On what the Pope said, didn't say and what people say that he said
What he did say
“[The church] must defend not only the earth, water and air as gifts of creation that belong to all. It must also defend the human person against its own destruction. What’s needed is something like a ‘human ecology,’ understood in the right sense. It’s not simply an outdated metaphysics if the church speaks of the nature of the human person as man and woman, and asks that this order of creation be respected.”
“Here it’s a question of faith in creation, in listening to the language of creation, disregard of which would mean self-destruction of the human person and hence destruction of the very work of God. That which is often expressed and understood by the term ‘gender’ in the end amounts to the self-emancipation of the human person from creation and from the Creator. Human beings want to do everything by themselves, and to control exclusively everything that regards them. But in this way, the human person lives against the truth, against the Creator Spirit.
“Great Scholastic theologians defined marriage, meaning the lifetime bond between a man and a woman, as a sacrament of creation, which the Creator instituted and which Christ – without changing the message of creation – then welcomed into the story of his covenant with humanity. This witness in favor of the Creator Spirit, present in the nature of this bond and in a special way in the nature of the human person, is also part of the proclamation which the church must offer. Starting from this perspective, it’s important to re-read the encyclical Humanae Vitae : the intention of Pope Paul VI was to defend love against treating sexuality as a kind of consumption, the future against the exclusive demands of the present, and the nature of the human being against manipulation."
What he didn't say
All gay people are destined for damnation.
Gay people should be exterminated/expelled from Christendom/forced to wear pink badges in public.
Gay people spread disease/poison public water supplies/are a blight on civilisation.
Gay people are paedophiles.
Transexuals should be burnt at the stake.
God-fearing heterosexuals should be protected from gay people.
He said none of that. As Damian Thompson and Andrew Brown who both know what they're talking about noted, he merely reiterated the Church's teaching on sexuality. Pope revealed to be Catholic, shock. He also did something more interesting than that. In rejecting the gender theories most associated with radical feminism, he implicitly argued that they pointed the way to the ancient but quintessentially modern heresy of Pelagianism.
But all that was unapparent to the swarm of angry commentators lining up to register their outrage at what they imagined the Pope had said in increasingly excitable terms. The Rev Sharon Ferguson of the LGCM described the Pope's remarks as "totally irresponsible and unacceptable in any shape or form." Sweetly oblivious to her own preposterousness she continued, "It is more the case that we need to be saved from his comments. It is comments like that that justify homophobic bullying that goes on in schools and it is comments like that that justify gay bashing". Rentagob revisionist Anglican cleric, Rev Giles Fraser wrote something or other not worth the trouble reading. Philip Hensher expostulated, Ruth Gledhill wrote one of her typically sexed up pieces. The normally unflappable Iain Dale wondered why the Pope didn't just join the BNP and have done with it. Brett Lock of Harry's Place took up the theme, declaring that the leader of the world's 1.1 billion Roman Catholics was a "hate mongering lunatic" and that "the Catholic Church is fast becoming to sexuality what the BNP is to race." David T who came as near as damn it to admitting that he didn't know what Benedict actually said opined, "What the Pope appears to have done - depending on the interpretation one gives to his words - is to put himself fully behind a political agenda that has successfully provoked the systematic persecution of gay people throughout the world. He has preached a gospel of hatred and denigration." And on and on.
You wouldn't guess from any of this that in two recently issued statements the Vatican argued that homosexuality should be legal and gay people protected from all forms of physical violence. Of course you wouldn't. Popes aren't judged on what they say but what people imagine that they say; reason has long since departed the place where faith and sexuality are discussed.
Update: My friend Austen Ivereigh has an interesting and very Jesuitical take on the story, entitled Gays, Gallileo and the Message of the Manger, which is well worth a read here.