British Catholic Leaders Support Marriage Equality Legislation

August 13, 2012

The Times of London, England, has published a letter to the editor today from 27 prominent British Catholics expressing support for the United Kingdom’s proposed legislation to legalize same-gender marriage.  (It is not possible to link to the text on the Times’ website because a subscription is required to access letters to the editor.)

The 27 signatories include James Alison (theologian & priest), Tina Beattie (theologian), Mary Grey (theologian), Bernard Lynch (priest), Martin Pendergast (Chair, Centre for the Study of Christianity & Sexuality).

The text of the letter reads:

“Sir,  Not all Catholics share their hierarchy’s stated views against proposals to extend civil marriage to same-sex couples. Nevertheless, the submission by the Catholic Bishops of England & Wales  to the Government’s equal civil marriage consultation indicates a growing understanding about legislating for same-sex unions, compared with its 2003 position, when it firmly opposed civil partnerships.

“It seems  to us, as Catholic laity, theologians and clergy, important to uphold some key pastoral care principles used by the Catholic Church in England & Wales. Its 1979 guidelines stated that the Church has a serious responsibility to work towards the elimination of any injustices perpetrated on homosexuals by society.

“In 1997 Cardinal Hume wrote that love between two persons, whether of the same sex, or of a different sex, is to be treasured and respected. This respect demands that such loving relationships be afforded social recognition according to social justice principles. He proposed three criteria for considering issues of social policy: are there reasonable grounds for judging that the institution of marriage and the family could, and would be undermined by a change in law? Would society’s rejection of a proposed change be more harmful to the common good than the acceptance of such a change? Does a person’s sexual orientation or activity constitute, in specific circumstances, a sufficient reason for treating that person in any way differently from other citizens? We suggest that it is perfectly proper for Catholics, using fully informed consciences, to support the legal extension of civil marriage to same-sex couples.”

The full list of signers:

James Alison, Theologian & priest
Ruby Almeida, Chair of Quest (LGBT Catholics)
Tina Beattie, Theologian  
Mike Castelli, Educationalist
Mark Dowd, Journalist
Michael Egan, Chair, Lesbian & Gay Christian Movement
Maria ExallChair, Trade Unions Congress LGBT Committee
John Falcone, Theologian
Eileen Fitzpatrick, Educationalist
Kieran Fitszimons, Priest
Mary Grey, Theologian
Kevin Kelly, Theologian & priest
Ted Le Riche, Retired educationalist
Bernard Lynch, Priest
Gerard Loughlin, Theologian
Francis McDonagh, Lay-person
Patrick McLoughlin, Priest
Anthony Maggs, Priest
Lorraine Milford, Lay-person
Frank Nally, Priest                                                                                                                                                                                                       Martin Pendergast, Chair, Centre for the Study of Christianity & Sexuality                                                                                         Sophie Stanes, Lay-person                                                                                                                                                                                       Joe Stanley, Lay-person                                                                                                                                                                                   Valerie Stroud, Chair, Catholics for a Changing Church                                                                                                                                Terry Weldon, Editor, Queering the Church                                                                                                                                            Matias Wibowo, Lay-person                                                                                                                                                                           Deborah Woodman, Clinical Psychologist

Congratulations and many thanks for this thoughtful piece.  Let’s hope and pray that Catholic leaders in other countries, particularly the United States, will speak out as clearly and forthrightly.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Former Ambassador to the Vatican Speaks Out Against Ugandan Discrimination

August 13, 2012

Thomas Patrick Melady, the former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican and also to Uganda, has repeated and strengthened his plea to other religious leaders calling for an end to discrimination and injustice directed towards lesbian and gay people in Uganda.  In a blog posting on the Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good website, Melady calls on Christians to speak out against the draconian practices against lesbian and gay people, especially since these practices are being justified by religious arguments.

(A “hat-tip” to Michael Sean Winters’ blog post on The National Catholic Reporter website for alerting me to Melady’s post.  Winters points out that Melady is a co-chair of Mitt Romney’s Catholic outreach team, making the former ambassador “another example of an orthodox Catholic calling on Catholics not to traffic in anti-gay bigotry. Coming from such an illustrious member of the Republican Party’s Wise Men, let’s hope Melady’s counsel reaches far and wide and deep.”)

Melady argues that

“. . . the new tranquility in Uganda is being threatened by a determined effort in the legislature to criminalize homosexuality. Gay Ugandans are being demonized. A recent bill would have enforced lifetime prison sentences and even the death penalty for gay acts. Neighbors could be punished by prison sentences for not reporting gay and lesbian neighbors to the authorities.

 “It is unfortunate that the campaign for these actions has been inspired by American missionaries and others. As I stated in a previous article on this matter, I urge U.S. faith leaders of all denominations to speak out against the campaign to demonize gays in Uganda. The Catechism of the Catholic Church notes that ‘every sign of unjust discrimination’ against gays should be avoided. As a layman I would like to observe that the legislation being advocated by a few, which emphasizes severe punishment, runs contrary to the Christian tradition. In view of the high numbers of Christians of all denominations in Uganda, this represents and opportunity for American faith leaders, especially Christians, to urge their co-religionists to respond more correctly to Christian teachings and traditions.”
Silence on this issue, Melady points out, is not an option, and so he makes his call to speak out explicitly to Catholics, noting:
“Our Catholic faith in the inalienable dignity of every human being demands no less.”
Indeed, Catholic leaders have been shamefully silent about this matter, particularly compared to how quickly and loudly they speak out when questions of equal marriage rights for lesbian and gay people are proposed.  In the face of such blatant injustice, silence from Catholic leaders is even more unjust.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry
Additional Bondings 2.0  posts on the situation in Uganda:
July 25, 2012:  Catholics Among Christian Leaders Supporting LGBT Rights in Uganda
July 25, 2012:  New Report Identifies Catholic Suppport for Africa’s Anti-Gay Movement
June 15, 2012: More Details on Catholic Support for Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill

June 11. 2012: Uganda’s Catholic Bishops Reverse Their Stance to Support Anti-Homosexual Bill

March 29, 2012: Kathleen Kennedy Townsend’s ‘Case for Gay Acceptance in the Catholic Church’

March 4, 2012: When Will the Pope Speak Out, Too?

December 26, 2011: Breaking the Catholic Silence on LGBT Human Rights Violations

December 23, 2011: A Gay Catholic in Uganda Speaks; Cardinal George Should Listen


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