Filipino Religious Superiors Affirm Their Solidarity with Murdered Transgender Woman

Demonstrators call for justice in the case of murder victim Jennifer Laude

Catholic leaders in the Philippines are demanding justice for a transgender woman allegedly murdered by a US soldier, further adding to the church’s positive response in this most tragic situation.

The Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines (AMRSP), through their Office of Women and Gender Concerns, said in a statement:

“Our shock and horror over the gruesome killing of Filipino transgender woman Jennifer (legal name: Jeffrey) Laude by a US marine serviceman are accompanied by grave concern about how the case will progress and the kind of justice that might prevail in the end given the circumstances surrounding the case.”

The statement beautifully reflects Catholic social teaching in its fullness, acknowledging the many factors in this case which disadvantage Laude and her loved ones seeking justice. On the victim’s gender identity, the statement notes:

“Laude, the latest victim, is a member of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) community that, in present society, continues to suffer discrimination, marginalization, exclusion and hate crimes. Such is the result of centuries-old societal biases toward those who ‘do not fit’ into the so-called mainstream.”

AMRSP acknowledges two other factors worth noting here. First, the problematic Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States “puts a Filipino crime victim at a disadvantage” and allows the US to disregard the Philippines in favor of its “own brand of justice.” Second, there is the simple disparity in resources between Laude’s family of “humble means” and the near-unlimited means of the US military. A past incident where US soldiers escaped prosecution for rape was offered as an example. AMRSP leaders called on all involved to seek justice, saying:

“We call on witnesses to put aside fear and come forward with what they know. We call on Laude’s family and supporters to stay the course and not be cowed into giving up. We call on Laude’s critics to hold their judgment. We call on our government officials and lawmakers to re-examine the onerous provisions in the VFA. We pray that genuine justice based on the truth will be served—for both the victim and the accused.”

In a related move, a top official with the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Phillipines spoke about Laude’s murder and the legal case with a Catholic publication. In the interview, Bishop Elenito Galido of Iligan said:

” ‘We are asking for justice. We do not condemn…We do not judge or anything. We are seeking justice.

“Killing a person is a crime whether the victim is transgender or not. We do not discriminate. It’s clear enough there is a crime we have to seek justice for.”

Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo also called on the Filipino government to ensure rights of the country’s citizens are respected in this legal process.

A week ago, I applauded Catholic pastoral leaders for granting Laude a Catholic funeral that respected her identity and brought healing to both Laude’s family and the LGBT community in the highly traditional Philippines. Ministers mediated God’s love through the sacramental life of the church.

Now, these further statement add justice to that charity by prophetically standing beside a most marginalized and vulnerable person. Their words respect Laude’s identity. They acknowledge the reality that her murder is most likely a hate crime, caused about by anti-LGBT cultural attitudes and discrimination. They address the compounding factors of militarism and inequality before the law in this case. Filipino Catholic leaders show how Catholics can and must integrate LGBT justice into the church’s broader efforts. In short, they model Pope Francis’ desire that we be a “poor church for the poor” that is “home for all.”

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

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Mabuhay: “Religious groups call for justice for slain transgender

5 Responses to Filipino Religious Superiors Affirm Their Solidarity with Murdered Transgender Woman

  1. Friends says:

    At the time this incident was first published, I speculated that the bishop of the diocese most likely had given his own permission for Jennifer to receive a Catholic funeral with full liturgical honors. I’m gratified to see that not only the local bishop, but other significant members of the hierarchy in the Phillippines, are now raising this tragedy to the status of an all-out human rights outrage — which of course is precisely what it is. God only knows, we could use this sort of spiritual vision and human rights activism on the part of our own American bishops, who appear to be a very stodgy and recalcitrant bunch of clerical bureaucrats.

  2. winterhavenlarry says:

    I just find it so distressing that such hate crimes are committed by US Soldiers.

  3. […] For a growing awareness of and commitment to trans justice among Catholics, especially students who are reforming more of Catholic educational institutions and the Filipino church’s response to Jennifer Laude’s murder. […]

  4. […] defense, reported The Advocate. Catholic leaders, including the bishops’ conference and conference of religious superiors, have called for justice and granted Laude a Catholic burial respectful of her transgender […]

  5. […] provided Laude a funeral respectful of her gender identity, and top religious leaders publicly advocated for justice in what they acknowledged was an anti-trans hate […]

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