Uganda Anti-Gay Legislation Stirs Student Action at Yale and Notre Dame

November 30, 2012

The Ugandan Parliament will reportedly vote on the “Kill the Gays” bill in coming days and this development has stirred two university communities to take action against the infamous legislation.

In Connecticut, the LGBT Coalition at Yale Divinity School commenced a petition drive calling on Christian religious leadership worldwide to speak publicly against the legislation. The group’s statement addresses Pope Benedict XVI and Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York among other religious leaders, and reads, in part:

“We urge you to call on your Ugandan counterparts to resist coopting Christian language in support of such a hateful cause. Claiming defense of religious values can never be an adequate justification for the degradation of human life. As we all know, faith in a loving God is wholly inconsistent with support for such cruel and malicious policies…

“Regardless of your place on the spectrum of theological opinion regarding homosexuality, please reject the unconscionable measures proposed in this bill which are antithetical to any conception of Christian morality.”

Alumni of the University of Notre Dame are similarly asking that institution’s administration to condemn the Ugandan bill with their own petition drive. The sponsors cite the University’s deep relationship with Uganda through study abroad programs and commitment to act justly with partner nations when engaging in educational initiatives.

Others, including several students interviewed by campus newspaper, The Observer, speak to the Catholic identity of the University as a driving impetus. Katie Day, class of 2009 and participant in a research project in Uganda, claims she’s “mystified” by the silence of Catholics and especially the praise of Uganda’s Catholic bishops for the bill. She told The Observer:

“‘As the universal Church, Catholic leaders elsewhere in the world need to let the Ugandan Catholic Church know this bill is completely contradictory to our faith’s core beliefs,’ she said. ‘I cannot think of anything more dehumanizing and degrading than this bill.’

“Day said Notre Dame’s mission statement pledges that the University looks to nurture in its students, ‘a disciplined sensibility to the poverty, injustice and oppression that burden the lives of so many. The aim is to create a sense of human solidarity and concern for the common good that will bear fruit as learning becomes service to justice.’

“‘As the students and alumni of Notre Dame stand up to the injustice of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill, we are fulfilling this part of Notre Dame’s mission,’ Day said.”

If you would like to sign either petition, Bondings 2.0 provides links below, as well as our previous coverage on Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” bill.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Petitions

Petition to Religious Leaders from the Yale Divinity School LGBT Coalition

Petition to Fr. Jenkins at the University of Notre Dame

Previous Posts

November 14, 2012: Catholic Leaders Must Speak Out Against Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” Bill

August 13, 2012:  Former Ambassador to the Vatican Speaks Out Against Ugandan Discrimination

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


Why Aren’t the Bishops More Persuasive?

November 29, 2012

Commonweal magazine’s November 23, 2012 issue has an excellent article entitled “Morbid Symptoms–The Catholic Right’s False Nostalgia,” by Eugene McCarraher, an associate professor of humanities at Villanova University.

In the article, McCarraher reviews four books by conservative Catholics and analyzes their ideology.  It’s an excellent survey of the faults in conservative Catholic thinking, and I recommend reading it in its entirety.

One passage caught my eye in particular.  In the section of the article devoted to reviewing Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s book, A People of Hope:  Archbishop Timothy Dolan in Conversation with John L. Allen, Jr. , McCarraher makes the following observation:

“The galling truth is that many American Catholics—perhaps a majority—do not fully share the bishops’ view of what constitutes the fulfillment of human nature. They do not believe that same-sex intercourse and the use of contraceptives are “unnatural,” and therefore do not see gay marriage or contraceptive coverage as threats to religious liberty.

“Of course many laity are dissenting from the magisterium, and doing so in part because the bishops’ credibility has been so drastically diminished. We all know why; there’s no need to belabor the sexual-abuse scandal with its record of episcopal obfuscation and self-pity, or before that the damage done by Humanae vitae. Although Dolan acknowledges the disenchantment in the pews, he’s clearly impatient with the subject. Bishops, he tells John L. Allen Jr., have to ‘get over this sense of being gun-shy’ in the wake of all the revelations. Conceding that he and his colleagues must speak with ‘graciousness, and a sense of contrition,’ he adds that ‘we have to mean it.’ But do they really mean it? The impression of many attentive Catholics is that they’d rather pound the crosier on the floor. Dolan himself insists on ‘the uniquely normative value of the magisterium of the bishops,’ as though that ‘value’ remains self-evident.

There are excellent reasons to find the bishops’ recent dudgeon unconvincing. Over the past decade, we’ve witnessed plenty of outrages to human dignity in this country: the official legitimation of torture and assassination; the prosecution of a war condemned by not one but two popes; the growing attacks on governmental support and compassion for the destitute, often under cover of ‘subsidiarity.’ The bishops’ responses to these outrages have been muted at best. Why so little prophetic ardor to battle these iniquities? Why no ‘fortnights for dignity’ to rally the faithful against state-sponsored violence abroad? Or haven’t the bishops noticed that the United States has been at war for the better part of the past twenty years?

McCarraher’s analysis is spot on.  To extend it to the realm of LGBT issues, I would add that if the bishops spoke up more about some of the real world issues concerning LGBT people–bullying, discrimination, violence, alienation from religious institutions–they would be more respected and persuasive.

For example, they have been shamefully silent on the issue of the anti-homosexual bill which has been discussed in Uganda’s parliament for several years now, and which could be passed into law as early as next week.  This bill would impose the death penalty for certain lesbian and gay people, and harsh penalties for even the slightest acknowledgement of one’s homosexuality.  Why don’t the bishops see this as a pro-life issue and speak as forcefully against this bill as they do about abortion?

Cardinal Dolan’s advice to bishops to just entrench themselves more firmly in bunkers of isolation from the real world is a dead end.

The bishops’ insistence on such a narrow agenda of items and their unwillingness to speak out when LGBT human rights are trampled upon will continue to make them non-credible authorities long after the sex abuse crisis is a dim memory.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 


Catholic Leaders Must Speak Out Against Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” Bill

November 14, 2012

Uganda’s infamous “Kill the Gays” bill, which would impose the death penalty on certain people convicted of having sexual relations with a person of the same sex, seems poised for passage soon.

Rebecca Kadaga

The Associated Press reports that Rebecca Kadaga, Uganda’s Parliamentary Speaker, announced yesterday that the bill will be going forward for a vote in the next few weeks:

“Ugandans ‘are demanding it,’ she said, reiterating a promise she made before a meeting on Friday of anti-gay activists who spoke of ‘the serious threat’ posed by homosexuals to Uganda’s children. Some Christian clerics at the meeting in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, asked the speaker to pass the law as ‘a Christmas gift.’

“ ‘Speaker, we cannot sit back while such (a) destructive phenomenon is taking place in our nation,’ the activists said in a petition. ‘We therefore, as responsible citizens, feel duty-bound to bring this matter to your attention as the leader of Parliament … so that lawmakers can do something to quickly address the deteriorating situation in our nation.’ ”

A report in The Advocate notes that the bill can be put to a vote in a matter of two weeks.

A news story in the San Diego Gay and Lesbian News provides some background on the criminal status of homosexuality in Uganda, as well as what the proposed law would mandate:

“Even without the law, Uganda already has laws that criminalize homosexuality and is one of 76 countries where it is illegal to be gay. The proposed law would broaden existing laws, and includes the death penalty to those convicted of aggravated homosexuality and life imprisonment for those convicted of the offense of homosexuality.

“Aggravated homosexuality is defined as gay acts committed by parents or authority figures, HIV-positive people, pedophiles and repeat offenders.

“Offense of homosexuality is defined as same-sex sexual acts or being involved in a same-sex relationship.”

Shamefully silent on this bill have been the Catholic bishops of Uganda, a heavily Catholic nation.  Indeed, earlier this summer it was reported that the Catholic bishops reversed their position from quiet opposition to the bill to outright support for it.

Catholic leaders in the U.S. have spoken in opposition to the bill, including Ambassador Thomas P. Melady, the former U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican.  President Barack Obama has called the bill “odious.”

More Catholic voices will be needed to defeat this horrendous law.  Indeed, in July Ugandan LGBT rights advocates called on the international community, including religious leaders, to lend their voices to oppose the bill.

Catholic bishops here in the United States and Vatican leaders in Rome need to lend their voices to international opposition to the proposed law.  Silence is not an option at this point.  Too many innocent lives hang in the balance.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,011 other followers