Facing a push from LGBT advocates for marriage equality, Catholic bishops in the Philippines strongly stated their opposition to the initiative in a pastoral letter. The bishops’ harsh rhetorical style triggered a beautiful response from a gay priest in that country, Fr. RJ.
The August letter from the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines attacked same-gender unions, saying they are “not and can never be a marriage as properly understood and so-called” and is not “similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage,” reported The Bangkok Post.
The bishops also claimed homosexuality is “objectively disordered” and that Catholic lawmakers should oppose marriage equality “in a particularly vigorous way.” None of this language is novel, but its repetition causes harm.
In response posted at Outrage Magazine, Fr. RJ described the bishops’ letter as “wrong and hurtful and a far cry from the Gospel” . He wrote:
“This pastoral letter not only violates the teaching of the catechism about accepting and respecting LGBTs, it further violates Pope Francis’ teaching against judging and marginalizing LGBTs. . .The Gospel is about human rights, and equality, and about love. Instead of opposing equal rights for LGBTs, Holy Mother Church should be at the forefront of defending and protecting LGBTs persons, LGBT couples, and LGBT families.”
Specifically on the question of marriage equality, so harshly criticized by the bishops, Fr. RJ said:
“Jesus was always on the side of the marginalized. Jesus was always on the side of human rights and human dignity. . .
“I challenge any bishop to look an LGBT couple in the eye and prove to them that their marriage perverts and undermines the common good. The reality is that the legalization of same-sex marriage enhances human rights and social justice.”
In UCA News, Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, the Philippines Bishops Conference president, clarified that gay people should be respected, that pastoral workers cannot inquire into a person’s sexuality, and that families must welcome gay members.
However, Fr. RJ rejects these statements as false compassion, noting that the bishops quote the Catechism on homosexuality except for the part about respect, compassion and sensitivity. He continued:
“The Church herself is a family. This pastoral letter ostracizes the Church’s LGBT sons and daughters. This pastoral letter does not preach mercy. Instead, this pastoral letter preaches discrimination and injustice.”
Fr. RJ ended his essay hopefully, however, with a call for the church to repent and be converted from the “sin of homophobia” it currently enacts and move towards valuing LGBT people as God does:
“As human civilization advances and as our understanding of human rights progresses, it is time to let go of past errors. . .The good news is that we can also learn from our mistakes and correct our past errors. Homophobia and discrimination against LGBTs is one area where we have gravely misunderstood God’s plan. The truth is that God created LGBTs and God has a beautiful place for LGBT persons and LGBT families in His loving plan.”
All of this debate comes as LGBT advocates in the heavily Catholic nation are applying for marriage licenses. They want to set up a constitutional legal case that may bring about marriage equality if successful. For more information on the legal strategy, click here.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry