Indian Lay Leader: Synod Must Bring LGBT People ‘In From the Cold’

August 28, 2014

Virginia Saldanha

What does Virginia Saldanha want from this fall’s Synod concerning marriage and family life? Bringing LGBT people ‘in from the cold’ would be a good start.

Saldanha, who is former executive secretary of the Office of Laity for the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences, recently wrote an op-ed in UCA News that expresses just that desire and shares her thoughts on what LGBT issues look like for Catholics in India.

She begins by noting that Synod questionnaire responses regarding whether one’s Catholic community accepted  same-gender marriage were overwhelmingly negative, prompting her to why her fellow Catholics are “so strongly homophobic.” Saldanha lays out some of the anti-gay beliefs present in Indian society:

“Is it because we have heard some priests say that homosexuality is sinful so by inference, homosexuals are bad people?

“I recall one religious sister involved in the family ministry exclaim with horror, ‘homosexuality is spreading rapidly in the West, and soon it will spread to Asia’. It sounded like she was talking about an epidemic.

“Sections of Church authority imply that homosexuals choose their sexual orientation. Or worse still, feminists are blamed for the ‘problem’. They argue that women have become so liberated that they make poor ‘wife material’. So women have chosen to shack up together and men prefer to be with other men, making homosexuality so common.”

Indian society still adheres to rigid gender roles, which Saldanha cites as one reasons so many young gay men have killed themselves. She continues:

“Our insensitive and conservative Indian society has ensured that life will be hell for homosexuals who are looked upon as deviants…Homosexuals suffer much because they agonize over their sexuality that is seen as abnormal. They are born that way and do not choose their sexuality. Adolescence can be quite traumatic for these young people; parents who are judgmental only compound their problems.”

One specific problem she notes is that heterosexual marriages are arranged by parents for lesbian or gay children who live outside of India. These children return to India and are married to please their parents, but return to lives in Western societies where “the hapless bride is left alone and bewildered in a foreign country, while the young man continues to live life as he did before.” Saldanha says the choice then is to either divorce or continue living a lie, both of which are an “injustice to both partners.”

Saldanha concludes strongly, with a call to both Indian Catholics and the Synod to expand the church’s welcome for and acceptance of LGBT people:

“Today young people have the courage to be honest and open about their sexuality, but we have to be open and sensitive to allow them the freedom to be who they are. A group of lay people from different parts of India who gathered to deliberate on issues they wish to discus at the Synod, hope that the Synod fathers will take note of the reality of homosexuals and show them the understanding and inclusiveness of Jesus to live their life as they were created to be. The group wants ‘the third gender [to] be respected not only by all Catholics but especially the official Church.’

“Jesus was inclusive and welcoming to all so he would not force homosexuals to remain in the closet. Let us hope that the Catholic Church will have the courage to be inclusive like Jesus and Pope Francis and say ‘who are we to judge’, and allow homosexuals the opportunity to live their lives in freedom and truth.”

Whether or not the bishops will take up same-gender couples or LGBT pastoral care at the Synod is not solidified. Saldanha’s piece should remind them that LGBT issues are not merely a ‘Western’ problem, but are present throughout the universal church. Though the specific causes of homphobia and transphobia may vary by location, it would not be hard for the Synod to make a statement which affirms the dignity and goodness of LGBT people and seeks their full inclusion in the church and the world. Even if the teaching on same-gender marriage is not changed, at the very least it is indeed time to bring LGBT people “in from the cold.”

You can read the full piece at ucanews.com by clicking here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Having Their Marriage Doctrine–and Changing It, Too

August 24, 2014

Christine Hernandez

The Catholic hierarchy’s position on marriage is clear to all: one man, one woman, for life. Defending this belief has caused bishops to spend millions of dollars in a decade-long attempt to stop marriage equality’s spread. Public discourse around same-gender couples attaining marriage rights has been framed in near-apocalyptic language by some bishops, and much pastoral harm has been caused as a result.

Yet, a court case in Alabama reveals just what it might take for Catholic officials to “redefine” marriage, as they often claim LGBT advocates are trying to do.

St. Pius X Catholic School in Mobile has had three lawsuits filed against it by parents claiming the school failed to protect their children from severe bullying, one of which comes from the lesbian mother of a child known in court documents as “A.S.” AL.com reports on the strange development:

“In court, lawyers for a Catholic school in Mobile seemed to endorse the view that a lesbian partner is an equal parent to the birth mother…Lawyers for the school sought permission to take sworn testimony from Christine Hernandez, the partner of the student’s mother who has helped raise the child.”

St. Pius X’s lawyers claim Hernandez has represented herself as the parent of A.S. in the past, including in official capacities where parental consent was needed. The child’s mother sought to block Hernandez from being forced to give testimony “on the grounds that state law bans recognition of same-sex marriage,” and Mobile Country Circuit Judge Sarah Stewart agreed saying Hernandez and A.S. are “legal strangers.”

A further twist is that Hernandez is co-counsel, with David Kennedy, in the bullying lawsuits, and she would need to be removed from this case and potentially the two other ones if forced to testify. Hernandez is also involved in an adoption lawsuit which claims the same same-sex marriage ban being used to prevent her from testifying is unconstitutional. The newspaper article explained:

“In an interview, Kennedy said that notwithstanding his view of the law, it remains on the books until a court decides otherwise.

” ‘In Alabama, the law of the land is still that a child can have one mother and one father but certainly not two mothers,’ he said.

“Even without the same-sex marriage issues, Kennedy argued, Hernandez still should not be made to testify. He pointed to legal precedent setting a high hurdle for compelling lawyers to testify as fact witnesses in cases involving their clients.”

Kennedy added that even if the same-sex marriage ban were deemed unconstitutional, Hernandez could not be considered a legal parent in the bullying lawsuit without marriage or adoption paperwork on file.

For her part, Hernandez released a short statement on the issues involved, saying:

” ‘This case is not about me. This case along with the other three that we have filed to date is about the children…The children that cried out for help and were ignored.’ “

Does this mean that the possibility of losing a legal case, and the resulting financial payout, can make Catholic officials change their definition of marriage?  It certainly seems they are willing to so for such circumstances.

This is not the first incident where Catholic leaders have sought to maintain their doctrine, while simultaneously changing it when advantageous for them. In 2013, lawyers for a Colorado hospital claimed fetuses were not, in fact, unborn children and did not possess legal rights.  The hospital was being sued for the deaths of two seven-month old fetuses, and the lawyers for the hospital defended the institution by saying fetuses were not people–a position in direct contradiction with the Catholic hierarchy’s consistent stance against abortion on the grounds that fetuses are indeed unborn children.  Perhaps there are more cases like this, when Catholic doctrines once declared infallible and immutable shift for legal and/or financial reasons?

If Catholic leaders want to claim moral positions in society then, at the very least, they must at least be willing to follow them. It adds insult to injury when bishops who ignored pleas from LGBT people and their families to stop the harm being done by opposing equal rights suddenly change those very beliefs just to win lawsuits. They cannot claim a principled position when it is so readily changed for advantage.

This case in Alabama is a prime example of how flawed and fragmented thinking on LGBT issues is, whether in the court system or in the church’s theology. I hope our bishops will one day welcome each person and every family for who and what they are, as created by God. We ask the simple question: would it not be better for every Catholic before the law and before God to stand on the side of justice and equality for all?

And when that day comes, I hope the church’s leaders’ shift in thinking will come as a result of love, not lawsuits.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Social Ills Linked to Marriage Equality? Really?

August 23, 2014

The new Catholic bishop of Springfield, Massachusetts, spoke against marriage equality, and seemed to name it as the cause for a variety of social ills.

Bishop Mitchell Rozanski

It seems odd that Bishop Mitchell Rozanski, formerly an auxiliary bishop in Baltimore, would use this opportunity to speak out a about a political issue which was decided 12 years ago in Massachusetts, when it became the first state to institute marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples.

What’s even more surprising is, according to the report of the interview on MassLive.com, Rozanski brought up the topic of marriage in response to a question about social ills:

“In terms of secular culture, he said, today’s ‘crime, drugs, general lack of respect for one another, is really based on in the disintegration of family life.’

” ‘What we offer as Catholics is to strengthen the family as the basis of society. When there is a solid family life, there is less likelihood of crime, there is less likelihood of drug use. The children grow up with a solid foundation. And that is a foundation they can take all through their lives,’ Rozanski said. ‘And, as a Church, what we are saying is that God made us male and female, and that the institution of marriage is so crucial. It is a sacrament of the Church, if the sacrament is well lived, then the children and future generations will benefit.’ “

(You can read the entire interview here.)

Taken in this context, it seems like the bishop is including marriage for lesbian and gay people as part of the reason that many other aspects of society are disintegrating. The news reporter noted that Pope Francis has asked bishops not to “obsess” about gay marriage:

“Last September, Francis, in an interview, said abortion, contraception and gay marriage had become an “obsessed” focus in the Church.”

The reporter also noted that U.S. bishops have not followed this advice:

“U.S. bishops continue to speak out against abortion, oppose same sex marriages, and to support legislation that would ban them.”

From his statement, it looks like Bishop Rozanski fits this profile.

Besides the dubious connection of marriage equality to social ills, Rozanski’s comments are flawed in three more ways.

First, he attributes the major parts of society’s ills on the disintegration of the family.  While family problems almost certainly contribute to these problems, other problems such as unemployment, poverty, homelessness, untreated mental illness also are major contributing factors.  Why select a personal issue, such as family, and not one of these more social issues, to highlight the causes of society’s problems?

Second, while Rozanski may lament the disintegration of the family, he fails to recognize that marriage equality actually strengthens families rather than contributing to their disintegration.  Marriage equality provides protections for all families, not just those headed by heterosexual couples.  And marriage equality teaches respect for lesbian and gay people, which is an important factor in strengthening their families of origin.

Third, the bishop notes that marriage is a sacrament, but that is not a view that is shared by all people in our pluralistic nation.  While Catholics view marriage as a sacrament, others see it as purely a civil matter, governed by legal realities, not ecclesial or spiritual ones.   Confusion of church marriage with civil marriage is one of the most insidious strategies that marriage equality opponents employ.

Let’s pray that Bishop Rozanski’s tenure in Springfield, Massachusetts will be met with more enlightened and pastoral approaches to LGBT issues than he has already displayed.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Pope Francis’ Trip to Philly Could Change Conversations on Family Life

August 18, 2014

Pope Francis clowns it up as he congratulates a newly married couple in Rome.

Pope Francis is (most likely) coming to Philadelphia in 2015 and many Catholics are already offering their welcome to him, as well as an invitation to advance LGBT acceptance in the church.

Given that he is coming for the World Meeting of Families, many are also wondering whether Pope Francis will include all families on the agenda for the meeting

Mark Segal writes to the pope in The Inquirer that he is joyful about the papal visit, hoping that it will “bring people together to learn tolerance and understanding” in keeping with the Pontifical Council for the Family’s stated mission. Segal, who is editor of Philadelphia Gay News, continues:

“While the pope’s visit here would be about promoting the value and values of families – and I believe that is something we all can embrace – it must include all families. That would mean including families in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community who, unfortunately, have not felt comfortable and at times have been aggressively targeted by the church…

“This denial of LGBT families denigrates those family members and makes them feel less than human. Imagine how the children in those families feel when other children belittle them for having two mothers or two fathers. Or how do parents explain to their child that they were fired because they married their spouse?”

Segal believes that dialogue will help bridge the divide within the Catholic community and between the church and LGBT communities, helping to heal wounds and make amends–and ultimately to promote stronger, more fruitful family life.

But this can only happen through Pope Francis’ leadership, who can be the necessary impetus to change the US bishops’ narrative when it comes to LGBT people and their families. John Gehring of Faith in Public Life writes in Time that Pope Francis’ visit is “a unique opportunity to have a conversation about families that moves past the usual culture war flash points.”

Gehring notes that visit will come at a crucial point for religion and politics in the U.S., with upcoming 2016 presidential campaigns assuredly underway with a full docket of Catholic candidates. It will also likely occur with even more states having legalized marriage equality and expanded LGBT non-discrimination rights, and predictable controversies as Catholic leaders grapple with this new reality. Gehring is not hopeful that the U.S. bishops will respond positively. He stated:

“While Catholic bishops once helped inspire social reforms that took root in the New Deal and challenged Reagan-era economic and military policies, these days bishops are more likely to be known for opposing the Violence Against Women Act, the Employee Non-Discrimination Act, health care reform legislation that became the Affordable Care Act and breezily mentioning President Obama’s administration in the same breath as Hitler and Stalin

“Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia, who will be the first to greet Pope Francis when his plane touches down next fall, is regarded as the new intellectual leader of the culture warrior camp. While Pope Francis made headlines for saying it was not his place to judge gays and lesbians, Chaput once defended a pastor for his refusal to enroll two girls, ages 5 and 3, in a Denver Catholic school after it became known their parents were lesbians.”

Indeed, America’s bishops have not ceased opposing marriage equality, even as several anti-LGBT campaigners admit it is a lost cause. There is a troubling rise in the firing of LGBT church workers, as more come out publicly and get married. Theologian Massimo Faggioli is quoted in Gehring’s article saying that the US bishops “are the most difficult team Pope Francis has to work with because sociologically and culturally the are in a different place.” To change the conversation on marriage and family life, Pope Francis will have to challenge the US episcopacy’s status quo. It will not be easy, but his first year has proven that this is not just any other papacy.

To start, perhaps the pope could take Archbishop Chaput and others on a tour around Philly with Kate Childs Graham, who offered her thoughts in the National Catholic Reporter about 10 touristy things the pope could do, including praying at the city’s famous “LOVE” sculpture.  As Childs Graham notes:  “It’s all we need.”

In terms of messages, policies, and gestures, what do you think the pope will do at the meeting in Philadelphia?  What do you think he should do?

Where do you think he should visit not just in Philadelphia, but anywhere in the United States?  Who do you think he should meet with?

What are your hopes for the World Meeting of Families?  What are your fears?

Offer your answers to these questions and other reactions to the opinions expressed above in the “Comments” section of this post.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Marriage Equality Court Cases Raise Opposition from Catholic Bishops

August 13, 2014

In recent weeks, bishops and archbishops in various parts of the U.S. have been speaking out against marriage equality as the issue continues to be debated in different states.  Below is a round-up of a variety of actions which have made the news.

Cincinnati, Ohio

As an appeals court begins to weigh the arguments about lifting the ban on same-gender marriage in Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Michigan, Archbishop Dennis Schnurr of Cincinnati has called on Catholics to pray for maintaining marriage as an institution only for heterosexual couples.

Cincinnati.com reported that the archbishop sent an email to thousands of Catholics in the 19-country archdiocese, reminding them that Ohio’s Catholic bishops supported the ban on same-gender marriage in 2004. The article quoted an excerpt from the email:

” ‘Traditional marriage, the union of one man and one woman for life, is the cradle of the family, which is the basic building block of society,’ said Schnurr, who suggested an ‘appropriate prayer’ would be the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Prayer in Defense of Marriage.”

Michigan

An interfaith prayer service in support of marriage equality was recently held in Lansing, Michigan, to support the same court case which is affecting Cincinnati.   While many people of different faiths gathered to pray together, MLive.com reported that the Michigan Catholic Conference issued a statement against marriage equality.  The article excerpted the statement:

“For the sake of future generations and to uphold the common good for all of society, the Catholic Church recognizes and teaches that marriage is rooted in natural law and as such cannot be redefined. By no means should the Catholic Church’s teaching in support of natural marriage between one man and one woman diminish the dignity or sensitivity that must be afforded to all human persons, regardless of their orientation.”

Texas

In Texas, where the state attorney general is appealing a decision which reversed the state’s ban on same-gender marriage, Catholic bishops there have put their support behind this initiative.

According to CBSLocal.com:

“Catholic Bishops said in a statement they hope the U.S. 5th Court of Appeals will objectively review the case and ‘affirm the right of the people of Texas to continue to upholding marriage as a union between one man and one woman.’ ”

Miami, Florida

Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami spoke out against a recent court ruling in that state which said that same-gender couples have the right to marry.  Wenski called the decision “another salvo in the ‘culture wars’ that ultimately seek to redefine the institution of marriage as solely for adult gratification,” according to The Catholic Sentinel.

The court case, which was initiated by same-gender couples in the Florida Keys, invalidates the voter-endorsed constitutional ban from 2008, but only applies to the state’s Monroe County.

Virginia

When an appeals court in Virginia recently ruled that the state’s ban on same-gender marriage was unconstitutional, the two Catholic bishops there spoke out against the ruling.   Bishop Paul LoVerde of Arlington and Bishop Francis DiLorenzo of Richmond issued a statement  which called the ruling“a fundamental misunderstanding of the intrinsic nature of marriage and is an injustice to Virginia voters,” according to a Catholic News Service story.

At the same time, the two bishops affirmed that  “those with same-sex attractions must be treated with respect and sensitivity.”

Conclusion

While Catholic bishops continue to speak out against same-gender marriage, Catholic people continue to grow in their support for equality for lesbian and gay couples.   More important than the political realities, bishops need to understand the harmful pastoral realities that their negative statements cause.  It’s time for bishops to be pastors, not politicians.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 

 

 


Catholics Seek Legal Rights, Pastoral Welcome for All Families

August 10, 2014

Advancing LGBT rights in the U.S. is increasingly a struggle about supporting families, both in the church and under the law. Below are several stories in which Catholics are standing up for just civil laws and inclusive pastoral care.

Adoption Rights

New legislation, known as the Inclusion Act, has been introduced in the U.S. Congress that would allow religiously-based agencies receiving government funds to refuse same-gender couples access to foster care and adoption services. This act has received the support of at least three Catholic bishops, but Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA criticized it in an essay on  The Huffington Post. She also happens to be the adoptive parent, with her wife ,of two girls.  She wrote:

“In almost every case, [same-sex couples] have given their kids an abundance of love and stability. The intentionality with which they chose to parent is carried forward into their raising of their daughters and sons. They have done all the things that other parents do, often while facing stigma and a lack of legal stability for their families…

“The so-called Inclusion Act does nothing to protect children. To the contrary, it could continue depriving children of potentially loving, stable homes. And it does nothing to protect religious liberty. If there are agencies that truly believe they have a religious mandate to place children only with married, opposite-sex parents, and that there are parents wanting to place children for adoption clamoring for such agencies, then let them manage that service with private funding.”

Parents Speak Out

Parents, adoptive and biological, have long spoken out for their LGBT children, and in the Catholic Church, they have some of the most active advocates for inclusion. Patrick Nugent, the parent of a gay son and an adoptive parent, recently wrote to Catholic Charities of the USA (CCUSA) about President Obama’s executive order barring LGBT non-discrimination by federal contractors.

Concerned that CCUSA CEO Larry Snyder had joined a letter of religious leaders asking the president to expand religious exemptions, Nugent asked Norbertine Brother Steve Herro, manager of mission and ministry at CCUSA, about how Catholic Charities would treat LGBT employees. Nugent writes:

“Why did [Snyder] not ask for exemption from the Civil Rights Act as well, there is no difference…Snyder’s effort to essentially codify continuing discrimination against LGBT people casts a pall on all the activities of CCUSA.  Do you refuse service to LGBT people?  Do you refuse service to African-American people?  Do you refuse service to handicapped people?  I trust the answer to all those questions is ‘No’.  So then why refuse them employment?”

Nugent and his wife, both Catholics for more than 70 years, adopted two children through Catholic Charities of Washington, DC. He adds that this would no longer be possible because foster care and adoption services have been shuttered by the Archdiocese of Washington for fear same-gender couples might adopt the children. This father and LGBT advocte concludes:

“In the future I will read of the accomplishments of CCUSA and its affiliates with two reserve questions:  what did they not do because of Larry Snyder’s gender based discrimination, and what faithful, practicing Catholics were not permitted to participate due to Snyder’s gender-based hiring practices…I will pray that CCUSA will one day embrace traditional Catholic Social Teaching and truly respect the dignity of all people.”

You can read Patrick Nugent’s full letter, and find more information about Catholic parents efforts on behalf of their LGBT children at the Fortunate Families blog. You can also read the inspiring words of Erma Durkin, a longtime LGBT advocate and mother, who was recently interviewed by the National Catholic Reporter.

In a hopeful sign, Larry Snyder said that Catholic Charities was “pleased” with President Obama’s executive order and would continue working with the federal government.

Baptisms

Finally, a new policy in the Diocese of Madison centralizing approval for baptism is again drawing fire and raising questions of whether the sacrament will be dispensed in a spirit of love or according to the letter of the law. A 20,000-plus petition sponsored by Faithful America was delivered to the chancery at the end of July asking Bishop Robert Morlino to affirm that such children can indeed be baptized, according to WKOW.

Critics say the policy is an attempt to prevent same-gender couples from having their children welcomed into the church. Francis DeBernardo of New Ways Ministry explained that Morlino has a “strong record against supporting lesbian and gay people” and could easily be more restrictive in allowing baptisms than a pastorally-inclined parish priest might be.

While the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops stated in 2006 that children of same-gender couples should be welcomed to baptism if there is sufficient hope they will be brought up in the Catholic faith, the matter remains a lingering question as more couples legally marry and gain adoption rights.

Pope Francis

Though not directly addressing the civil and canonical matters in question in the U.S., Pope Francis offered fruitful words about family in his message to the First Latin American Congress on the Pastoral Care of the Family in Panama. The pope said, in part:

” ‘What is the family? Beyond its more pressing problems and its most urgent needs, the family is a “centre of love,” where reigns the law of respect and communion, able to withstand the attacks of manipulation and dominance of the  worldly “centres of power “. In the home, the person is integrated in a natural and harmonious way in a human group, overcoming the false opposition between the individual and society. Within the family, no one is discarded: both the elder and child are welcome. The culture of encounter and dialogue, openness to solidarity and transcendence have it in its cradle.’ “

Terence Weldon of Queering the Church posted the text, noting that nothing in it excludes families led by same-gender parents. He comments:

“Take a closer look at the portion of Francis’ message quoted above, at the important sentence, ‘Within the family, no one is discarded: both the elder and child are welcome’. Indeed, within authentic Catholic families, all are fully included, the old and the young, the strong and the weak, the straight and the gay.

“The Church sometimes likes to present itself as an example of the human family on a grand scale, with itself as mother. By extension of the above, the Church needs to remember and practice the Pope’s message–within the family of the Church, just as in the domestic family–no-one should be discarded.”

Only months away from October’s Synod on marriage and family life, LGBT people and their parents are offering bright examples of what it means to form homes where all are welcome and where no one is discarded. Now it is time for Catholic officials to learn from these courageous lay voices.

You can view Bondings 2.0‘s continuing coverage of the Synod by clicking here or the ‘Synod 2014‘ category to the right.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Malawi Human Rights Advocates Call Out Catholic Bishops on LGBT Issues

August 5, 2014

Two prominent human rights activists in Malawi have strongly criticized recent statements made by a group representing some of Africa’s Catholic bishops conferences which cast lesbian and gay people in a negative light.

Timothy Mtambo

According to The Maravi Post, Timothy Mtambo and Gift Trapence, wrote in their column in Malwai’s Weekend Nation, that the Catholic Church ““should be the last to condemn people who did not choose their homosexual condition.”   Their comment was in response to statements made by the Association of Member Episcopal Conference in East Africa (AMECEA) which met in Malawi last month.

The AMECEA statement “strongly condemns same-sex unions and other deviations that go against human nature and natural law.” (Bondings 2.0’s report of that meeting, and another African association of Catholic bishops conferences meeting, can be read by clicking here.)

Gift Trapence

According to the Maravi Post, Mtambo and Trapence called on the bishops to live up to the Catholic Catechism’s call for non-discrimination of lesbian and gay people:

“[The Catechism] emphasises acceptance and tolerance, not condemnation. It is therefore strange that our African bishops are ignoring this text and promoting discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation.

“They said the ‘refusal to accept people with homosexual tendencies within the Church has led to unspeakable conflict, brief and death on our continent,’ adding that there have been daily stories of gays being ‘harassed, threatened and even physically assaulted simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.’ ”

Similar to our posting from yesterday on HIV/AIDS, the pair also noted that there is

“good evidence that the HIV epidemic hits harder where anti-gay laws and prejudice exist. Voices of reason and goodwill must speak out against this hatred and irrationality.”

Mtambo is the head of the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation and Trapence is the head of the Centre for the Development of People.

In Malawi, a gay or lesbian person can face a sentence of up to 14 years in prison, though one report notes that the nation has recently placed a moratorium on arresting people because of sexual orientation.  Still, Malawi, a predominantly Christian nation, has very conservative views on homosexuality, which one advocate notes can be softened with proper education.  The Maravi Post quoted:

“[Billy] Mayaya, a member of the Civic and Political Platform, a network of church and rights groups, said it will be difficult for the gays activists to ;penetrate through’ because the ‘Malawi culture remains conservative.’ . . . .

“Mayaya says for the rights groups to win the fight, they need to change their strategy and launch a media blitz to ‘educate the masses about the need to repeal the laws for sexual minorities to enjoy their rights.’

“ ‘Secondly, the gays themselves must come out in the open to explain their plight and not fight from the shadows,”’Mayaya said.”

Trapence agreed with the need for education.  He noted that homosexuality is a

“contentious issue and a challenge in Malawi because people don’t have the right information about sexual minorities. . . . People and lawmakers need to understand the rights gays from an objective point of view. Malawi needs to remove all biases and prejudices against gays.”

That education must begin with the Catholic bishops of that nation, and many other nations.   Last month, when the Vatican’s Archbishop Vincent Paglia, who heads the Pontifical Council on the Family, addressed the conference, he referred to homosexuality only in terms of new conceptions of marriage.  He could have used the opportunity to educate the bishops on the Catechism’s call for accepting lesbian and gay people with “respect, compassion, and sensitivity.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

(Editor’s Note:  An internet search for an online version of the Mtambo/Trapence column did not produce it.  Since two news stories from legitimate, professional sources discuss the column, I am left to believe that the column only appeared in print.)

Related article:

Nyasa Times: “Remove prejudice against gays:  Malawi activists react to Catholic stand”


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