Church leaders in the Dominican Republic have issued an open letter against LGBT human rights efforts, and they included an attack on openly gay U.S. Ambassador James Brewster.
The letter, whose two dozen signatories includes Catholic and Evangelical leaders, is written to the nation’s president and Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It claimed the United States and the United Nations seek to invite Dominican children “to begin practicing gay and lesbian practices” through educational literature on sexuality and gender. It said further:
” ‘This initiative to turn our adolescents gay early on is an initiative of the U.S. government that is run by a homosexual and represented by another homosexual in the Dominican Republic.’ “
That second figure is Ambassador Brewster, whom the letter criticized for participating in Pride celebrations last year and further slandered, reported The Washington Blade.
Brewster has faced repeated attacks from Catholic officials since his appointment, particularly by Santo Domingo’s Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus López Rodriguez. The cardinal most recently said Brewster was “wife to a man” and should stick to housework. López used an anti-gay slur to refer to the ambassador in 2013 and said Brewster should “take his gay pride elsewhere.” The Washington Blade reported that López once described LGBT tourists as “social trash” and “degenerates.” Cardinal López’s remarks made Bondings 2.0’s lists of Worst Catholic LGBT News in both 2013 and 2015.
Despite these attacks, the State Department is standing beside Ambassador Brewster and his husband, Bob Satawake. Spokesperson Pooja Jhunjhunwala said they “disagree in the strongest terms” with the letter’s claims and that Brewster advances U.S. policy on LGBT human rights “like all U.S. ambassadors.” Democratic Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois appealed to Pope Francis on behalf of Brewster, asking the pontiff to curtail Cardinal López and the severe homophobia he pronounces in the church’s name.
When Catholic leaders attacked Ambassador Brewster last December, it was pointed out that Cardinal López was 79 years old, four years past 75, the church’s official retirement age for bishops. Vicious attacks on any person should be grounds for such a dismissal; his prominence only augments their damage. It is far past time for Cardinal López to resign.
More action is needed, however. Intervention by Pope Francis in this severe case would not undermine his efforts towards decentralization. It would, rather, send a clear global message that such overt prejudice by Catholic officials will not be tolerated. Words from Pope Francis’ latest interview are also instructive:
“[P]eople should not be defined only by their sexual tendencies: let us not forget that God loves all his creatures and we are destined to receive his infinite love.”
Somewhere, along the way, it seems a handful of Catholic clergy in the nation lost that message (they are not the first, nor likely last). This development does not mean Dominican Catholics cannot use the Year of Mercy to promote greater respect for and inclusion of LGBT communities and undo some of the damages so far inflicted.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry