Philippines Abp. Says It’s Okay for a Gay Man to Marry a Lesbian Woman. Huh?

June 26, 2013
Archbishop Oscar Cruz

Archbishop Oscar Cruz

Sometimes it is difficult to imagine what a bishop was thinking when he makes a statement that is so incorrect and irrelevant.  A case in point is the news from the Philippines that retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz recently said that it would be permissible for a gay man and lesbian woman to marry because procreative possibility would be present.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer quotes the archbishop’s statement, made during a meeting of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines-National Appellate Matrimonial Tribunal:

“May a lesbian marry a gay man? My answer is ‘yes’ because in that instance the capacity to consummate the union is there. The anatomy is there. The possibility of conception is there.”

Archbishop Cruz, who has served as an auxiliary bishop in Manila, the nation’s capital, and as head of the Archdiocese of San Fernando, was also a Judicial Vicar for the nation’s bishops’ conference.  Despite his education and experience, his remarks reveal an amazing lack of knowledge about the dynamics involved in intimate sexual relationships.  A Filipina LGBT activist was quick to respond with statements that reflected not only a more humane approach, but one that is also more in line with what the Catholic church really teaches about sexual relationships.  Gay Star News reported:

Angie Umbac

Angie Umbac

“Filipina LGBT rights activist Angie Umbac told Gay Star News she is ‘speechless’ at the comments of the Archbishop. . .

“Umbac, who campaigns for Filipino LGBT rights organization Rainbow Rights, said that people should marry ‘not because their parts “fit”‘ but ‘for the right reasons’.

‘I’d like to believe that human beings are more than the sum of their parts,’ said Umbac. ‘How about the brain? The heart? The soul? At what point do love, free will, and self-respect come in? They are important components of marriage that the Archbishop’s careless statement choose to ignore.’

The archbishop’s comments didn’t stop there, though.  He went on to acknowledge that homosexuality is a permissible reason to receive a marriage annulment from the church.  While this is true, this statement also highlighted the illogic of his statement about a gay man marrying a lesbian woman.  Salon.com writer Mary Elizabeth Williams was quick to point out this problem:

“But if the Catholic Church can sanction marriage between lesbians and gay men, Cruz also acknowledges it can also retroactively declare that it was never even legitimate in the first place. In the same speech, the Archbishop admitted that homosexuality was valid grounds for annulment, though he added it is rarely invoked.”

The Philippines is currently considering a proposal to legalize marriage for lesbian and gay couples, and the Catholic hierarchy is, predictably, opposed to it.   Despite the hiearchy’s opposition to LGBT equality, a recent Pew poll showed that the Philippines population, overwhelmingly Catholic, is very accepting of LGBT people.

An incident such as this is a reminder that our church leaders are in deep need of education about sexuality and human dynamics.  One can try to think of reasons why Archbishop Cruz made such a wrongheaded statement:  Did he let personal homophobia get the best of him?  Was he caught up in some sort of political fervor to try to block the nation’s marriage proposal?  Is he so totally removed from the lives of real people that he is unaware of the many elements that are involved in relationship-building?

Whatever the reasons, the best thing he can do now is to apologize and promise to educate himself better not only about LGBT people, but about basic Catholic teaching about sexuality and relationships.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 


Pop Singer, Comic Strip, and Bishops All Make Headlines in Philippine News

June 9, 2013

It’s been a busy week in the Philippines for Catholic LGBT news, with three big stories making headlines there and around the globe:  1) the top female singer in the nation came out as a lesbian, though a Catholic official was critical of her announcement;  2) a newspaper apologized for printing an anti-Catholic cartoon that had a lesbian theme;  3) the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines predicted that marriage equality would face strong opposition in that nation.  We will report on all three in this post.

1) Top Singer comes out as a lesbian

Charice Pempengco

Charice Pempengco

Charice Pempengco, a top Filipino singer who at one time played an exchange student on the popular American television show, Glee, came out as a lesbian this week in a television interview.

According to an Associate Press story in the Washington PostPempengco apologized for any hurt her announcement might cause her mother and brother:

“ ‘I don’t know what the problem with that is because for me, that isn’t a problem,’ Charice said, adding, ‘To all those who will accept me, thank you very, very much.’ ”

Yet she also expressed pride and relief:

“Charice said that after her public coming out, she could now ‘leave my house without hiding anything.’ ”

Reverend Melvin Castro, a high-ranking Catholic Church official, had criticism for the announcement:

“Castro, the executive secretary of the Episcopal Commission on Family and Life, asked the public not to judge the singer while she is still trying to ‘discover her real feelings.’

“With spiritual counseling, she may still realize she is really heterosexual, he said.

“ ‘If her situation is really same-sex attraction, then we have to help her live a life that is celibate and pure,’ Castro told The Associated Press.”

2. Comic Strip Controversy

The Philippine Daily Inquirer, one of the nation’s leading newspapers, apologized for printing a comic strip in which it suggested that the nuns and students at Manila’s all-girls St. Scholastica College are lesbian.

The offending comic strip.

The offending comic strip.

In addition, the newspaper suspended the comic strip, Pugad Baboy, (Nest of Pigs), and the cartoonist Apolonario Pol Medina, Jr., until an investigation is conducted, according to The Bangkok Post.

The Wall Street Journal provided a description of the offending cartoon:

“In the controversial June 4 strip, a new character, lesbian atheist Coleen Tang,  accused Catholics of being hypocrites because, she says, all-girl schools run by nuns condone lesbian relationships of students even as the Church condemns homosexual activity. Another character said that at a school in Manila, which is run by the Benedictine Sisters, you wouldn’t find a pretty student without a girlfriend. ‘Could it be that nuns are also lesbians,’ asked another character in the strip. (Remark is translated into English.)”

The Wall Street Journal  also reported that he school’s administrators are considering a law suit:

“But St. Scholastica’s College, the exclusive school specifically mentioned in Pugad Baboy strip, isn’t laughing. It’s considering suing. Meanwhile, alumni of the all-girl school in Manila took to social media to complain, running a Twitter thread #RespectScholasticans. The school wants to talk with the Inquirer and Mr. Medina.

“On its official Twitter page,  St. Scholastica’s published a letter from school President Sr. Mary Thomas Prado explaining what happened. It also quoted a portion of the letter sent to the Inquirer to protest ‘in the strongest possible terms the way the school was singled out and our Sister-administrators accused of allowing homosexual relationships between its female students.’ ”

3. Catholic Bishops’ Conference on Marriage Equality

ABS-CBNnews.com reported that an official at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines are predicting a tough battle for any news laws that would legalize both divorce and marriage equality:

Archbishop Jose Palma

Archbishop Jose Palma

“The head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) believes any proposal to legalize divorce and gay marriage in the Philippines will not come easy.

“In a CBCPNews report, CBCP President and Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma said any proposed legislation to legalize divorce or gay marriage will experience the same fierce opposition posed against the controversial Reproductive Health Law. The RH Law was passed by Congress last year but its implementation has been delayed by the Supreme Court.”

It will be interesting to see what Philippine lay Catholics think, since a recent report shows that they are strongly supportive of LGBT people and issues.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Survey Shows Catholic Nations Strongly Support LGBT People

June 8, 2013

In the United States, the general population has been growing accustomed to realizing that Catholics are strongly supportive of LGBT justice and equality.  Poll after poll keeps showing that Catholics lead all Christian denominations in their support for issues like marriage equality.

Therefore, it should come as little surprise to find out that, according to a new survey of 39 nations by the Pew Research Center, when one looks at the global picture of LGBT acceptance, one finds that traditionally Catholic countries stand out as far more accepting than other nations.   What’s more, the United States is not the leader in global acceptance of LGBT people.

Washington Post news article highlighted some of the relevant statistics along these lines:

“The broadest acceptance was found in countries where religion is not central to life, such as Canada (80 percent), France (77 percent) and Australia (79 percent). Yet the poll also found high levels of tolerance toward gay people in some heavily Catholic countries, including Spain (86 percent), Italy (74 percent), Argentina (74 percent) and the Philippines (73 percent). In the United States, 60 percent of the public said gay people should be accepted in society.”

The United States, in contrast, had only a 60 percent rate of acceptance.

Gary Gates, a demographer at The Williams Institute, which tracks LGBT issues in surveys, gave one explanation of why strongly religious nations may be more accepting:

“There are cultures where religion is a very, very important factor, as a regular part of daily life. In those countries, it’s harder to distinguish what’s religious and what’s culture. But in other countries, like Italy or Spain, the culture has always had a live-and-let-live dimension to it. Even with a very strong religious presence, you see that kind of attitude coming out.”

Results for factors other than religion tended to mirror the trends seen in the United States.  The Washington Post reported:

“As in the United States, age was a factor. The Pew study said those younger than 30 are more accepting of homosexuals in society than people who are 30 to 49. Both groups are more likely to express tolerance of gays than people 50 or older.

“The Pew poll generally found little difference in attitudes held by men and women in any given country. But in countries where there is a difference, women are more accepting of homosexuality than men are, Pew said.”

BusinessInsider.com reported that other than religion, high national income levels also tended to be a strong predictor of acceptance:

“Roughly, an increase in GDP [gross domestic product] of $620 is good for one percentage point more people agreeing with the statement ‘homosexuality should be accepted by society.’ “

BusinessInsider.com  noted that one of the important exceptions to this rule was the Philippines:

“The biggest outperformer on acceptance is the Philippines, again heavily Catholic, where Pew finds levels of acceptance comparable to western Europe despite per capita GDP of less than $5,000.”

The Washington Post said that the new study’s results were corroborated by a similar earlier study:

“A smaller study, conducted in 2011 by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, found support for homosexual behavior growing in 27 of 31 countries. The highest level of acceptance was in northern Europe, while disapproval remained strong in Russia and several other Eastern European countries that used to be part of the Soviet Union.”

It seems that the news of acceptance across the globe just keeps getting better and better, especially where Catholics are concerned!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


On Coming Out: Anderson Cooper, Henri Nouwen, and Raymond Alikpala

July 19, 2012

Anderson Cooper

When CNN’s Anderson Cooper came out as gay earlier this summer, a few eyebrows were raised because he did not come out sooner.  It’s a common story that when a public figure acknowledges a homosexual orientation, he or she is often castigated for having led a private life for so long.   I have often found this a strange reaction when it comes from LGBT advocates because one of the values that the LGBT community frequently supports is the right of individuals to lead their own lives as they see fit.

Mr. Cooper’s revelation has sparked reflections about the coming out process on two sides of the world–in the United States and the Philippines.  In both cases, Catholicism plays a role.

Rev. Chris Glaser, a Presbyterian minister who is a pioneer in the LGBT religion world, supports Mr. Cooper’s decisions both not to tell and then to tell his sexual orientation publicly.  What I found most interesting about Rev. Glaser’s argument is that he uses Henri Nouwen, a beloved Catholic spiritual writer who was also a gay priest who did not reveal his orientation publicly, as his model for this type of decision.  In a HuffingtonPost.com essay he writes:

Henri Nouwen

“. . . I have empathy for celebrities who don’t fall all over themselves coming out, despite the good it might do to limit bullying, suicides and inequality.

“A spiritual mentor and friend, Henri J. M. Nouwen, faced the same difficulty. Having written dozens of books on the spiritual life and Christian ministry, Nouwen was a celebrity among Catholics and Protestants alike. But he believed in his call as a celibate priest, while yearning for what Catholic teaching opposed: ‘a particular friendship.’

“He was indeed The Wounded Healer that he wrote of early in his career: those able to bring healing to others while acknowledging personal wounds. Nouwen’s spiritual breakthrough came when he drew too close to a member of his spiritual community, prompting intense self-scrutiny that led to his published journal, ‘The Inner Voice of Love,’ in which he comes to the realization that people will try to hook you in your wounds, and ‘dismiss what God, through you, is saying to them.’ “

“His biographer, Michael Ford (Wounded Prophet), told me that Nouwen wanted to come out with that book but had been persuaded its message would reach a broader audience if the gender of the friend were not revealed. Nouwen had mentioned to me his concern that his reach would be narrowed if he were defined by this one aspect of his character.

“Shortly after his death in 1996, I was shocked to receive an e-mail from someone quoting ‘the gay theologian’ Henri Nouwen — a verification of Henri’s concern. Thus we might take Anderson Cooper at his word in telling friends he didn’t want to be known as ‘the gay anchor.’

“I have the opposite but analogous experience. Because I became known for my gay activism, I’ve discovered I have been typecast and whatever spiritual insights I might offer the church have been viewed through a prejudicial lens.

“As one who resisted mentioning Henri’s sexuality after his death even after it had become public, I was nonetheless invited by his spiritual community to write about it for an anthology entitled Befriending Life: Encounters with Henri Nouwen. They trusted me, they said, to write about it without sensationalizing it.”

In an opinion essay in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Rina Jimenez-David examines Mr. Cooper’s coming out and how it compares with the story of  a Raymond Alikpala, a Catholic Filipino lawyer who was once a Jesuit seminarian and who recently authored a book that is getting some attention in their country: a book, Of Gods and Men: A Life in the Closet.   Jimenez-David writes:

“One of the most affecting parts of the book is how Raymond finally found the courage to tell his family about his entire self, including his sexual orientation. Though he said he had an inkling that his mother had long sensed his gayness, when they read the first draft of his memoir, they at first were repulsed and appalled that he would speak so publicly about his sexuality.

“But at the book launch, Raymond’s parents were both there, as were other members of his family, which spoke volumes about how they had come around to accepting him and indeed being proud of his courage and fearlessness.

“His mother Ciony, speaking at the launch, acknowledged that it is not easy mothering a gay son, more so because ‘it is not easy to be gay in the Philippines.’  ‘Gayness is not a sin,’ she declared in Filipino, ‘God knows how he has lived, and God sees into our hearts and reads our minds.’

“It was important to her, she said, ‘to try my best and show my love and support’ for Raymond. ‘I am very proud of my gay son,’ she declared, urging parents of gay children to love them because ‘they need our love more in a cruel and judgmental society.’

“Anderson Cooper would have approved.”

Coming out will always remain a personal decision based on many factors in a person’s life–personal, professional, political, spiritual.  We rejoice when someone has found the right time to do so not only because of the benefit it can bring to the individual but to the greater community, as well.  As much as we would want everyone to have the grace to come out, patience and respect for the individual’s personal process in this area need to prevail.  As much as coming out can be a grace to the wider community, every individual should enjoy the right to do so on his or her own schedule.  Encouragement and support, not criticism and castigation, should always be our response.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


“All We Want For Christmas Is Our Human Rights”

December 15, 2011

To protest the Philippines Catholic Bishops’ Conference’s “move to ask for the removal of sexual orientation and gender identity in the list of punishable forms of discrimination under Senate Bill 2814 (The Anti-Ethnic or Racial Profiling and Discrimination Act of 2011),” an LGBT rights group there went Christmas caroling in front of the  bishops’ conference office in Manila today.

This creative form of protest included among other songs with changed lyrics, “All We Want For Christmas Is Our Human Rights.”  A full description of the protest can be read in this news story.

Anger over the bishops’ conference position was inflamed when it was reported that a lawyer for the conference, Jo Imbong,  said that LGBT people  “should not be protected from discrimination”  because they had the power to choose their sexual orientation.

It sounds like the Filipino bishops are having the same problem that the U.S. bishops had recently when their adviser on marriage issues, Daniel Avila, suggested in a column in a Catholic newspaper that homosexuality was caused by the devil.  Under pressure, Mr. Avila resigned.

Let’s hope and pray that Jo Imbong either resigns or is dismissed.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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