“Fraternity is an essential human quality, for we are relational beings. A lively awareness of our relatedness helps us to look upon and to treat each person as a true sister or brother; without fraternity it is impossible to build a just society and a solid and lasting peace.”
It is on this theme of a common humanity which Pope Francis offers for his first message on the World Day of Peace (celebrated today, New Year’s Day) and this theme also seems potent for reflection by LGBT advocates as well, and how we may apply it to our efforts to create justice for all sexual orientations and gender identities.
The pope emphasizes that all people share a creator in God, and in ways this makes us siblings to one another. He expounds upon this reality using the story of Cain and Abel, writing of fraternity:
“The story of Cain and Abel teaches that we have an inherent calling to fraternity, but also the tragic capacity to betray that calling. This is witnessed by our daily acts of selfishness, which are at the root of so many wars and so much injustice: many men and women die at the hands of their brothers and sisters who are incapable of seeing themselves as such, that is, as beings made for reciprocity, for communion and self-giving…
“We Christians believe that in the Church we are all members of a single body, all mutually necessary, because each has been given a grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ, for the common good…This is the good news that demands from each one a step forward, a perennial exercise of empathy, of listening to the suffering and the hopes of others, even those furthest away from me, and walking the demanding path of that love which knows how to give and spend itself freely for the good of all our brothers and sisters.”
Continually emphasizing the dignity of each person, Pope Francis speaks of injustices ranging from economic inequality to war and in each section the lesson is similar: every human being’s life is not only good, but necessary for the world’s flourishing.
Yet, the reality of how the Catholic Church lives this out is incomplete when it comes to LGBT people and their loved ones. In the United States and elsewhere, it is well known that Catholic bishops have opposed laws defending the human rights of LGBT people when it comes to employment, housing, and family matters. Firing LGBT employees at Catholic schools and parishes fails to send a message that their contributions are necessary for the common good. Most troubling perhaps are new anti-gay laws for 2013 that emerged in Russia, India, and potentially now Uganda about which Catholic leaders have remained quiet.
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. As India’s Cardinal Oswald Garcia (one of the pope’s eight close advisers) has shown, it is consonant with Catholic teaching to actively and aggressively oppose laws criminalizing homosexuality, which promote cultural homophobia that too often leads to hatred and violence.
It is time for Pope Francis and the bishops to join millions of lay Catholics in defending LGBT people as a duty of this fraternity about which he has written. Doing so is simply part of the “demanding path of love” to which Pope Francis calls each of us and the first step starts with each of us asking our Church’s leadership to stand against anti-LGBT discrimination in places like Uganda.
Last week, Bondings 2.0 featured a letter from Brother Brian McLauchlin to Uganda’s papal nuncio asking him to work against the bill that would criminalize being gay. Will you join us in contacting Pope Francis & Catholic leaders and ask them to stand with LGBT people in Uganda in 2014? You can tweet Pope Francis at @Pontifex or by clicking here, and if you do use the hashtag #PathToLove. If you prefer writing a letter, here’s the Pope’s address and the address of the papal nuncio to Uganda:
His Holiness Pope Francis
Vatican City 11020
Archbishop Michael Blume
P.O. Box 7177
Chwa II Road, Mbuya Hill
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry