When Will the Pope Speak Out, Too?

Dr. Rowan Williams

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

Lesbian Denied Communion Explains How Her Faith Has Been Strengthened

Barbara Johnson

Barbara Johnson’s story about how she was denied communion at her mother’s funeral because of her lesbian relationship has struck a nerve with Catholics–and so many other people–across the country and around the globe.  She is emerging not as a victim, however, but as a woman of faith who wants to contribute to the life of the church.

In an interview with CNN, Ms Johnson spoke of the pain of the incident, of how they want the priest removed from ministry so that no other family experiences the same pain, and that the incident has actually strengthened her faith:

“My family are very appreciate of all of the outreach we’ve received. However, we believe the only reason to be talking about this still is because we would not want any other family to go through what was the worst experience on the very worst day of all of our lives…we feel that it is important that Father Marcel is removed from parish life. . . .”

“My immediate response to this whole incident was anger and upset, and my first thought was that I would never return to the church. In the days that followed, through a lot of prayer and an outpouring of support and love from many devout Catholics and the clergy themselves its actually strengthened my faith in the Church itself.”

(You can watch the interview on CNN’s website by clicking here.)

Ms. Johnson’s statements are a testimony to how the power of the church defined as the People of God can work miracles of healing for those abused by leaders.

As evidence of the international interest in this incident, QueeringTheChurch.com, a British Catholic LGBT blog, has already reported twice about it: the first post reports the incident; the second post offers analysis and reflection.

In a Windy City Times article, Chuck Colbert reports on the messages and significance that this incident has for the church. He quotes New Ways Ministry’s Francis DeBernardo:

“What it tells me is there has to be a lot better pastoral training of priests, particularly on gay and lesbian issues.”

Colbert also cites Mary Hunt, co-founder and co-director of the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER), who stated:

“The Eucharist is a sacrament, not a political football. . . .This terrible abuse of one family at a time of great pastoral need is but a snapshot of anti-LGBTQ theology in action. It is outdated, outmoded, and outrageous.”

In an op-ed, on the Washington Post’s “On Faith” blog, DignityUSA’s Marianne Duddy-Burke highlights the growing pastoral crisis that this incident might pre-figure:

“The reality is that this could happen to almost any one of us, given the escalating conflicts between pastoral care and the demand for adherence to a handful of socially conservative aspects of doctrine being played out in Catholic churches across the country. Whether we Catholics use birth control, have remarried after a divorce, believe that women are qualified for official ministry, or support lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender equality, most of us hold several views that contradict official Roman Catholic teaching. Could any of us be the next Barbara Johnson?”

LezGetReal.com has posted the response of Joe Murray of the Rainbow Sash Movement,which concludes:

“The present climate of hostility to everything LGBT in the Catholic Church I fear has only encouraged this priest to take this course of action. I fear the example set by US Catholic Bishops in their open hostility to the Gay and Lesbian Community has led this priest to believe he is just following orders.”

Bondings 2.0 has already reported on this incident twice: 1) calling for Catholics to write to the Archdiocese of Washington; and 2) asking readers if and how they find any hope from this incident.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry