One of the names that is being bandied about as a prime candidate to become the next pope is Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana. As his name has surfaced, so too have reports that this African cardinal has a strong record of anti-gay attitudes.
His most recent comments accused gay priests for causing the sex-abuse crisis. According to London’s Daily Mail:
“The African cardinal widely tipped to be the first black pope in modern history faced a firestorm of criticism last night after he laid the blame for clerical sex abuse crises at the feet of gay priests.
“Cardinal Peter Turkson, who comes from Ghana, told an American journalist that similar sex scandals would never convulse churches in Africa because the culture was inimical to homosexuality.
” ‘African traditional systems kind of protect or have protected its population against this tendency,’ he told Christiane Amanpour of CNN.
” ‘Because in several communities, in several cultures in Africa homosexuality or for that matter any affair between two sexes of the same kind, are not countenanced in our society,’ he continued.
” ‘So that cultural taboo, that tradition has been there,’ said Cardinal Turkson, 64. ‘It has served to keep it out.’ “
You can view the video of the Turkson interview with CNN’s Amanpour here.
Turkson made headlines last week when it was revealed that he supported Uganda’s draconian penalties for homoesexuality. According to John Becker, writing on The Billerico Report blog:
“. . .Turkson is so anti-gay that he actually defended draconian laws that criminalize homosexuality and gay sex, including Uganda’s notorious ‘Kill the Gays’ bill. Speaking last year to the National Catholic Register, Turkson opined that while the penalties imposed by such laws are ‘exaggerated,’ the desire of many Africans and African leaders to incarcerate or even execute their gay citizens is actually perfectly understandable, and that the ‘intensity of the reaction [to homosexuality] is probably commensurate with tradition.’ “
Turkson also added:
“Just as there’s a sense of a call for rights, there’s also a call to respect culture, of all kinds of people. So, if it’s being stigmatized, in fairness, it’s probably right to find out why it is being stigmatized.”
Becker cites another example of Turkson’s anti-gay attitudes:
“In January 2012, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon delivered an address to the African Union Summit in which he called on African nations to repeal laws that criminalize homosexuality and end discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity; the Secretary-General said that doing so was the only way to live up to the ideals of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. Cardinal Turkson rebuked him:
‘We [the Church] push for the rights of prisoners, the rights of others, and the last thing we want to do is infringe upon the rights of anyone. But when you’re talking about what’s called “an alternative lifestyle,” are those human rights? [Ban Ki-moon] needs to recognize there’s a subtle distinction between morality and human rights, and that’s what needs to be clarified.’ “
Clearly, Turkson is not the right man for the top job. While many church leaders have, through their comments, revealed their ignorance of LGBT reality, few have done so as boldly as Turkson has. Let’s hope and pray that the old adage about papal conclaves comes true in his case: “He who enters the conclave a pope comes out a cardinal.”
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry