The Italian Almanac

Javier Lozano Barragan

Knock Knock Knocking

Gays and transsexuals won't go to heaven, a top Roman Catholic cardinal said. "Transsexuals and gays will never enter the heavenly kingdom," said Javier Lozano Barragan, until recently the Vatican's 'health minister''. "It's not me who says so, it's St Paul," he said, referring to the saint credited with forging the early Church.

St Paul (5 BC-67 AD) wrote many epistles (letters) to the rapidly spreading early Christian community. In one of them, to the Romans, he said about unbelievers: ''God gave them up to degrading passions. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error".

Barragan, who still holds positions on various Church bodies, added that people were not born gay but became so. "Perhaps they aren't guilty but by acting against the dignity of the body they will certainly not enter the Kingdom of Heaven," he repeated.

Barragan's remarks drew a prompt reaction from the Italian gay association Arcigay, which said "yes, it's true, we won't ever get into your heaven, which is a murky and unjust place". It added that Barragan's statement came in the wake of a spate of attacks on gays and "a media campaign against the dignity of transsexual persons," referring to unflattering portraits of prostitutes involved in a Rome sex scandal.

In its teachings, the Catholic Church describes homosexuality as a "disorder" which bars active gays from taking part in the Church. The Vatican sparked polemics last December when it opposed a proposed United Nations declaration to decriminalise homosexuality in the world. But in July the Holy See said it agreed that homosexuality should be decriminalised and backed the Council of Europe's plans to prepare a measure on the issue.