Cardinal Turkson’s Remarks on Anti-Gay Law Deserve a Closer Look

March 5, 2014

Cardinal Peter Turkson

Cardinal Peter Turkson, head of the Pontifical Council on Peace and Justice, criticized Uganda’s anti-gay law while urging donor nations to sustain their aid commitments. Though his comments have been celebrated by gay advocates, a closer look reveals a more troubling understanding of LGBT issues by the cardinal.

Turkson made his comments at a conference titled “The Church and Human Rights” in Slovakia when he remarked to the media that “homosexuals are not criminals” and should not be imprisoned for their sexual identity, according to The Advocate. The cardinal, who is originally from Ghana, echoed several Ugandan organizations in requesting that the international community continue delivering aid, despite the new law. More than $115 million in funding has been pulled since the anti-gay law was passed, while the US and others are still evaluating their commitments.

This negative evaluation of the new law is a shift for Turkson, who once defended Uganda’s anti-gay bill when it included the death penalty as a potential sentence for LGBT people and said prejudices by some Africans were understandable. Turkson has also blamed gay priests for the sexual abuse crisis.  Perhaps his shift on this law is due to the influence of Pope Francis, who has taken a much more compassionate approach to LGBT issues than his predecessors.

However, Turkson’s address on religious liberty to the conference reiterated his belief that LGBT equality was not a human rights consideration. A closer look sets his comment to reporters in context, with the text posted by Vatican Radio:

“Another example is the use of the term ‘gender’ to suggest that sex is not biologically grounded as male and female but is simply a social construct or produced by what individuals think or feel they are. Moreover, attempts to recognize those engaging in homosexual behaviour as a specific group to be accorded human rights go beyond the protection to be guaranteed to all people under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Related to this is the suggestion that marriage could somehow be redefined, despite the fact that marriage is, by nature, between one man and one woman for their mutual love and increase of the human family, as affirmed in international law. Such positions distort reality because they attempt to rewrite human nature, which de natura cannot be rewritten.”

Turkson quoted Chicago Cardinal Francis George’s opposition to marriage equality and reiterated verbatim the Catechism’s words on welcoming gay people with “respect, compassion, and sensitivity,” concluding that section with:

“Thus, while the Church regrets the discordance between homosexual behaviour as such and what we understand as the norm for God-given human nature, she upholds the integrity of everyone’s rights. See our Lord’s reaction when the townspeople wished to stone a woman to death for adultery: He managed to preserve her life and bodily security (John 8:1-11).”

Turkson’s four words that “homosexuals are not criminals” have been reported as a positive sign. The underlying reality is that he remains far from Pope Francis’ unconditioned call to protect every person’s dignity and for the Church to show love to LGBT people. The cardinal’s shift from supporting executions for gay Ugandans to a most basic recognition of LGBT people’s dignity is progress, but the Church’s leaders must respond with far more when anti-LGBT discrimination and violence is on the rise.  We hope that his words will give courage to the Ugandan bishops’ conference, which has yet to make a statement about the new law.

Perhaps Cardinal Turkson needs another conversation with Sr. Jeannine Gramick, as happened last fall. You can read about that here.

While it is good that Turkson made the remark, we still need stronger words from the Vatican about anti-gay laws around the world.  You can encourage Pope Francis to make a strong statement against these laws by joining the #PopeSpeakOut Twitter campaign.

–Bob Shine and Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Catholics Condemn Uganda’s Anti-Gay Law As Discrimination Intensifies

February 26, 2014

MartinUganda_FinalLess than a day after Uganda criminalized homosexuality, a newspaper has already published the names and photos of 200 “top homosexuals” and President Yoweri Museveni repeatedly called gay people “disgusting” in an interview with CNN. This deteriorating situation has captured the attention of Christians speaking out against LGBT discrimination worldwide through the lens of Uganda.

America released this week’s editorial early under the title “When the Law is a Crime,” specifically addressing Uganda’s anti-gay law. Referencing Pope Francis’ famous statement “Who am I to judge?” in light of the violence and discrimination that inevitably results when such laws emerge, the editors write:

“It is especially disturbing that such legislation is immensely popular in predominately Christian countries like Uganda, where 40 percent of the population is Roman Catholic and the Catholic bishops have sent mixed signals about the legislation. When the bill was first considered in 2009, Archbishop Cyprian Lwanga of Kampala, speaking on behalf of the Catholic bishops’ conference, said it was ‘at odds with the core values’ of Christianity. When the bill was reintroduced in 2012, however, the Uganda Joint Christian Council, which includes Catholic, Anglican and Orthodox bishops, expressed support for the bill…

“The church’s vigorous support for traditional marriage, moreover, must be accompanied by advocacy for the human rights of gays and lesbians in equal measure. This is required by the church’s own teaching. Indeed, a growing number of Catholic leaders have offered unqualified support for the decriminalization of homosexuality…

“We add our voice to this swelling chorus. Pope Francis has described gay people as ‘socially wounded’ because ‘they feel like the church has always condemned them.’ Catholics must examine how we contribute, perhaps even inadvertently, to a culture of fear and shame…The church must oppose violence against gay persons and should strongly advocate for the decriminalization of homosexuality. No one should be subject to a criminal penalty simply for being gay. If laws like these do not constitute the ‘unjust discrimination’ against gay people that the church rightly denounces, then what possibly could?”

Jesuit priest James Martin added his own commentary on Facebook, accompanying a graphic from AllOut. He spent time working in East Africa, visiting Uganda, and speaks highly of the people there. Still, he remains clear that these laws are intolerable:

“These new laws are part of a general pattern of oppression in Africa today, where in 38 countries homosexual activity is a criminal offense…The Catholic church in Africa has so far done little so far to protect their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters from violence…

“Archbishop Desmond Tutu has rightly compared these laws and these attitudes to early anti-Jewish laws in Nazi Germany. They can also be compared to the kind of dehumanizing rhetoric that precedes and accompanies war and genocide. (During the Second World War, the Japanese were called ‘vermin’ by many Americans, and in the Rwandan genocide, Hutus were ‘cockroaches’ by many Tutsi.)

“Every Catholic, every Christian, every person, should oppose these laws. Every Catholic, every Christian, every person is called to love their brothers and sisters–straight or gay. Period.”

Expanding on this idea, Rev. Paul Raushenbush, a Baptist minister who is a senior religion editor at The Huffington Postclaims that precisely because Christians have contributed to LGBT oppression, either through action or indifference, we must be part of the liberation now. This extends beyond Uganda’s borders, and he notes the common thread from Uganda to Kansas to Russia is “Christian complicity.” He writes:

“Those of us who are Christian have to add to and embolden these voices with our own. Christians should make sure that their churches, friends and denominational leaders have a chance to meet and talk to LGBT people and understand how being targeted by these laws makes us feel. Christians should take to their own Facebook pages and other social media and stand with LGBT people.

“Religious leaders on every level must directly speak out against the complicity of Catholics, Orthodox and Protestant Christians in the targeting of God’s LGBT children. Pope Francis, I’m talking to you. It is time for you to use your prophetic voice and speak out against use of violence and for the full equality of LGBT people. All of those on Twitter should reach out to @Pontifex using #PopeSpeakOut

“Recent events around the world show us that sitting on the sidelines is no longer permissible — especially for Christians. We cannot let others speak for Jesus. Our faith is being used to do serious harm to LGBT people. Showing love for our neighbor today, as commanded by Jesus, means stepping up and standing in solidarity with our LGBT sisters and brothers around the world.”

In a statement reported on the GLAAD blog, DignityUSA’s executive director Marianne Duddy-Burke said:

“Our hearts and souls are joined with the people of Uganda, especially those whose lives and liberty are threatened by this horrific injustice. We pray that the majority of people, law enforcers, and those in government will continue to live in the recognition that all people embody the Divine, and pledge renewed vigor in working to overturn such discrimination. We call on the people and officials of the Catholic Church worldwide to recognize that such laws perpetrate violence on the entire body of Christ, and to lead efforts to repeal this and similar laws.”

Even National Catholic Reporter‘s Michael Sean Winters, who is sometimes critical of LGBT political issues, is strongly condemning Uganda’s law:

“It is a measure of a humane and Christian civilization that small minority groups have their human dignity protected. There is no straight line from Uganda to the death camps [of the Holocaust]. There is no line at all, just as the situation in Arizona is not like that in Uganda. But, what unites them is this: The Christian Church must learn how to promote family life without attacking the human dignity of gay men and women. That is foundational. It is a sin to do otherwise. The gravity of that sin differs from culture to culture. I do not expect Africa to embrace Upper West Side values tomorrow or anytime. But, the Church must proclaim the dignity of each and every human person in all places and at all times if we are to be true to our most basic dogmatic beliefs.”

If you’re looking to raise your own voice, please participate in #PopeSpeakOut. Send an email or a tweet to Pope Francis and encourage him to condemn Uganda’s anti-gay law and all efforts to criminalize homosexuality worldwide. You can find more information by clicking here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Uganda’s Passage of Anti-Gay Law Should Compel Pope Francis to Speak Out

February 25, 2014

President Museveni signing the Anti-Homosexuality Law

Uganda’s president signed a major anti-gay law yesterday, which imposes penalties up to life imprisonment for homosexual activity and harsh penalties for establishing gay organizations an for those who do not report gay people, thus making it impossible to live an open life.  The new law highlights the need for Catholics, including Pope Francis and bishops around the globe to speak out against the rise of anti-LGBT legislation.

This new law comes after repeated delays by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to sign the bill, which LGBT advocates hoped was a sign he would reject it. Opposition against an anti-gay law in Uganda has been ongoing for several years. It has been one of the more prominent debates internationally due to provisions in an earlier version imposing the death penalty for homosexuality, causing many to dub it the “Kill the Gays” bill.

Since 2009, Catholics have joined these protests given that more than 40% of Ugandans are members of the Church. Frank Mugisha, a gay Catholic man, and others have led efforts internally to stop Uganda’s passage of the law. Catholics worldwide have raised their voices as well by signing letters of concern with other Christians and urged Catholic leaders to do the same. Equally Blessed, a U.S. coalition of four Catholic organizations (Call To Action, DignityUSA, Fortunate Families, New Ways Ministry) issued 2012 statement  urging US bishops to speak out. Former US ambassador to the Holy See Thomas Melady called on religious leaders to condemn such laws, and a letter to Uganda’s papal nuncio from Brother Brian McLauchlin, a New Ways Ministry volunteer, received a positive reply that the nuncio would be working to halt any anti-gay law alongside Uganda’s bishops. Most notably, South Africa’s leading Catholic newspaper, the Southern Cross, wrote a strongly worded editorial about the need to stop anti-LGBT laws as part of the Church’s larger defense of human rights.

Yet, unfortunately, Uganda’s bishops and the Vatican failed to defend the human rights of gay people. The national bishops conference reversed its subdued opposition to the anti-gay law and joined a vocal ecumenical effort to criminalize homosexuality. Despite repeated calls for action, including the ongoing #PopeSpeakOut campaign by people of faith, Pope Francis and other Church leaders have not come out publicly against these types of laws which are on the rise. Nations such as Russia and India have imposed new restrictions on gay people, while 38 of 54 African countries ban homosexuality.

During Pope Francis’ message for the 2014 World Day of Peace, he reflected on the theme of our shared humanity and Bondings 2.0 wrote at the time:

“Pope Francis imagines a church that ‘speaks out in order to make leaders hear the cry of pain of the suffering and to put an end to every form of hostility, abuse and the violation of fundamental human rights.’  Where is that church when it comes to the human rights of LGBT people? In 2014, Catholics need to speak out for human rights in a way that includes LGBT people suffering from discrimination and violence.”

Uganda’s passage of this new law is a troubling sign, and adds to the anti-LGBT movement whose laws breed a culture saturated with discrimination and violence targeting gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. Pope Francis has captured global attention by refocusing the Catholic Church on issues of social justice, and he must now use his moral authority to protect the lives and well-being of every person.

Now is the moment to raise your voice as well. Will you send him a tweet or write a letter as part of #PopeSpeakOut? Find more information by clicking here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Japanese Bishops Strikingly Honest in Report on Family & Marriage

February 23, 2014

Yet more bishops’ conferences are releasing the results of surveys and consultations made in preparations for next fall’s Synod on Marriage and Family Life. Bondings 2.0 provides another round-up of these releases below and you can read about previous coverage of other nations in the ‘Related Posts’ section at the bottom of this page.

Japan

Approaching the survey from a non-European perspective, the Japanese bishops have been bluntly critical in their responses to the survey results and of the survey itself. National Catholic Reporter states:

“…church teachings are not known in their country and the Vatican’s Europe-centric view hampers efforts at evangelization in places where Catholics represent a small minority of the population.

“In a sometimes pointed 15-page report issued in preparation for an October meeting of the world’s bishops, known as a synod, the Japanese state the church ‘often falls short’ by ‘presenting a high threshold for entry and lacking hospitality and practical kindness.’…

” ‘It is necessary to go beyond merely saying to men and women who do not follow Church norms that they are separated from the community and actively provide them with opportunities to encounter the Christian community,’ the Japanese state.”

In their report ( official English translation, available here), the Japanese bishops were limited in what they said on LGBT matters. Addressing mostly marriage rights for same-gender couples, the bishops state it is not a prevalent topic in Japanese society at large and may grow in prominence as toleration of gay and lesbian people grows. Of note, the Japanese bishops observe  that transgender people are being granted marriage rights legally. Their responses in the section “On Unions of Persons of the Same Sex” were all limited to single sentences, and lack of detail is most telling, as they write:

“b) What is the attitude of the local and particular Churches towards both the State as the

promoter of civil unions between persons of the same sex and the people involved in this type
of union?

“1. The State does not promote such marriages and the Church has not developed a
particular attitude toward the possibility of eventual change.

“c) What pastoral attention can be given to people who have chosen to live in these types of
union?

“1. There is as yet no special pastoral attention.

“d) ) In the case of unions of persons of the same sex who have adopted children, what can be
done pastorally in light of transmitting the faith?

“1. So far, there have been no cases of this in Japan.”

Ireland

Following their English counterparts, Ireland’s bishops are refusing to release details about their information gathering efforts, with a conference spokesperson stating any release would “undermine the integrity of the information collection process,” according to UCA News.

Canada

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops is remaining quiet as well. Even as they forgo a public release of survey results, comments by the president, Archbishop Paul-André Durocher, are revealing about both the results and what this leading prelate imagines the Synod to be. The Star reports:

“In Canada, engagement with the survey was mixed. The Archdiocese of Toronto simply linked to the survey on its website and anyone who wanted to respond did so directly with the conference of bishops. But in Gatineau, where Durocher is the archbishop, priests in the Quebec diocese were asked to engage parishioners on five questions of their choice.

“Durocher doesn’t expect doctrinal change from the synods. He describes the survey as the church facing reality: Whether it likes it or not, Catholics are divorcing and Catholic gay couples are adopting babies. How then should the church care for them?

“He gives the example of a gay couple who want their adopted child baptized. Before that can happen for any child, there must be a ‘grounded hope’ the child will be raised as a Catholic. How does a priest determine that when the child’s parents, as a married gay couple, have violated church doctrine? Is it best to wait until the child can decide for him or herself? Such are the kind of guidelines Durocher hopes the synods will provide.”

Combined with reports from Germany’s bishops and those of other European nations, it appears bishops are finally openly admitting the hierarchy’s positions on sexuality, marriage, and family life are out of touch on a number of levels. What happens when they meet in October remains an open question, but check back tomorrow for further commentary on what else could impact the Synod’s outcomes.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry 

Related Posts


Archbishop Meets with LGBT-Friendly Pilgrim Group in Palestine

February 21, 2014
Archbishop Elias Chacour of the Galilee with New Ways Ministry pilgrims and staff

Archbishop Elias Chacour of the Galilee with New Ways Ministry pilgrims and staff

LGBT and Ally Catholics met with Archbishop Elias Chacour on Monday, as part of a pilgrimage being led by New Ways Ministry to Israel this week. The 36 pilgrims dialogued with the archbishop for nearly two hours on a breadth of issues.

Until recently retiring, Chacour was archbishop of the Galilee in Palestine for the Melkite rite, which is in communion with the Vatican. Chacour spoke with the pilgrims from his personal background to the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. The program began with an introduction from Sr. Jeannine Gramick, co-founder of New Ways Ministry, and a solicitation by the archbishop of why the pilgrims had journeyed to the Holy Land.

Afterwards, Chacour spoke about what it meant to minister as a man from Galilee, sharing a common location with Jesus Christ. His wisdom comes from both historical roots in the land where Jesus lived and ministered, as well as theological education, and the archbishop told the group:

“We Palestinian Christians are not good philosophers, and even worse theologians, because we are obsessed with telling the story of our man from Galilee…

Archbishop Chacour addressing the pilgrims

Archbishop Chacour addressing the pilgrims

“Those invited to the banquet of heaven are every man and woman without exception…You are called to be the adopted children of God…Nobody is important, but nobody is replaceable…

“All I remember is God does not kill and God is love. tThe rest is commentary.”

In addition to his work as archbishop, Chacour runs educational initiatives that have blossomed into a system offering  early childhood programs to university degree programs for nearly 3,000 students based out of the village called Ibillin. Though he offered anecdotes from these work, his overarching insights focused on creating unity and respect amid diversity between Palestinians and Israelis and these lessons are familiar ones for those working for LGBT justice in the Church.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Critics Question Inclusion of LGBT Recommendations in UN Sexual Abuse Report

February 16, 2014

Pope Francis with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon

A United Nations committee’s decision to include recommendations regarding LGBT matters and other social issues in a report on how the Vatican has handled child sexual abuse has caused controversy in Catholic circles, most of which has been negative, even as the reasons differ.

The report was released by the Committee on the Convention of the Rights of a Child, which monitors protections for children globally according to the 1989 Convention. You can read Bondings 2.0’s earlier post with details about what was specifically included in the report’s recommendation by clicking here.

Fr. Thomas Reese, who is positive on matters of LGBT justice, is concerned that the inclusion of tangential issues places the report’s credibility in question on the pressing issue of child abuse by clergy. He writes at the National Catholic Reporter 

“The U.N. committee report on the Vatican’s role in sexual abuse was a missed opportunity. It could have played an important role in improving the church’s handling of sexual abuse; instead, it was an editorial screed…

“The U.N. committee’s 16-page report is too easy to dismiss because it was poorly done. It even told the church it should use its power to stop Catholic parents from spanking their children or from not listening to them. By getting into issues like abortion, birth control and homosexuality, the report only helps those in the church who oppose dealing with this crisis…

“Acknowledging improvements does not excuse the past, nor does it mean that continued vigilance is no longer necessary. I was fooled too many times in the past by assurances that the church had this under control. But to move forward now requires better analysis and better recommendations than were in the U.N. committee report.”

John Allen, now writing for the Boston Globe, agreed with this assessment:

“There’s a strong possibility the fusillade from the UN panel may backfire, however, by blurring the cause of child protection with the culture wars over sexual mores…

“The danger is that when Catholic leaders such as [Bishop Nunzio] Galantino read the UN report and stumble over the parts on the culture wars, they may be tempted to file the whole thing under the usual secular axe-grinding. That drumbeat has already started, as the Vatican’s envoy to Geneva today suggested in an interview with Vatican Radio that liberal NGOs in the UN system ‘reinforced an ideological line’ in the drafting of the report.”

Elsewhere, Mark Silk of Religion News Service called the report a “lost opportunity” as well. Noting problems with the report’s understanding of the Catholic Church’s structure and the nature of the Holy See as an international body, Silk offers insight for what should have happened instead:

“Rather than try to get the Vatican to adapt longstanding and deeply held doctrines to the secular norms of the Convention, the Committee should have focused exclusively on the need for church institutions to treat accusations of sexual abuse in precisely the same way as secular institutions are required to treat them.”

However, an article at Slate offers a defense of the report for prioritizing the human rights of all, especially children, and sets the social issue recommendations within context:

“While it’s true that the report did take a (welcome) wide view of the sex-abuse scandal, the problem, if you want to call it a ‘problem,’ is not that it’s biased against the church. It’s that it’s biased in favor of human rights and the well-being of adolescents and children. This is a human rights committee. When Catholic doctrine comes into conflict with human rights, it is the U.N.’s job to prioritize human rights…

“While it may not be initially obvious why the U.N. recommended things like sex education, ending corporal punishment, or destigmatizing homosexuality, reading the entire report definitely helps clear things up. The point is to build a culture of respect for children that allows children to report sex abuse without fear of being punished or having their abusers protected. Beyond just a general cultural thing, there are direct pragmatic issues at stake. When gay kids, children of gay parents, and children of single mothers are considered less worthy than other children, you might as well paint a target on their back that says, ‘Child abusers, pick this one.’ Gay kids may be in particular danger of same-sex child abuse, as some researchers have hypothesized that the social isolation of being gay in a homophobic environment may make kids more vulnerable to the manipulations of an abuser.’ “

What do you think of the UN report and the response of various voices in the Catholic Church? Is it a positive step for LGBT justice? Does including justice issues, which are important in their own right, detract from the childhood sexual abuse at the center of the report?

Leave your thoughts in the ‘Comments’ section below, by commenting on our Facebook page, or by sending us a tweet at @NewWaysMinistry.

—Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Related Articles:

UN Report on Vatican Draws Fire in Turn,” America Magazine


Next Week in Jerusalem!

February 14, 2014

The Wailing Wall and the Temple Mount, Jerusalem

To all Bondings 2.0 readers:

From February 14th to 23rd,  this blog’s two main contributors, Francis DeBernardo and Bob Shine, will be in Israel, as part of New Ways Ministry’s LGBT pilgrimage to the Holy Land sites, which includes meeting with contemporary peacemakers and LGBT leaders.  New Ways Ministry’s co-founder. Sister Jeannine Gramick, is the leader of the pilgrimage.

While we are excited about the journey, we did want you to know that we may not be as regular in posting to this blog as we have been.  The differences in time zones, the rigors of travel, and the access to Wi-Fi may all alter our regular schedule of researching, writing, and posting.  Additionally, moderation of comments may also be a bit delayed for the same reasons.  So, don’t be alarmed if things are not as regular as they have been.

We will have our computers with us, and it is our intention to try to keep up with our traditional schedule, but we did want to inform you that such may not be the case.   If we are able to, we will occasionally post about any interesting parts of our journey there.  On some days, we may be in “light mode,” perhaps only posting links to stories, rather than summaries and commentary. We are going to be “playing it by ear,”  trying to figure out what we can do, given our limitations.  We appreciate your indulgence.

Our regular schedule will return after February 24th.

As we visit the holy places where Jesus and other Biblical figures lived, we will keep you all in prayer.

–Francis DeBernardo and Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Nigerian Bishops Support Anti-Gay Law; Help Get the Pope to Speak Out

February 13, 2014

While it is obvious that the trend toward anti-gay oppressive laws around the globe is a disturbing phenomenon, perhaps nothing is more disturbing than the positive response the Catholic bishops of Nigeria recently gave to the new draconian law in that nation.

Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama

Michael O’Loughlin, writing on Advocate.com, reported:

“Catholic bishops in Nigeria are congratulating the president for successfully pushing legislation that imposes 14-year jail sentences for gay people who marry, and punishes any gathering of LGBT people in that African nation, placing those who run LGBT organizations in jail for a decade.

“Ignatius Kaigama, archbishop of the Middle Belt region of Jos, told SaharaTV that Catholic bishops in Nigeria ‘thank God that this bill was passed,’ and in a letter sent to Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, called the law ‘a courageous one and a clear indication of the ability of our great country to stand shoulders high in the protection of our Nigerian and African most valued cultures of the institution of marriage.’ ”

Further in the letter, the the archbishop wrote:

“We commend you for this courageous and wise decision and pray that God will continue to bless, guide and protect you and your administration against the conspiracy of the developed world to make our country and continent, the dumping ground for the promotion of all immoral practices, that have continued to debase the purpose of God for man in the area of creation and morality, in their own countries.”

Archbishop Kaigama is not the only Nigerian Catholic prelate to support the new law.  Information Nigeria reported:

“Bishops of the Owerri Catholic Ecclesiastical Province have commended President Goodluck Jonathan for ignoring threats from Western nations and signed the Anti-Same sex Bill into law.

“The commendation was part of the 10-point communique issued after their first plenary meeting for 2014, held at the Pastoral Centre, Owerri, and signed by the Chairman and Secretary, His Grace, Dr. Anthony J.V. Obinna and Most Rev. Dr. Augustine T. Ukwuoma of Orlu Diocese, respectively.”

TellNigeria.com reported on yet a third group of Nigerian bishops supporting the law:

“The Catholic Bishops of Ibadan Ecclesiastical province, comprising Ibadan Archdiocese, Ondo, Ekiti, Ilorin, Oyo and Osogbo dioceses, have endorsed the anti-gay law in Nigeria.”

The wrongness of supporting such a bill is highlighted by a New York Times account of how the anti-gay law is brutally enforced in Nigeria:

“Since Nigeria’s president, Goodluck Jonathan, signed a harsh law criminalizing homosexuality throughout the country last month, arrests of gay people have multiplied, advocates have been forced to go underground, some people fearful of the law have sought asylum overseas and news media demands for a crackdown have flourished.”

Physical punishment also does not seem to be unheard of in some parts of the country:

“The young man cried out as he was being whipped on the courtroom bench. The bailiff’s leather whip struck him 20 times, and when it was over, the man’s side and back were covered with bruises.

“Still, the large crowd outside was disappointed, the judge recalled: The penalty for gay sex under local Islamic law is death by stoning.

“ ‘He is supposed to be killed,’ the judge, Nuhu Idris Mohammed, said, praising his own leniency on judgment day last month at the Shariah court here. The bailiff demonstrated the technique he used: whip at shoulder level, then forcefully down.”

While this account notes that the beating took place in an Islamic religious court, not a civil one, the horror of the case speaks to the depth of anti-gay feeling in the nation.  The Nigerian bishops’ support for the new law will only strengthen these hateful attitudes and practices.  It is amazing that the bishops do not speak out against such violent treatment and such hateful attitudes–which even orthodox Catholic teaching should compel them to do.

Such misguided emphasis on the part of Catholic leaders who should be responsible for the protection, not the flaunting, of human rights, reinforces the need for Pope Francis to speak out against the rise of anti-gay laws around the globe.  You can encourage the pontiff to raise his voice for human dignity by participating in the #PopeSpeakOut campaign.  You can access information about the campaign by clicking here.

Catholic bishops could simply follow the advice of The New York Times editors, who recently opined about the situation of gay and lesbian people in oppressive African nations.   In their editorial about new harsh laws, they state:

Such laws violate commitments made by United Nations members in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other human rights documents.

If these nations cannot do the humane thing, they should at least consider their self-interest. For any leader who values stability, it makes no sense to promote new laws that foment greater hostility among people, like in Nigeria, where there is already ethnic tension.

Even in countries where antigay laws are not enforced, they provide an excuse for abuse — including blackmail and extortion — by police, Amnesty International said. It is unlikely that any of these countries can reach their full economic potential because many foreign entities may find it too risky to invest in such hostile environments. These governments, in abusing their citizens, are moving in dangerous and destructive directions.

The editors’ sane, humanitarian approach, which also recognizes how laws can affect people’s personal attitudes and behaviors, is quite in line with Catholic social justice principles.  Too bad that a secular newspaper, and not the Catholic hierarchy, which is making these arguments for human rights and respect.

For information on anti-gay laws and the criminalization of homosexuality around the globe, a recent BBC.com article had a good, comprehensive reference, including a chart and a map.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related Article

Gay Star News: Nigerian Catholics congratulate President for making same-sex marriage a crime 


Signs of Openness on LGBT and Marriage Issues from Two European Church Leaders

February 11, 2014

Two European prelates have made statements recently which point, once again, toward a more open discussion of LGBT and marriage issues, topics which will be discussed at October’s Synod on Marriage and the Family.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin

In Ireland, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin acknowledged that some people in the church have used doctrine “in a homophobic way.”  The Irish Times reported that the archbishop made these comments in a discussion about the upcoming national referendum in Ireland about the legalization of same-gender marriage:

“Discussions have to be carried out in a ‘mature’ way so that people can freely express their views, while at the same time being respectful and not causing offence, he said. He said that in general he believed it was the person who was offended who defined what being offended is.

” ‘Anyone who grew up in Ireland would have told jokes that were pointed at the gay community; at Travellers [gypsies]; it is part of the culture we grew up in, but we have to grow out of it,’ he said. He said church teaching was that marriage was between a man and a woman, exclusively, but that this approach did not exclude gay people from celebrating their union by a different means.”

The Independent quotes Martin as saying further:

” ‘God never created anybody that he doesn’t love.’…

“Speaking to the Irish Independent, the senior cleric said this meant that ‘anybody who doesn’t show love towards gay and lesbian people is insulting God. They are not just homophobic if they do that – they are actually Godophobic because God loves every one of those people’…

“He added: ‘We all belong to one another and there is no way we can build up a society in which people are excluded or insulted. We have to learn a new way in Ireland to live with our differences and for all of us to live with respect for one another.’ “

According to RTE.ie, a leader of Ireland’s Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN), was disappointed that the archbishop did not address pressing issues facing the LGBT community there, but affirmed his statements about the damage that cultural attitudes can cause:

“GLEN’s Brian Sheehan described it [the archbishop's comment] as ‘a missed opportunity’ to tackle the role of the church and church teachings in creating what it said were ‘some of the difficult realities for lesbian and gay people in Ireland today.’

“However, he welcomed Dr Martin’s acknowledgement of the impact that a culture, which still has homophobia as part of it, has on those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.”

Cardinal Christoph Schonborn (standing) and Austrian bishops meet with Pope Francis at the Vatican.

Meanwhile, Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna made some surprising statements about the hierarchy’s views on marriage, at the time of the Austrian bishops’ ad limina with Pope Francis. The National Catholic Reporter stated:

“In several interviews shortly before leaving Vienna, Schönborn advocated a more rational, down-to-earth approach toward family relationships. ‘For the most part, the church approaches the [family] issue unhistorically,’ he said. ‘People have always lived together in various ways. And today, we in the church tacitly live with the fact that the majority of our young people, including those with close ties to the Catholic church, quite naturally live together. The simple fact is that the environment has changed.’ . . . .

“Schönborn said he regretted that the Austrian bishops haven’t dared to speak out openly on necessary church reforms in the past. They haven’t had the courage to address the need for greater decentralization and to strengthen local churches’ responsibilities, he said. ‘We were far too hesitant. I beat my own breast here. We certainly lacked the courage to speak out openly.’ “

Schönborn had high praise for the work and message of Pope Francis, and said he sees the promise of change occurring in the church:

“Schönborn said he was convinced that far-reaching church reform was on the way, ‘but it will not be achieved through big words and programs but through people like Pope Francis.’ One could already see that the pope has become a role model, Schönborn said. ‘The atmosphere is changing and his behavior is making itself felt,’ he said. What impressed him most about the pope was his charisma. ‘You can feel his inner devotion to God from which his compassion, his warmth and his infectious sense of humor emanates,’ the cardinal said.”

Though U.S. bishops have not yet embraced the new era of Pope Francis, it seems that some of our European church leaders are, in fact, taking steps toward a new era of less judgement and more discussion and openness of the reality of people’s relational lives.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


New Survey Shows Global Catholics Divided on Sexuality Issues

February 10, 2014

A new global poll shows that the majority of Catholics disagree with the hierarchy on many sexual issues, but in regard to same-gender marriage, a majority of those polled support the magisterium’s prohibition against such relationships.

The Washington Post reported on the survey, which was conducted by the U.S. Spanish language television station, Univision:

“Most Catholics worldwide disagree with church teachings on divorce, abortion and contraception and are split on whether women and married men should become priests, according to a large new poll released Sunday and commissioned by the U.S. Spanish-language network Univision. On the topic of gay marriage, two-thirds of Catholics polled agree with church leaders.

“Overall, however, the poll of more than 12,000 Catholics in 12 countries reveals a church dramatically divided: Between the developing world in Africa and Asia, which hews closely to doctrine on these issues, and Western countries in Europe, North America and parts of Latin America, which strongly support practices that the church teaches are immoral.”

As evidence of the geographic split, the news report highlights the vast difference in response to same-gender marriages from different parts of the globe.  In response to the question “Do you support or oppose marriage between two persons of the same sex?”:

“40 percent of Catholics in the United States oppose gay marriage, compared with 99 percent in Africa.”

The report noted that 54% of U.S. Catholics were in favor of same-gender marriage.

Looking at the data, Spain was the country with the largest support among Catholics for legal marriage equality, with 64% supporting such measures, and 27% opposing them.    In Latin America,  Catholics in Brazil and Argentina polled similarly, and in both countries, the populations were almost equally divided about marriage equality.  In Brazil 47%oppose it and 45% support it;  in Argentina, 48% oppose it and 46%support it.  The greatest opposition came from Catholics in the two African nations polled:  in Congo, 98% oppose marriage equality, and in Uganda, 99% oppose it.

When a second question was asked, “Do you think that the Catholic Church should perform marriages between two persons of the same sex?,” the majority of Catholics in all 12 nations polled answered negatively.  Spain, once again, had the greatest support for Church marriages, with 43% of Catholics polled saying they favored the idea. In the U.S. 35% of Catholics said they were in support of church marriages for same-gender couples.

Although the report only covered 12 nations, the Washington Post notes that they are nations “with some of the world’s largest Catholic populations. The countries are home to more than six of 10 Catholics globally.”

The Washington Post also noted that Pope Francis has already been aware of these great differences of opinion among Catholics:

“After his election to the papacy 11 months ago, Francis seemed to immediately grasp the significance of the divisions among the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics. He has chosen inclusive language, has played down the importance of following the hierarchy and has warned against the church locking itself up ‘in small-minded rules.’ The poll reflects previous ones in finding that the vast majority of Catholics appreciate his approach. . . .

“Pope Francis appears particularly eager to engage with divisions around sex, marriage and gender and has called a rare ‘extraordinary synod’ this fall on ‘The Pastoral Challenges of the Family.’ For that, he has asked bishops to survey Catholics about their views of cohabitation, same-sex parenting and contraception, among other things.”

And the poll results showed that most Catholics approve of the pope’s performance so far:

“The poll suggests that in his first year, Pope Francis has proved apt at navigating this diverse flock. Eighty-seven percent of Catholics around the world said the Argentine pastor is doing an excellent (41 percent) or good (46 percent) job.”

While we’ve grown accustomed to hearing how U.S. Catholics support LGBT issues, it is sobering to realize that globally, not all Catholics share that point of view.  This new report, though, seems to contradict a Pew Research Center report from 2013 that showed that culturally Catholic nations were among the most supportive of LGBT equality.  The divisions on sexual issues, and the two different findings in these two reports show that these are topics that require serious reflection for Catholics and their leaders.  This reality makes the October 2014 Synod on Marriage and the Family all the more important.  And even more important that bishops follow the advice of the Vatican in seeking input from lay people on these matters.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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