Dr. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury and head of the Anglican Church, has “called upon nations to respect the human rights of homosexuals in countries where they are often targeted for violence, as he suggested that anti-gay legislation is akin to racial discrimination,” according to a report just published in Christian Today. He made his remarks in a speech to the World Council of Churches in Geneva.
Such a strong call from a high-ranking international church official begs the question of when Pope Benedict XVI will also speak out against these human rights abuses. Williams has offered arguments that can easily be spoken by a Roman Catholic official. The news report quotes Williams:
” ‘Many societies would now recognise that legal interference with some sorts of consensual sexual conduct can be both unworkable and open to appalling abuse (intimidation and blackmail),’ Dr Williams said.
” ‘The existence of laws discriminating against sexual minorities as such can have no justification in societies that are serious about law itself.
” ‘Such laws reflect a refusal to recognise that minorities belong, and they are indeed comparable to racial discrimination.’
“Dr Williams emphasised that concern for protection of gays and lesbians from violence and intimidation did not imply approval of homosexual behaviour on moral grounds.
” ‘This concern for protection from violence and intimidation can be held without prejudging any moral question; religion and culture have their own arguments on these matters.
” ‘But a culture that argues about such things is a culture that is able to find a language in common.
” ‘Criminalise a minority and there is no chance of such a language in common or of any properly civil or civic discussion.’ “
The Catholic Church has been shamefully reticent about human rights abuses against LGBT people. The situation in Uganda, in which Catholics are the largest denomination (42%) and recently tried to institute the death penalty for homosexuals, should be particularly relevant for the pope.
Now is the time for Pope Benedict, the Vatican, and Catholic leaders in countries where human rights abuses exist to speak powerfully about the Church’s teaching on the respect for the human dignity of LGBT people. If extreme cases such as these don’t warrant such a statement, then the teaching is meaningless.
Bondings 2.0 has already reported on the Uganda situation twice and each time has called on Catholic leaders to speak out for the rights of LGBT people. You can connect to the previous posts, “A Gay Catholic in Uganda Speaks. . .” and “Breaking the Catholic Silence on LGBT Human Rights Violations.” Also relevant would be our post “How Catholic Was Clinton’s Speech?”
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry