UPDATE: Fides, the official Vatican news agency, has published the Southern Cross editorial on its website, which you can view by clicking here.
South Africa’s Roman Catholic bishops have joined Catholics worldwide in condemning anti-gay laws popping up in nations around the globe. In an editorial in a Catholic weekly periodical, they specifically targeted anti-gay legislation in Uganda and Nigeria.
The Southern Cross is a Catholic weekly supported by the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference, which also includes bishops from Botswana and Swaziland. In the editorial, the bishops urged the Catholic Church to oppose “draconian legislation aimed at criminalising homosexuals” as these laws are inconsistent with Church teachings. It stated further:
“These laws are not intended to render same-sex acts illegal — they already are, and punishable, in most African countries — but to persecute people on the basis of their sexual orientation. Such laws are not only unjust, but they also have the potential to tear at the fabric of society if they are misused to facilitate false denunciations for gain, advancement or vengeance, much as what Christians are exposed to in Pakistan under that country’s intolerable blasphemy law.”
The editorial does not just oppose the legislation, but also condemns the populist politics and homophobia from which these laws have emerged. Noting negative effects such as discrimination and higher rate of suicides for LGBT people, especially youth, the editorial goes so far as to criticize a Spanish cardinal who made anti-gay remarks in January:
“Homophobia is largely premised on a false notion that homosexuality is chosen and curable. This month, Spanish Cardinal-elect Fernando Sebastián Aguilar, retired bishop of Pamplona, made the astonishing claim that homosexuality is a ‘defect’ comparable to his condition of high blood pressure…
“Their position is in conflict with Catholic teachings. The Church cannot sponsor the criminalisation of matters of private morality, and much less the advocacy of human rights. Prejudice and the persecution of homosexuals are in defiance of Catholic doctrine.
“Jailing homosexuals for being gay and insisting on their human rights, or even for having sex, self-evidently is a sign of ‘unjust discrimination’ that lacks in respect and compassion.”
Perhaps most forward-leaning is the editorial’s statement that Catholics must stand in solidarity with LGBT people, and notes the moral failure of the Church for not speaking out previously:
“While the Church’s teachings prevent her from standing with homosexuals on many issues, especially same-sex marriage, she has an obligation, mandated by Christ, to be in solidarity with all those who are unjustly marginalised and persecuted.
“Alas, the Church has been silent, in some cases even quietly complicit, in the discourse on new homophobic laws. This absence of intervention for justice may well be interpreted, wrongly or not, as approval of injustice, in line with the maxim Qui tacet, consentire videtur (Silence gives consent).
“Instead, the Church should present herself as compassionate and courageous in standing with the those living in fear.
“African bishops especially ought to speak out, as loudly as they do on same-sex marriage, against the discriminatory legislation and violence directed at homosexuals, many of whom are fellow Catholics.
“Where is the prophetic voice of the Church in condemning the general homophobia in society?
“It would require a very peculiar reading of the Gospel to locate Jesus anywhere else but at the side of the marginalised and vulnerable. The Church must be seen to be standing with Jesus and those who face unjust persecution, even if — especially if — it does not condone the lifestyles of those at risk.
“That would be true Christian witness.”
Such laws are not unique to Africa and appear in nations as diverse as Jamaica, India, and Russia. This is why Catholics and people of faith worldwide are asking Pope Francis to publicly condemn anti-LGBT legislation as inconsistent with the Church’s defense of every person’s dignity and human rights. The #PopeSpeakOut campaign has been covered by The Advocate, The Huffington Post, and Religion Dispatches — and it is still growing!
Your voice is needed, to join many Catholic lay people, clergy, and now bishops, in opposing laws and rhetoric which cause discrimination and violence against LGBT people simply for who God created them to be. As the Southern Cross reminds us:
“Where there is injustice, we must expect the Catholic Church to stand with the powerless.”
New Ways Ministry encourages you to participate in the #PopeSpeakOut campaign. Visit NoMoreTriangleNations.com or click here for suggested tweets. Share this information with your friends and networks and encourage them to participate, too!
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry