In what is being described as another after-effect of Pope Francis’ seemingly more open approach to LGBT issues, the Archbishop of Mumbai (Bombay), India, directed his priests to “be more sensitive while referring to homosexuality during their sermons or in their public statements,” reports The Hindustan Times.
This directive from Cardinal Oswald Gracias was made in response to a letter by an LGBT equality organization, Queer Azaadi Mumbai (QAM) after they complained that a priest at St Thomas Church, Goregaon, gave a sermon opposing marriage equality in which he described homosexuality as “a great sin.”
In his response, Gracias stated:
“Going by the data in the letter, some of what the priest said is alright and some part is inappropriate. The Church does not accept gay marriage because the Bible teaches us that God willed marriage to be between man and woman. On the other hand, to say that those with other sexual orientations are sinners is wrong. I do think we must be sensitive in our homilies [sermons] and how we speak in public and I will so advise our priests.”
QAM was happy with the response. A member of the group who is a parishioner at St. Thomas said:
“The Archbishop’s response was very reassuring for the community. It gives me confidence as a member of the Church that I will not be discriminated against.”
A leading Indian LGBT advocate, Harish Iyer, stated:
“We are grateful to the church for categorically stating that they are not against homosexuality. The Archbishop of Mumbai has set a benchmark for everyone else.”
Iyer is correct. As we’ve noted recently, U.S. bishops can learn some lessons in sensitivity from international bishops who seem to be following the pope’s lead in this regard. The archbishop of Dublin recently made a similar statement of acceptance. As the pope’s statement at the end of July has shown, a little kindness can go a long way to creating good will.
The pope and these sensitive bishops can’t stop there, though. They need to back up their words with pastoral outreach and begin a serious dialogue with LGBT people. Kind words are the first step, but they shouldn’t be the last one.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry