don’t have a response to that.”
“You can say we declined to comment,” she added.
At her press conference on Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) said she was “unaware” that Knox had called the pope as “discredited leader.”
“I’m so sorry. I’m just totally unaware of that statement,” Pelosi told CNSNews.com, when asked about Knox’s comments in the Bay Area Reporter. “I really don’t know about that. But certainly, his Holiness is the head of an organization that has done more to alleviate poverty, eradicate disease, and is now addressing climate change issue and the rest. I am just not familiar with the statement and the circumstance.”
Harry Knox did not respond to voicemail messages asking if he would like to comment on the statements he made about the pope and the Catholic Church that are posted on the Human Rights Campaign Web site.