If there was any doubt that homophobic bigotry is the official institutional policy of the Roman Catholic Church, there cannot be any longer.

National Public Radio and the Washington Post are reporting that Pope Benedict XVI dove smack dab into the middle of the battle over marriage equality today (miter, satin slippers, and all!) in an address delivered at the Vatican to a delegation of visiting bishops from the United States. In it, he forcefully denounced the “powerful” push to grant same-sex couples the freedom to marry in the United States.

From the NPR article (emphases mine):

The 84-year-old pope acknowledged his comments might sound anachronistic or “countercultural,” particularly to the young. But he told bishops to not back down in the face of “powerful political and cultural currents seeking to alter the legal definition of marriage.

“Sexual differences cannot be dismissed as irrelevant to the definition of marriage,” he said. . .

Benedict said a weakened appreciation for traditional marriage. . . had led to “grave social problems bearing an immense human and economic cost.” He didn’t elaborate on what the cost was.

Of course he didn’t, because that’s an outright lie.

The visiting delegation included bishops from Minnesota, South Dakota, and North Dakota. It was led by Twin Cities Archbishop John Nienstedt, who has inserted himself more deeply into the battle over civil marriage in his state than perhaps any other Catholic bishop across the country. Nienstedt is the same prelate who injected a prayer for marriage discrimination into the Catholic Mass, turned the Eucharist — which is sacred to Catholics — into a weapon with which to marginalize and exclude LGBT people, and told the priests of his diocese that if any of them dared to oppose the Church’s efforts to write its discriminatory teachings on marriage into the state constitution, they had better shut up about it.

Pope Benedict’s words today, delivered to a group of bishops headed by one of the American Catholic Church’s most notorious homophobes, amount to nothing less than an official endorsement — no, a blessing — of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ all-out campaign of spiritual bullying and forceful political lobbying against American lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, couples, and families.

The leader of the religion into which I was born has just cloaked anti-gay hatred with the mantle of faith to an unprecedented degree and explicitly endorsed malicious religion-based bigotry in a way I never imagined possible.

I truly have no words to describe the level of my disgust. If I hadn’t already left the Catholic Church before I heard this news today, I’d be walking out the door at this very moment.