Responding to the recent enactment of marriage equality in Guam, the U.S. territory’s archbishop said it would “destroy the basic fabric of society” and is the “road to a totalitarian system.”
Archbishop Anthony Sablan Apuron of Agana, head of Guam’s Catholics who make up 85% of the South Pacific island’s population, said the judicial decision which legalized marriage for lesbian and gay couples was a “defeat for the whole of Humanity.” He added further in his response statement:
“The recognition of a same-sex union, as marriage, destroys the basic fabric of society, and will destroy human beings in the process. . .The battle is not over; there is not yet the definitive word. . . For me, many words will still be said about this issue. This is still a controversial and complicated issue for our contemporary culture.”
The archbishop also expressed his “tremendous sadness” at the “tsunami of secularization” that has overtaken culture and continued, according to the National Catholic Reporter:
“Apuron called the government’s claim it has a right to acknowledge same-sex relationships ‘is the first step in collapsing the vital distinction between the state and society.’
” ‘This is the road to a totalitarian system. Why? Because now we will see that the state — the government — will require and demand that the church accept its redefinition of marriage, by way of anti-discrimination laws,’ he stated.”
Apuron issued his statement following a District Court judge’s decision in the case of a couple, Loretta Pangelinan and Kathleen Aguero, who were originally denied a marriage license. Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood struck down the territory’s marriage ban on same-gender marriages, and Guam’s government promised in May to respect such a decision, reported Yahoo News.
Guam is the first U.S. territory to enact marriage equality, joining 36 states and the District of Columbia in expanding equal rights. A Supreme Court’s decision later this month could legalize it nationwide. Pangelinan and Aguero are both Catholic, but have insisted their case involves a civil matter, telling Marianas Variety:
“We’re standing up for our right. . .It has nothing to do with the church or anything. It’s our right to marry the person we love, which is each other.”
As Catholics advancing equality, their case is a wonderful sign of the Gospel being enacted in the world. Archbishop Apuron’s response to this civil decision is both hyperbolic and pastorally imprudent.
To make extreme claims such as he does only intensifies divisions in the church and contributes to harmful prejudices against LGBT people, especially at this point in history. Marriage equality is close to becoming law nationwide. This battle is largely finished in the U.S., and advocates of love have won whether the archbishop and his anti-gay colleagues admit to reality or not.
This is not the first time Apuron has made harsh anti-gay remarks. When Guam’s legislature weighed a marriage bill in 2009, he said homosexuality was “intrinsically unhealthy” and the government would forfeit its moral authority to govern if the bill passed. Hopefully, however, these most resent assertions on LGBT matters will be his last.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry