On Christmas Day, a petition was added to the White House web site, urging the U.S. government to “officially recognize the Roman Catholic Church as a hate group.” According to a brief description accompanying the plea, the basis for the designation is the church’s stance on same-sex marriage and homosexuality.

“In his annual Christmas address to the College of Cardinals, Pope Benedict XVI, the global leader of the Roman Catholic Church, demeaned and belittled homosexual people around the world,” the petition reads. “Using hateful language and discriminatory remarks, the Pope painted a portrait in which gay people are second-class global citizens.”

White House Petition Calls for Catholic Church to be Called a Hate Group

Pope Benedict XVI attends the Epiphany Mass at the St. Peter’s Basilica on January 6, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican. During the ceremony the pontiff named four new bishops including his personal secretary Georg Gaenswein. Credit: Getty Images

The text goes on to note that Pope Benedict claimed that same-sex families “are threatening to society.” The individual behind the initiative accused the Catholic leader of implying that gays are also “sub-human.” As a result of the pope’s recent words, the petition argues that the Church meets the criteria to be called a hate group by both the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League.

The effort to urge condemnation from the White House was sparked by Pope Benedict’s Christmas message. As TheBlaze previously reported (as per AP), the Catholic leader has taken his opposition to gay marriage to new heights with a strong denunciation of how people today are manipulating their sex and gender to alter their God-given nature.

White House Petition Calls for Catholic Church to be Called a Hate Group

A screen shot from the controversial White House petition.

Benedict made the comments in his annual Christmas speech to the Vatican bureaucracy — one of his most important speeches of the year and one he dedicated this year to promoting family values. However, following the posting of the petition, Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C., defended the pope. The Catholic News Agency has more:

Sprigg argued that the petition is “distorting” the Pope’s words, which do not actually include hateful or discriminatory language.

In his address to the cardinals, the Pope did not directly reference “gay marriage” or “homosexuality” at all. Rather, he defended the Church’s understanding of sexuality and “the true structure of the family, made up of father, mother, and child.”

The Holy Father refuted the modern notion of sex as “a social role that we choose for ourselves,” rather than “a given element of nature” and “bodily identity, that serves as a defining element of the human being.” [...]

Sprigg argued that the petition is misleading and “clearly has political purpose.”

Currently, the effort has 2,184 signatures. The goal, by Jan. 24, is to capture 25,000 total signatures in order to reach the 25,000 goal of receiving an official review from the Obama administration.

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