Why Has Pope Francis Been Silent on Anti-Gay Laws?

April 3, 2014

Pope Francis

Pope Francis’ response, or, more accurately, his lack of response to the passage of anti-gay laws and policies in places like Uganda, Nigeria, India, Russia, has been one of the more puzzling questions of the past few months for those interested in Catholic LGBT issues.  This pope, who has expressed a greater openness toward LGBT human rights than any of his predecessors, and who has not shown any timidity on speaking out on controversial social issues has remained strangely silent on this vicious trend toward more repressive anti-gay laws.

Two recent essays analyze the papal silence. Both are worth reading in full, and contemplating seriously.  I will summarize both, but recommend that you follow the links to read the entire articles.

Michael O’Loughlin, a Catholic free-lance journalist who writes about LGBT issues, has tackled the question of the pope’s silence in a Foreign Policy essay entitled, “Francis’s Papal Bull: Why is a progressive pope allowing anti-gay bishops to preach hate?”      Jamie Manson, a National Catholic Reporter columnist struck a similar note in her recent essay, “In Uganda, an opportunity for Pope Francis to act on his words.”

Michael O'Loughlin

Michael O’Loughlin

O’Loughlin begins by noting that Pope Francis recently met with Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, who signed the anti-gay bill.  Yet, other than a vague statement about protecting human rights, the pope made no reference to the new law.  O’Loughlin also describes local Catholic support and complicity for the new repressive measures in Africa:

Catholic bishops in Nigeria, in a letter to Jonathan, heralded the new law as “courageous” 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.” They weren’t the only religious leaders happy with a stepping-up of repression against gay Africans. In February, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed a bill that threatens openly gay Ugandans with lifetime prison sentences. While Catholic leaders rejected the 2009 version of the bill, which contained an infamous death penalty provision, some bishops — as well as Anglican and Orthodox leaders – have been vocal in their support of the most recent measure. (Africa is the Roman Catholic Church’s fastest-growing region, in terms of membership.)

After examining the many ways that Francis has opened up the conversation about LGBT people in the Church over the past year,  O’Loughlin speculates as to what might be the pope’s reason for silence:

“The disconnect between the pope’s words and actions stems partly from the fact that Pope Francis appears hesitant to become involved with what the Vatican considers local issues, which includes national laws punishing gay people for their sexual orientation. And although counterintuitive, this hesitance actually reflects a certain liberalism about the internal dynamics of the church: Catholic progressives, used to the rigid, authoritarian rule of Rome over the past few decades, have long wanted to see the devolution of power away from the Vatican. This was the only way, they believed, that lay people — with more access to bishops than to Rome’s highest echelons — could gain some input in the church’s decision-making processes.”

But, such a reason is not enough to justify his silence, O’Loughlin suggests. He calls on the pope to become a more vocal advocate for justice for LGBT people, if his initial gestures and statements are to have any real meaning:

“Yet if he truly wants to move forward, he will have to build on his initial outreach and ask, publicly, that Catholic bishops and other leaders keep up. If the pope truly wants the Catholic Church to chart a course for social justice around the world, his leadership on this issue must demonstrate that his powerful institution is a genuine voice for the oppressed.”

Jamie Manson

Jamie Manson

Pope Francis’ leadership in regard to these repressive laws is needed since local bishops have been so quick to support the anti-gay measures.  Nigerian bishops were explicit in their support of the new law in their nation.  Ugandan bishops, at first, were silent about their country’s law, but, as Jamie Manson points out in her column:

“That was until Monday, when, at a ‘thanksgiving’ celebration for the new law held in Kampala, their actions spoke louder than words.

“International media outlets reported that the thanksgiving rally and ceremony was organized by a nonspecific ‘coalition of religious leaders.’ But a photo in one of Uganda’s major newspapers revealed that Archbishop Cyprian Kizito Lwanga of Kampala not only attended the thanksgiving celebration, he was part of a contingent of five clergymen (including a Muslim sheikh, a Pentecostal bishop and an Anglican bishop) who gave Museveni an engraved plaque to congratulate him for signing the bill.

A YouTube video also shows Lwanga offering prayers at the ceremony for those ‘led astray in this vice of homosexuality.’ “

Manson notes why Catholic opinion is so important in Uganda:

“An estimated 44 percent of Uganda is Catholic, which suggests that the Roman Catholic hierarchy holds significant influence over the beliefs of the people and the development of public policy. By offering public praise of Museveni’s signing of this law, Lwanga has given his blessing to legislation that violates the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which teaches that homosexual orientation is not a choice and that gays and lesbians should not be subjected to violence or social discrimination.”

She concludes with a call to the pope to exercise his leadership by putting substance behind his words:

“These repressive laws offer an opportunity for the pope’s now-legendary ‘Who am I to judge?’ comment to actually translate into action. No one is asking Pope Francis to change doctrine or create a revolution. We are only asking him to honor the catechism’s teaching that gays and lesbians should be ‘accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.’

“The global crisis of anti-homosexuality laws calls Pope Francis not only to uphold church doctrine, but to act on his own pastoral words — words that have inspired many to believe that the Catholic church has entered a new era of justice and dignity for the LGBT community worldwide.”

Both O’Loughlin and Manson mentioned New Ways Ministry’s #PopeSpeakOut Twitter campaign, now entering its third month.  We, and other Catholic and LGBT groups have been asking people to send a tweet to the pope, asking him to speak out against this trend toward more repressive anti-LGBT laws.  You can read more about the campaign here.  And if you want to send a tweet or email to the pope, those tasks will be made easier for you if you check out our helpful resource by clicking here.

It is important for the pope to speak out.  It is equally important for Catholics around the globe to speak out to the pope to let him know that our lived Catholic faith has taught us that anti-LGBT laws are not acceptable at all.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Uganda’s Bishops Remain Quiet on Anti-Gay Law; Pope Francis Will Not Visit There

March 26, 2014

Pope Francis

More than a month after Uganda’s president signed an infamous anti-gay law, that nation’s bishops still remain silent on the controversial legislation which has received international condemnation. In this same period, it was announced that Pope Francis will not visit Uganda next fall, as had been discussed, causing speculation about whether this cancellation is related to the anti-gay law.

Initially, the Ugandan [Catholic] Episcopal Conference’s head announced the bishops would study the new law before commenting. America magazine now reports any public remarks, especially a condemnation, seems unlikely. The magazine cites two priests with knowledge of the situation:

“An informed Ugandan priest, meanwhile, suggested the bishops had opted to keep ‘safe’ and silent over the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Act.

” ‘I am not aware that there has been an official statement … nor that there should be,’ said Msgr. John Wynand Katende, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Kampala, Uganda’s capital…

“The same day, a Catholic priest based in Uganda told CNS that, to his knowledge, the bishops would not officially be commenting on the contentious new law.

” ‘The bishops, to my knowledge, opted to keep safe off the issue, saying that they were not given the original text. But now … they have said that the law should not be politicized,’ the priest said on condition of anonymity.”

However, the country’s president, Yoweri Museveni, stated that Catholic bishops have privately expressed their support for the law and there is a well-document record of religious leaders supporting the anti-gay law.

Hundreds have urged the pope to condemn such laws through the #PopeSpeakOut campaign, and Catholics outside Uganda have been vocal in their defense of LGBT people’s lives. However, Pope Francis has remained quiet while Uganda and other nations have passed laws criminalizing homosexuality and creating stiff penalties for LGBT people. It is now confirmed the pope will not travel to Uganda in October for celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of the Ugandan Martyr’s canonizations, according to the Ugandan newspaper Daily MonitorPope Francis’ global popularity resounds in Africa as well, with one Kenyan columnist urging Africans to “vote with the Pope” on gay rights:

“The revolutionary bishop from Argentina took a sledgehammer to homophobes when he asked – ‘who am I to judge?’ Those simple, if venerable five words, demolished millennia of official hatred for homosexuals in the Church that Saint Peter built…

“To the Jesuit Pope, gays should be welcomed, loved, and accepted. That’s why Pope Francis is a godsend. I’ve watched with dismay – and utter disbelief – as some states in Africa descend into an orgy of homophobia…Rogue politicians and bigoted clergymen whip up hapless followers with anti-gay propaganda…

“Pope Francis wasn’t only criticising longstanding Church doctrine. The Pope’s message was a sharp rebuke to unprincipled politicians and leaders like Mr Museveni. It’s leaders like Mr Museveni who use ‘wedge’ hot-button issues like sexuality, mini-skirts, abortion, or fake attacks on cultural imperialism to cling to power…Why all the vitriol and anger against gays who’ve never done a thing to you? I end where I started…Let’s vote with the Pope on gays – and embrace them.”

It is unclear whether Pope Francis cancelled this trip or declined the invitation in the first place. What is clear is this provided an opportunity for Pope Francis to condemn clearly laws which violate the dignity and well-being of LGBT people and call upon bishops around the world to raise their voices as well.  However, perhaps he declined to visit the country because he did not want to seem to be approving of the new law.  He is already seen as a gay-positive influence in the Church and in the world. It is time for Pope Francis to speak out clearly and forcefully against Uganda’s law, and other similar anti-gay laws around the globe.  He can save lives.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


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


Tweet the Pope to Save LGBT People Around the World!

January 23, 2014

Pope Francis

A world of humanity is mobilizing around the #PopeSpeakOut Twitter campaign to persuade Pope Francis to speak out against the growing tide of anti-LGBT laws around the globe.  The campaign is launching today! Bondings 2.0 encourages all of its readers who use Twitter to participate.

The campaign organizers are New Ways Ministry,The Fellowship Global, and a growing number of co-sponsors. It offers a positive action that people can take to respond to the dangerous new wave of anti-LGBT laws and policies in countries such as Nigeria, Russia, Uganda, India, and Jamaica.

“By sending tweets to the pope, we want to move him to speak out against these laws, many of which have been supported by Catholic leaders and people in these nations,” said Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director of New Ways Ministry.  “We were amazed and gratified when Pope Francis said ‘Who am I to judge.’ Now we need a powerful, faith-based statement from Pope Francis to support the freedom and lives of our LGBT sisters and brothers.”

Pastor Joseph Tolton, Executive Director of The Fellowship Global said, “People of faith and hope from all traditions will tweet the Pope to urge him to make a pronouncement to the world to ‘Do no harm!’ The rising tide of draconian laws to criminalize LGBT people and their supporters allow vigilantes to rape, beat and kill people who are suspected of being LGBT with impunity. This must stop!”

It will be incumbent on all of us, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, to help spread the word about the campaign so that the pontiff hears from people from all over.  We are heartened by the fact that the papal nuncio in Uganda was pre-disposed to reject that nation’s anti-gay bill and that Cardinal Oswald Gracias, the archbishop of Mumbai who is one of the pope’s closest advisors, has spoken out strongly against India’s anti-LGBT action.  These signs indicate that there is a good chance the pope will, with the right encouragement, speak out, too.

The campaign has established a website, NoMoreTriangleNations.com, as a resource and headquarters for the campaign.  “Triangle Nations” is a reference to the pink triangle assigned to gay men in Nazi concentration camps during the Holocaust.

New Ways Ministry is a 37-year old national Catholic ministry of justice and reconciliation for LGBT people and the wider church community and civil society.

The Fellowship Global is a partnership with circles of Christian clergy and LGBTI people in the African Diaspora to express a faith perspective supporing the social, legal, and moral inclusion of all people regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Bondings 2.0 will keep you updated on the campaign, the pope’s response, and on Catholic influence in “triangle nations” as they develop.

Here are some sample tweets that can be used:

First Russia, then Uganda, last week Nigeria, now ask @pontifex to say “No More Triangle Nations!” http://ow.ly/sSuiY #PopeSpeakOut

Ask @pontifex to call on Christians to love LGBTQ individuals, not legislate their extinction. #nomoretrianglenations

.@Pontifex Urge heads of state to respect human dignity. NO MORE TRIANGLE NATIONS! #PopeSpeakOut

In the wake of anti-gay legislative measures made in #Nigeria & #Uganda, we urge @pontifex to speak out against such unchristian prejudice

As Catholics, we are saddened by our fellow Christians who attack the global #LGBT community. We will speak out, join us and share.

.@Pontifex As a voice for the voiceless please publicly condemn anti-gay laws! #PopeSpeakOut

.@Pontifex Please condemn Uganda’s anti-gay bill as you defend human rights for all! #PopeSpeakOut

.@Pontifex Please urge Nigeria to stop arresting gay and trans people! Please save lives! #PopeSpeakOut

.@Pontifex Stop the unjust legal discrimination of gay/lesbian/trans people. Speak out against anti-gay laws around the world #PopeSpeakOut

.@Pontifex Call Christians around the world to love gay people not legislate their extinction #PopeSpeakOut

–Bob Shine , New Ways Ministry


Papal Nuncio Responds to American’s Concern About Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill

December 28, 2013

Archbishop Michael Blume

After learning the terrible news last week that the Ugandan Parliament passed a bill imposing heavy penalties, including life imprisonment, on anyone convicted of homosexual activity, a New Ways Ministry friend wrote to the papal nuncio (Vatican’s representative) to that nation.

On December 21st, Brother Brian McLauchlin sent an email to Archbishop Michael Blume, asking him to speak with the Ugandan bishops and Pope Francis about this abuse of human rights.  McLauchlin received a positive response from Blume the same  day, assuring him that his office is concerned about the situation, and that he would be working with Uganda’s Catholic bishops on the matter.

Blume’s message discusses the confusion which exists in Uganda about the bill:

“It was only this morning that I found out about the action of the Parliament. In fact the whole business caught many of us, including the bishops’ conference, by surprise as there had been no hints of it in the press nor on the site of the Parliament, which indicates legislation being discussed. The bill had been put on hold last February and seemed forgotten, but … You can view some articles on it from the government press (www.newvision.co.ug) and the opposition (www.monitor.co.ug). That the Prime Minister speaks about further consultation needed is something important to note. The Monitor also points out a problem of the quorum at the session that passed the law — without clearly stating whether it existed or not.”

Blume also noted that the Ugandan bishops had spoken out against an earlier version of this bill in 2009:

The bishops had pronounced on the bill already in 2009. Here’s just the paragraph that is a kind of résumé:

“The recent tabled Anti-Homosexuality Bill does not pass a test of a Christian caring approach to this issue. The targeting of the sinner, not the sin, is the core flaw of the proposed Bill. The introduction of the death penalty and imprisonment for homosexual acts targets people rather than seeking to counsel and to reach out in compassion to those who need conversion, repentance, support, and hope. The Bible says in Luke 6:36-37 ‘Be merciful just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge and you will not be judged. Do not condemn and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.’     (complete statement at http://www.uecon.org/Publication.html , towards the bottom of the page).”

The papal nuncio also noted that he would be working with the bishops as they comment on the bill:

“It’s the general policy for nuncios to work together with the bishops conferences on questions of national interest. For that reason I was already in contact with the Secretary General this morning. . . . I’m sure there will be a lot of movement between the bishops’ conference and various institutions of the country. The bill will die if the President does not sign it within thirty days. We pray the Holy Spirit to give him wisdom.”

McLauchlin’s letter to the nuncio follows:

“Your Excellency:

“I am writing to you about a grave matter in terms of human rights abuses towards LGBT persons in Uganda. As you are probably aware, Uganda’s Parliament recently passed a bill calling for tougher punishments for homosexual acts, including life
imprisonment for those considered ‘repeat offenders.’ In addition, this bill also criminalizes the public promotion of homosexuality. Once the President of Uganda signs the legislation, it will become law.

“I am gravely concerned that a number of human rights violations will occur if the President signs this bill. Although the
Catholic Hierarchy may not approve of same-sex relationships or a homosexual lifestyle, I believe the Hierarchy would agree
that everyone has the right to be treated with dignity and respect. Imprisoning someone for life would clearly constitute
an abuse of his/her rights.

“The largest single denomination in Uganda is Roman Catholic. I ask that you use your influence as Papal Nuncio to get the bishops to speak out against this bill. When you speak with Pope Francis please inform him of this situation. I do believe he would want to see the dignity and respect of all people honored and kept sacred.

“I sincerely thank you for your attention to this important matter.”

Last week, when Bondings 2.0 reported the Ugandan news, we asked our readers to write to Pope Francis asking him to speak out against this bill.   We repeat that request now, and we also encourage readers to write to the Archbishop Blume.    His address is:

Archbishop Michael Blume
Apostolic Nunciature
P.O. Box 7177
Chwa II Road, Mbuya Hill
Kampala, UGANDA

email: nuntius@infocom.co.ug

It is so important to write  letters to both the pope and the papal nuncio.  Although Archbishop Blume is optimistic about working with the Ugandan bishops on this matter, it is very important that the pope and the nuncio hear from Catholics.  Though the Ugandan bishops spoke out against the bill in 2009, and although the portion quoted above is hopeful, the rest of their statement presents a very negative attitude toward homosexuality. Last year, there was a report that the bishops had reversed their opposition to the bill, though, because they have not spoken about it clearly, it is difficult to know where they stand currently.  It is hopeful that the papal nuncio supports their 2009 opposition to the bill, an indication that he may feel the same way.   Still, because the Ugandan bishops’ current position is unclear, it’s important that the pope and the papal nuncio hear from Catholics that they want church teaching on human dignity and respect to be upheld in this matter.

New Ways Ministry applauds Brian McLauchlin for his swift, passionate, and courageous correspondence.  We are so proud of his witness. We hope that many of you will use his letter as a model or will craft one of your own to send.  Lesbian and gay Ugandans are counting on us at this time to speak courageously and forthrightly.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


Uganda Passes Anti-Gay Bill; Pope Francis Must Speak Out Against It

December 20, 2013

Uganda’s Parliament has passed a bill calling for tougher punishments for homosexual acts, including life imprisonment for those considered repeat offenders.   It remains for the president of Uganda to sign it into law.

Sky News reported that the death penalty, which had been in the original draft of the bill in 2010, was not included in the final version.  The bill also criminalizes the public promotion of homosexuality.

The news article reports that David Bahati, the lawmaker who initiated the bill, used religious language to praise the bill’s passage.  Bahati stated:

“This is victory for Uganda. I am glad the parliament has voted against evil.”

“Because we are a God-fearing nation, we value life in a holistic way.

“It is because of those values that members of parliament passed this bill regardless of what the outside world thinks.”

Frank Mugisha, the leading Ugandan gay activist, who is a Catholic, criticized the Parliament’s action, saying:

“I am officially illegal.”

Frank Mugisha

Because Catholics are the largest denomination in Uganda, making up over 40% of the population, it is imperative that Pope Francis speak out against this terrible human rights development.   Uganda’s Catholic bishops have been ambivalent about the bill, sometimes supporting it, sometimes speaking weakly against it.  So, it will take Pope Francis’ strong moral leadership to make any kind of impact on this very Catholic nation.  We need Pope Francis’ voice to stop the punitive measures against LGBT people in Nigeria, India, and other nations, too.

While it is a busy time of year for all, please consider taking a moment to write to the Pope to ask him to speak out against this bill.  His mailing address is:

His Holiness Pope Francis,  Apostolic Palace, Vatican City 11020

Please keep Uganda’s gay and lesbian people in your prayers during this holy season.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related posts

July 25, 2012: Catholics Among Christian Leaders Supporting LGBT Rights in Uganda

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

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

December 6, 2012: Catholic Coalition Urges Bishops to Speak Out on Uganda’s Controversial Bill


Papabile Rumors and Keeping Perspective About the Conclave

March 12, 2013

The Conclave of 115 cardinal electors has begun, and profiles of papabile abound reviewing old records and future visions of those rumored to be candidates for the next pope. LGBT issues hold a central place when commentators reflect on each front runner’s strengths and weaknesses, signalling a changing consciousness in the Church.

Pink News, a European-based LGBT news outlet, profiled the varied elements in the legacies of leading cardinals. For instance, they note Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet has been a strong opponent of LGBT rights, but who also once surprised the LGBT world:

Cardinal Marc Ouellet

“In 2005, he declared that the Catholic Church in Quebec would not baptise the babies of gay couples, despite baptism being a requirement of Catholic canon law.

“In 2007, he wrote an unexpected apology on behalf of the Catholic Church in which he wrote ‘humbly ask[ed] forgiveness’ for historic attitudes which had allowed for discrimination against gay people.

“This was largely dismissed by gay rights campaigners. Activist Laurent McCutcheon said the apology did nothing to make up for Cardinal Ouellet’s long opposition to same-sex marriage, or his ‘disparaging and hurtful’ comments about gay people.”

As for Cardinal Angelo Scola,  the Archbishop of Milan, Pink News reports:

Cardinal Angelo Scola

“Cardinal Scola is known as a scholar of human sexuality, having written extensively on the subject of the divine source of the ‘complementary nature of the two sexes’.

“Perhaps unsurprisingly, his views on gay partnerships are that ‘Italy needs families based on the marriage of one man and one woman.’

“He is, at least, open to debate: ‘I can propose my beliefs, you propose yours,’ he said at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart last year. ‘Then we find out what the prevalent opinion is.’

“In 2012, Cardinal Scola surprised activists by allowing Catholic LGBT group Gionata to hold a prayer vigil for the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO), which was able to take place in Milan for the first time.”

Cardinal Peter Turkson

Cardinal Peter Turkson

Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana is touted as a very real possibility, coming out of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, but his record on LGBT is one that denies condoms to help stymie HIV in Africa and, reportedly, he speaks favorably of “Kill the Gays” legislation in Uganda.

Resigned Catholic priest, Tony Adams, in the South Florida Gay News, shudders at the prospect of Cardinal Turkson’s election, while at the same time commenting on those papabile who would be better, though likely not good, on LGBT issues:

“Turkson sees cultural issues in primary and sometimes false colors. He confuses pedophilia and homosexuality which he thinks does not exist in Africa as it does elsewhere. If the cardinals elect a naïve soul like Turkson, they will be doing him a great disservice. He will be eaten alive.”

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn

Adams’ top five listing of gay-friendly papabile is Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri of Argentina, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi of Italy, and Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Austria. Of this last prospect, he writes that this cardinal “walks the line between honoring real Christian love and traditional Catholic teachings.”  Adams points to a YouTube interview as evidence of Schonborn’s mixed record:

“There are many discussions about the reasons of same-sex attractions…One thing is certain, there is a great desire a great need of friendship. My experience is that if a person with same-sex attraction discovers true friendship this can be a real way out, a real way out of a situation that is very often a dramatic destruction of the person…there are some movements that foster the discovery of true friendship to overcome a gay lifestyle that is finally humanly, spiritually destructive.”

Few developments will emerge from the conclave until a new pope is presented to the world, but as rumors and rhetoric around the papabile swirls, it is essential that LGBT advocates maintain perspective. Eugene Cullen Kennedy writes in National Catholic Reporter:

“[The real church of ‘the faithful’] are so busy living their faith that, though they hope for the best, they are essentially uninvolved in papal politics or even in who will be elected pope or, for that matter, who their bishops are and what they may say in the letters read at Sunday Masses. These Catholics love their priests because, despite the sex abuse scandals, they have known too many good ones to be totally dismayed at the failures of some troubled ones and, despite the financial and sexual scandals, they keep supporting the church that understands, at its best moments, their suffering and longing, their hopes and their disappointments, and helps them, if they fall one way or other, to get up and keep going. These are the people who live in favor of life, who prize and nourish it and understand that religion does not pose implausible riddles to them but celebrates and supports them through the mysterium tremendum et fascinans, the great and gripping mystery, that is life itself.”

Whomever emerges after the white smoke and bells will be faced with a Church that must confront LGBT issues, internally and in conversation with the world. Let us never forget though, that the pope is only one person and the hierarchy are only several thousand among more than a billion Catholics living their faith as the People of God.

-Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Anti-LGBT Remarks in Malawi and Cameroon a Warning Sign as Conclave Approaches

March 9, 2013
Bishop Zuza of Malawi

Bishop Zuza of Malawi

As speculation about a possible African pope continues in Rome, news from Malawi and Cameroon about aggressively anti-LGBT actions by Catholics reminds the global church that an African pope might entail troubling views on homosexuality and gender.

Responding to political developments in Malawi, the Catholic bishops in that nation unanimously approved a letter to be read during Sunday Masses that strongly condemns homosexuality. The Maravi Post reports the bishops refer to homosexuality as a “trial” and reiterate the long-standing claim that same-gender marriage threatens society. This contradicts a trend out of Europe where bishops have spoken positively of same-gender relationships and, while opposing marriage rights, offered an openness to alternative legal structures for LGBT couples.

Malawi’s bishops possess significant clout in the politics of their country with The Maravi Post writing:

“Catholic bishops in Malawi are influential. The country’s march to democracy in 1992 was started by the Catholic Church after its bishops issued a pastoral letter critical of later dictator Kamuzu Banda’s style of leadership…

“Since 1992, the Church has remained the conscience of Malawi society.”

Across the continent, the Association of Cameroon Roman Catholic Jurists, a legal organization, spoke in defense of that nation’s anti-gay laws at a conference on homosexuality. Homosexuality has been repeatedly condemned by Catholic clergy in Cameroon, claimed by one bishop to be a “serious crime against humanity,” and is illegal in the nation. Africa Review reports on the Association’s statement in the broader context of Cameroon’s human rights record:

“The group’s position echoes the Church’s vehement disapproval of homosexuality, which is said to be flourishing even though a it is a criminal offence in the central African nation.

“In Cameroon, homosexuality is punishable by a jail sentence ranging from six months to five years and fines for those convicted could be between $38 and $374…

“In 2011, 14 people were prosecuted for homosexuality in Cameroon and at least 12 were convicted last year, according to Justice ministry records.”

One conviction resulted after a man was caught texting about his love for another man, earning him a three-year jail sentence. This criminalization of homosexuality is prominent in Africa, with nations like Uganda attempting even to pass the death penalty as punishment, and the Catholic hierarchy there has been too often silent about the measures.

In both the Malawi bishops’ and the Association of Cameroon Roman Catholic Jurists’ statements they mentioned that gay and lesbian individuals should be afforded respect and compassion. Yet, such claims to love and include gay and lesbian Catholics in their nations seem shallow, if not empty. when they continue to speak in such vile terms and support criminalization efforts against the LGBT community. If indeed the next pope is from Africa, we must pray he understands issues of sexual ethics and social justice in more pastoral and loving ways.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


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