Australian Catholics Help Start Ecumenical LGBTI Group

Despite Australia’s ongoing debate over marriage equality, there have been several positive developments in Catholic LGBT issues recently in the land “down under.” Today’s post highlights one of those major developments.

ev-logo-1-e1483341716491Australian Christians have founded the interdenominational group Equal Voices to promote reconciliation between LGBTI communities and churches, reported Buzzfeed. The first meeting will occur at the end of this month, with a more formal launch in April.

Equal Voices seeks to be a networking and resource group based on values such as boldly proclaiming Christ’s love for all people, honoring same-gender relationships, and promoting listening and learning.

What is interesting about Equal Voices, according to spokesperson Natalie Cooper, is that those Christians involved are from “fairly conservative church backgrounds” that include Baptists, Pentecostals, Anglicans, and Catholics. Lay people hope to end the false idea that one can either be LGBT or Christian. Cooper added:

“‘For too long gay and lesbian people in the churches have been asked to carry the load by themselves. . .What’s often denied is that there are large numbers of LGBTI people of faith. Some of those people are in church, some of them are out, a lot of them are closeted because they don’t feel safe being out’. . .

“‘Very often, the impression given is that there is just one point of view, just one Christian voice. . .We want to make it clear there are lots of Christian voices, and give everyone a seat at the table.'”

Benjamin Oh

Among the leaders of Equal Voices is Benjamin Oh, a Catholic LGBTI advocate who has worked in human rights and development fields. According to his website bio, Oh “was elected as head of a Catholic international aid & development agency in Australia” and was the “World Youth Day Coordinator and Social Justice Project Manager for the worldwide Dominican Order” in 2008.  He also serves on the Steering Committee of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics.

Equal Voices’ first priority, according to Buzzfeed, is to “facilitate a national apology to LGBTI Christians and the wider community” that will be presented in the nation’s capitol. This Apology is partially inspired by Pope Francis’ own call last year for the church to apologize to LGBTI people.

But the Apology seeks to not only seek forgiveness for past wrongs, but to educate Christians so as to prevent future wrongs. Some Christians may object to apologizing, said Cooper, figuring such an action was not needed. But the Apology explained its own reasons:

“Speaking for myself and as a member of my church, I ask for your forgiveness:

  1. For being too slow to acknowledge that we need to say sorry to you.
  2. For not speaking up against the hurtful, damaging and often violent mistreatment you have been subjected to.
  3. For speaking about you, without first listening to you.
  4. For not creating safe environments within our churches where people can speak openly and honestly about their struggles and understandings.
  5. For perpetuating stereotypes, and for not taking full account of your actual lived experiences.
  6. For talking to you or about you in such a way as to suggest that sexual and/or gender differences are not part of your true identity as creatures made in the image of God, but are simply a result of brokenness or sin.
  7. For perpetuating the mistaken belief that non-heterosexual orientations should be treated, healed or changed, and for not acknowledging the damage such misunderstanding has wrought in peoples’ lives.
  8. For not acknowledging that Christians who are seeking to be faithful to their Lord and to the Scriptures are coming to different conclusions on matters of gender, sexual orientation, and marriage.

The Apology ended with five commitments to LGBTI people that signatories make, including supporting LGBTI “in every way possible,” being open to correction and guidance, holding others accountable for “careless, hurtful or misleading talk,” resisting efforts to exclude LGBTI people from churches, and engaging “in genuine and open dialogue to gain better understanding of other perspectives.”

Australian Catholics’ support for Equal Voices is consistent with many positive actions which have happened in the country. Last December, Fr. Paul Kelly’s eight-year effort to outlaw “gay panic” defense in Queensland led the state’s Attorney General to introduce a parliamentary bill doing just that. In response to Pope Francis, an Australian parish held a Liturgy of Apology to LGBT People which participants said opened new possibilities for healing. And when bishops have publicly opposed marriage equality, Catholics have pushed back, including Fr. Frank Brennan, S.J.’s, warning that a plebiscite on marriage equality could be “very nasty.”

Whether or not Australia’s Parliament will indeed pass a marriage equality law is still an open question despite overwhelming support by legislators and the public. But it is good to know Catholics, and Christians generally, are not waiting to advance the cause of LGBT equality in many spheres.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, January 12, 2017

 

Catholics in India Help Found New School for Transgender Students

Catholic ministers in India recently formed a group to offer pastoral care for transgender people, reported ucanews.com, and they are already making an impact by helping to found a new school for trans students.

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Attendees, including Catholic religious, at the opening ceremony for Sahaj International School

Clergy, religious, and lay people in the Indian state of Kerala have joined together to establish “one of the few outreach programs for the transgender community by the institutional church in India.”

According to Fr. Paul Madassey, head of the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council’s Pro-Life Support ministry, under which the transgender initiative is carried out, transgender people in the state are particularly vulnerable. Sex traffickers in northern India prey on trans people who are discriminated against and economically disadvantaged.

Fr. Madassey explained that the transgender initiative had been inspired by Pope Francis’ call to accompany the LGBT community and that “the whole church has a big role to play” in providing such pastoral support.

One project by the group has been helping found a new school inclusive of trans people called Sahaj International School. It opened last week with ten students seeking their high school certificate. Catch News explained further:

“Led by six [transgender people] from TransIndia Foundation with activist Vijayaraja Mallika at the helm, the school promises to provide residential facilities for a short period, free textbooks, gender neutral toilets, a meal for those in need, and tuition to pass Class X and XII. . .

“Mallika says that zir [a gender-neutral possessive pronoun] efforts are focused on introducing inclusive education. . .[Mallika said] ‘We are providing them a safe space for security and sustainable education.'”

The need for such a school is immense. Of the estimated 25,000 trans people in the state of Kerala, 57% did not complete a high school education, according to Mallika. There are also issues of social discrimination, family rejection, and derogatory language.

Mallika, who previously worked on transgender pastoral care with the Archdiocese of Bombay, said the church has been “very supportive” and that “[r]eligion plays an important role in social and behavioral change at the grass-roots level.” The church’s role in the school was instrumental, according to ucanews.com:

“In mid-December, Sisters of the Congregation of Mother Carmel offered their buildings to form an exclusive school for dropouts among transgender people, considered the first of its kind in the country.

“The nuns offered their venue after at least 50 building owners declined to let out their buildings, indicating the discrimination prevalent in the society, says Father Madassey.”

This work in Kerala comes quickly after Caritas India, the official development agency of the nation’s bishops, announced it would be initiating more transgender-inclusive policies and outreach programs. Though Caritas India’s approach is not perfect, the announcement of the program is a key moment for the global church.

The Catholic Church in India is widely respected for charitable efforts, despite Catholics being less than two percent of the nation’s population. The church has been a positive voice for LGBT communities, too, as when Bombay’s Cardinal Oswald Gracias twice spoke against the criminalization of gay people. In an exclusive interview with Bondings 2.0, Gracias said that the church embraces, wants, and needs LGBT people. Virginia Saldanha, an Indian lay woman who formerly led the Office of Laity for the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences, said the 2015 Synod on the Family needed to bring LGBT “in from the cold.

Earlier this week, I suggested that findings from the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey were a helpful pastoral examination for all Catholics about our awareness of and advocacy for trans equality in the church. These efforts in India are helpful models, too, for how the church can and should be responding to the urgent pastoral needs of trans communities — and how we can become more receptive of the gifts and contributions which trans Catholics are making to our church’s mission.

–Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, January 5, 2017

 

LGBT Christmas in Ireland: “We Are All the Same in God”

At Dublin, Ireland’s 18th Annual LGBT Christmas Carol Service , the guest speaker was Ursula Halligan, Political Editor with TV3. Ms. Halligan, a Catholic,  came out publicly as a lesbian a few days before Ireland’s successful marriage equality referendum last year.  In the op-ed essay where she came out, she made the following observation about voting for marriage equality:

“As a person of faith and a Catholic, I believe a Yes vote is the most Christian thing to do. I believe the glory of God is the human being fully alive and that this includes people who are gay.”

ursula-brian
Ursula Halligan and Brian Glennon before the Advent Service

Halligan further spoke about her life, faith and sexuality on Ireland’s Anton Savage radio program.

The LGBT Christmas Carol Service is sponsored by a coalition of  Irish LGBT equality and church reform groups: BeLonGChanging Attitude Ireland; Dublin Gay Men’s Chorus; LGBT Helpline; LOOKGay & Lesbian Equality Network;  All Are Welcome Catholic MassOWLSUnitarian Church, DublinWe Are Church Ireland.  

The service was held at Unitarian Church, Stephen’s Green, Dublin, on December 10, 2016.  The prayers were led by Brian Glennon, who originated the Carol service for the LGBT community 18 years ago.

The following is the text of Ms. Hallgian’s reflection at the prayer service:

Thank you Brian. My goodness you are in fine voice tonight!  Now, I know it’s Christmas. And what do we do at Christmas?
We go home.
And that’s why I’m here with you tonight. I wanted to be at home with my family at Christmas time. I wanted to say a big thank you to the LGBT community for the love and support you’ve showered on me since I wrote my piece in the Irish Times.

Up until May 2015 I never knew I had such a wonderful family. (I certainly never knew they had such beautiful singing voices!) And for you and me, it’s all been about voice; hasn’t it?
You and me; we’ve shared a common journey.
We had to find our voice.
We had to find our inner truth.
We had to find the courage to speak it.
To throw away the masks.
To be real.
To be true to our selves.

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Ursula Halligan

It took me a long time to find my voice but I am so glad I did.
Because as Martin Luther King said: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.”  We shrivel up as human beings if we don’t speak our truth; if we don’t
speak from our conscience. And for me, as a person of faith, conscience is the voice of God that echoes in the depths of each one of us.  Our truth comes from the God within us; not from any institution. 

And if God doesn’t have a problem with us, why should anyone else?

Last year the people of Ireland threw their arms around us and set us free to be equal citizens with everyone else.  It was a magnificent act of love. 
And it is all about love.
We come from love. We are love. We go back to love.
God is love.

It was love that first prompted me to speak up because I believed our love is as good as anyone else’s love. Love is love.  There is no inequality in love. And that’s why it saddens me that the church I belong to and love has yet to accept us the way the Irish people have.

It is important for our flourishing as human beings that we have a vibrant faith community that welcomes and loves us; a place where we can be ourselves without fear or constraint. A place where we are affirmed; where we’re told we’re ok. We need to hear the good news of the Gospel in a place that totally respects us for who we are, exactly as we are. We need to look after one another.

Over the years, thanks to the Unitarian Church here on Stephens Green; to you Reverend Spain and to wonderful Catholics such as Brian Glennon and others, the LGBT community has been trying to grow its own faith community to meet that need. You have kept the candle burning in the darkness.

But I have a dream that one day all the churches will fling open their doors to their LGBT brothers and sisters. That a blaze of warmth and love will welcome us home. That we will be granted equality in marriage and treated the same in every respect with others in the church. That we will be accepted and loved in our wholeness as human beings. That anything that divides the people of God, even labels like “Gay” and “Straight” will be replaced by brother and sister.

Because we are all one.
Just like our love.
We are all the same in God.

 

Malta Bans Conversion Therapy for LGBT People; Catholic Church Should Do Likewise

The heavily Catholic island nation of Malta has become the first European country to outlaw conversion therapy designed to attempt to alter a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. This news reminds us that it is about time that the Vatican should also issue a statement opposing these practices which cause untold pain to people and which disrespect God’s creation.

The Times of Malta reported:

“The Affirmation of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Gender Expression Bill imposes fines and jail terms for anyone advertising, offering, performing or referring an individual to another person which performs any form of conversion practice.

“In addition, the Bill affirms that no sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression constitutes a disorder, disease or shortcoming of any sort.”

Archbishop Charles Scicluna

Initially, Malta’s Catholic Church leadership opposed the bill, issuing an 8-page position paper against the proposal. The paper claimed that the bill would privilege homosexuality and linked homosexual orientation to pedophilia.  But Archbishop Charles Scicluna, the head of Malta’s hierarchy, acknowledged that the paper was mistaken, stating in an interview:

“I want to reassure [the gay community] that we are dead set against conversion therapy because we believe, as they do, as government does, that it goes against human dignity.

“We do not subscribe to beliefs that describe gay people as sick.

“These are labels that demean them. And certainly we are not going to associate gay people with paedophilia.”

Scicluna is the only Catholic leader that I know who has spoken so forcefully and officially against conversion therapy.  Yet, most mental health professionals and many pastoral leaders recognize that such therapy is dangerous and misleading.  In 1997, the U.S. bishops gave faint disapproval to conversion therapy in their pastoral letter, Always Our Childrennoting that people should respect:

“. . . a person’s freedom to choose or refuse therapy directed toward changing a homosexual orientation. Given the present state of medical and psychological knowledge, there is no guarantee that such therapy will succeed. Thus, there may be no obligation to undertake it, though some may find it helpful.”

Not an endorsement, but not a strong enough condemnation, either.

Key to the opposition of the hierarchy’s initial position were the groups Drachma and Drachma Parents, which are, respectively, Malta’s associations of LGBT Catholics and   Catholic parents of LGBT people.  In a statement at the time, they said, in part:

“We expected this group of experts commissioned to write this Paper to include LGBTIQ people who are living this reality. It would have been appropriate for the Church to dialogue with us about this delicate subject. . . .

“We expected that the Church would sympathise with all LGBTIQ persons who had to go through conversion therapies and ask for forgiveness in the name of members within the Institution, amongst which priests, who recommended or practised conversion therapy. At no point was there any indication of concern towards the pain of such people or of their families. . . .

“We expected the Paper to clearly state that no sexual orientation is a disorder or an illness, and hence, does not require the person to seek any form of healing. . . .

“It is sad to see that this Position Paper did not seek to build bridges with LGBTIQ persons and with their families in Malta. On the contrary, the Church tended to erect walls.”

Evidence that they had an effect on Scicluna’s retraction of the paper’s position can be found in his echoing much of the language that Drachma used in their statement, as well as his affirmation of the group.  Scicluna stated:

“I feel I have to build bridges with the gay community who felt our language was too technical, too cold and too distant. . . .

“It would have helped immensely to include people from Drachma in the preparation of the position paper because they have contributed in other papers and their contribution has been precious.”

The Huffington Post report about the bill’s passage noted that “Catholicism is the official religion of Malta and the religion plays a major role in the passage of the country’s laws. For instance, the country didn’t legalize divorce until 2011.”  Yet, Malta passed marriage equality and adoption laws which recognize lesbian and gay couples, as well as laws which allow transgender people to have the description of their gender changed on official documents.

In a news report on Slate.comMark Joseph Stern came to an insightful conclusion:

“Malta, of course, retains its proud Catholic heritage and continues to celebrate church traditions that help to define the country’s identity. A majority of its citizens (and legislators) have simply decided that the government has no business enforcing discriminatory beliefs using the heavy hand of the law. In that sense, the country is really an inspiration, simultaneously a haven for LGBTQ rights and a nation of deep Catholic faith. Liberal Western values may be on the decline elsewhere in Europe. But Malta today is proving that a country can adhere to key traditional values, promote its own religious heritage, andrecognize the dignity of every citizen—all at the same time.”

Stern is right, of course, but he doesn’t go far enough.  The Catholic hierarchy should follow Malta’s example by issuing a similar statement opposing conversion therapy,  a practice which is damaging and ineffective.   Pope Francis has called time and again for pastoral ministers to “accompany” LGBT people on their faith journey.  He can make this recommendation much clearer by stating that “conversion therapy” should never be part of that accompaniment.

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, December 15, 2016

 

 

 

Bishops’ Opposition to Civil Unions Helps Enact Marriage Equality

As the island nation of Taiwan in southeast Asia continues its debate of marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples,  one Catholic opinion leader has entered the debate encouraging Catholic bishops to withhold their opposition to the measure.

Fr. Michael Kelly, SJ, executive editor of UCAnews.com, an Asian Catholic news service, penned an essay in the international Catholic publication La Croix, entitled “Civil law has nothing to do with Catholic sacraments.” While he does not endorse marriage equality, he makes a strong case that the Catholic hierarchy’s opposition to legalizing the relationships of lesbian and gay couples does nothing to dissuade people and only helps to assure that marriage equality is enacted.

Fr. Michael Kelly, SJ

Kelly begins by declaring his amazement that Catholic bishops get involved with marriage equality debates in civil society.  He explains the reason for his amazement:

” . . . [T]he issue of how a secular state defines marriage has nothing to do with bishops or what is their area of focus and responsibility – the sacrament of marriage. The sacrament is a mystery that is regulated by the church’s internal system – the Code of Canon Law.

“But it is something to which a man and a woman have access if they are Catholics or one is marrying a Catholic and the non-Catholic is happy to be married according to Catholic rites. And it may or may not have civil significance – depending on whether the state recognizes a Catholic marriage as legally binding.”

Kelly describes civil marriage as a contract which has “only the most approximate relationship to what Catholics believe the sacrament is.”  He cautions the bishops against unjustly trying to impose Catholic morality on others:

“Catholics need to be very careful about agitating to have our morality legislated for all to abide by. In some instances advocating that Catholic morality become the law of the land would be deeply unjust. For example, agitating to have Catholic morality on divorce and remarriage become law applying across society, to Catholics and non-Catholics – would rightly seen as a violation of the human rights of the wider population. . . .To impose our morality on others is a misunderstanding of the proper jurisdiction of the church and the proper jurisdiction of the state.”

This last argument is a very important one when we consider how often bishops are asking that the Church’s religious liberty be protected.  If they want to make such a request, they also have to practice the virtue of allowing others in society to practice their own liberty, religious or secular, which includes the right to marry according to their consciences and community’s standards.

Kelly examines the varieties of ways that civil and religious marriages are legally connected or disconnected in various cultures and nations.  In some countries, even heavily Catholic ones, religious and civil marriages are totally separate, with separate ceremonies required for each. In other countries, religious officiants also serve as the legal officiant for marriage. And history has shown that in some places, only officially recognized national churches were allowed to marry a couple legally.

Because of this variety, Kelly argues for pluralism:

“With such a mixed history and so much contemporary variation, why do bishops the world over make the mistake of assuming they are the keepers of the treasures of marriage? Why do they get very upset when some things proposed that will apply to the majority of people in their societies and who in Asia mostly aren’t Catholics? Redefining marriage in no way limits or restricts Catholics from acting according to Catholic teaching on marriage? What is the basis of episcopal displeasure?

“The simple answer must be they seem to think we still live in Christendom where church morality should be law. That social and political paradigm ended for secular, pluralist democracies with the French Revolution over two centuries ago. And it never happened in countries in Asia.”

He also chastises bishops for opposing civil unions, noting that their strong opposition to such an arrangement often paves the way for legalizing marriage equality–the arrangement which they oppose more!  Kelly states:

“In some parts of the world, some bishops sought to have civil unions recognized as ‘the lesser of two evils’ – the other being gay marriage. But in almost every instance, successful opposition to civil unions among same sex couples led to the more highly developed gay marriage provisions applying in many jurisdictions.”

In the past, Bondings 2.0 has posted material about Catholics from both sides of the church’s political divide arguing for the separation of definitions for sacramental and civil marriages.   You can see those posts below.  Fr. Kelly’s argument, however, is the first that I have seen which makes the point that the bishops’ opposition to these measures works counter to their intentions and, in fact, facilitates the passage of marriage equality.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry,  December 10, 2016

Related posts:

Bondings 2.0:  Should Civil Marriage Be Separated from Sacramental Marriage?

Bondings 2.0: Separating Civil and Sacramental Marriage–Part 1

Bondings 2.0: Separating Civil and Sacramental Marriage–Part 2

 

 

 

Australian Priest’s Campaign Against ‘Gay Panic’ Defense Reaches Parliament

An Australian Catholic priest’s long campaign to end his “gay panic” defense in his state of Queensland may finally be successful.  Just two days ago, Attorney General Yvette D’Ath introduced the bill to Parliament, the end of years of lobbying by Fr. Paul Kelly.

The “gay panic” defense has been allowed in murder cases where the accused claims he did not have control of his mind because of being provoked by what is perceived as a homosexual advance towards him.   The defense allows for charges to be lowered from murder to manslaughter, thus avoiding a possible life sentence.

Fr. Paul Kelly delivers his petition signatures to Queensland government offices.

Fr. Kelly, who is pastor of St. Mary’s parish in Maryborough, 330 kms north of Brisbane, began the campaign after a heterosexual man was beaten to death in the parish yard in 2008 by two men who thought he was making an advance toward them.  The priest began a change.org petition which has collected  over 290,000 signatures.  Through his efforts, he persuaded politicians of all political stripes to work to eradicate this defense from law.

The Guardian reported on Kelly’s reaction to the bill finally being introduced.  The priest stated:

“It’s been a massive effort, unfortunately. At one point both sides [of politics] were sort of saying, aw no, the law didn’t exist and doesn’t need changing – but suddenly everyone’s saying it is a problem and does need changing, so that’s good to hear.

“This is as far as we’ve ever gotten and I’m fairly confident it will [pass].”

Kelly had used even stronger language in his change.org petition:

“I’ve made it my mission to see this revolting law abolished – it belongs in the dark ages. I have no words to describe how offensive, harmful and dangerous it is that two of our governments uphold that a person can be panicked enough by gay people to justify murder. The common law can really be only over-ridden in this respect by explicit legal ammendments to the Code of Criminal law covering murder and the partial defence of Provocation. Gay panic will continue to be a part of the law of these states until expressly excluded.  I am also concerned that even when cases are not formally and specifically pleading the ‘gay panic’ defense, the mere bringing in of suggestions that the victim made a non-violent homosexual advance, (whether true or not), poisons the waters and taps into deep-seated homophobia and bigotry and ought not be brought up at all in any way in the hearing of a jury. The victim is not on trial here.”

Kelly also reported that when he started the petition, he only expected about 100 to sign it.  The overwhelming response delivers a strong message, he said:

“When it took off I hadn’t seen anything like it and it really opened my eyes the power of the community. But in some ways it was a no-brainer. The fact it’s taken so long sends a message. But that this law’s being changed now sends another message that the law is the same for everybody. It’s not going to give certain members of the community less protection from violence.”

You can watch a video clip of Fr. Kelly delivering his petition signatures by clicking here. A parliamentary committee will report on the bill by February 21, 2017, reported The Brisbane Times. 

While it is gratifying that it looks likely that this archaic law will soon be abolished,  it is even more gratifying that a Catholic priest has led the campaign.  Fr. Kelly is a shining example of how the Church’s teaching on the defense of human rights for LGBT people can be applied to concrete political and legal situations.  To use Fr. Kelly’s own words, there are many similar “no brainers” for Catholic leaders to follow his example. Decriminalizing sexual orientation and gender identity are one case.  Pushing for stronger anti-bullying programs is another.  And speaking out forcefully when violence against LGBT people occurs is still another.

Our church needs more leaders like Fr. Paul Kelly.

For previous Bondings 2.0 posts about Fr. Kelly’s campaign, click here.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, December 2, 2016 

Vatican Nuncio and Mexican Cardinal Strike a Different Note on LGBT Issues

Throughout the past autumn, Bondings 2.0 has been reporting on the same-sex marriage debate in the heavily Catholic nation of Mexico.  As we reported,  Mexican bishops, supported by Pope Francis,  led the opposition to the campaign for making marriage equality, which already exists in several Mexican states, a reality throughout the entire nation.

Earlier this month, the proposal for marriage equality was defeated with a vote of 18-9 by the Commission on Constitutional Matters in the lower house of the Mexican legislature. Yet, despite the loss, the experience may be a positive turning point for the Mexican Catholic hierarchy in terms of taking steps, however small, towards respect for LGBT people.

Archbishop Franco Coppola

Key to this change is the Vatican’s nuncio to Mexico, Archbishop Franco Coppola, appointed in July 2016 by Pope Francis .  In response to the marriage equality proposal,  Coppola called for a more civil discussion of this, and other controversial topics.  The Catholic Herald  reported:

“Amid the activism, comments on same-sex marriage from the new apostolic nuncio to Mexico appear to suggest the Vatican would prefer a less confrontational approach.

” ‘Mexicans, rather than confronting each other, making proclamations or marching, have to sit down at the table and talk to each other,’ Archbishop Franco Coppola told reporters.

” ‘When we are speaking of the constitution, it has to become something that all Mexicans, or at least a great majority of Mexicans, can share.’ “

The Pilot reported that some observers see the archbishop’s comments as a Vatican decision to soften anti-gay rhetoric:

“Some media, such as the Spanish newspaper El Pais, interpreted the remarks as the Vatican ‘de-authorizing the anti-gay marches.’ “

Earlier in the marriage equality debate, Coppola also spoke words of reconciliation and outreach to gay and lesbian people.  The Yucatan Times reported:

“. . . [T]he apostolic nuncio, Franco Coppola, said it is necessary to recognize gay rights as any other citizens’ rights.

” ‘The doctrine of the Church is the doctrine of the Church, but we have to adapt it so we can offer answers to men and women of different times,’ the new representative of the Vatican in Mexico told reporters.”

Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera

Coppola is not the only Catholic leader in Mexico who has softened his rhetoric.  Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, Archbishop of Mexico City and Primate of Mexico, recently apologized for negative comments he made about the sexual acts of some gay men, and he invited “people attracted to the same sex” to meet with priests, acknowledging that church ministers need education.

The PanAm Post reported:

“In the past, Cardinal Carrera maintained that he would not apologize for his rhetoric toward the LGBT community even if it was considered offensive by some people, but something seems to have changed in him, as he recently came out on behalf of the Archdiocese of Mexico and asked for forgiveness if at any moment they had used ‘inadequate expressions’ to refer to the gay community, saying ‘you should know that it was never my intention to offend anyone.’  “

The cardinal also stated:

” ‘You have asked me about people attracted to the same sex coming to the vicarage to discuss the subject, and I not only see it as an agreeable idea, but as a necessary one,’ he said. ‘Priests shouldn’t be expected to know all that there is to know; many times, they must also be taught about a topic.’ “

The statements made by Coppola and Rivera Carrera are good first steps.  Perhaps the extremism of the Mexican debate on marriage equality made them realize that the hierarchy’s rhetoric was too heated and pastorally harmful.  Perhaps the example of Pope Francis has awakened them.  At a minimum, let’s hope that Rivera Carrera learned his lesson not to be so focused on particular sexual acts, as if they defined the totality of a person or a relationship.

These small steps of openness need to be built upon, and the next time Mexico looks at a marriage equality proposal, perhaps the nation’s bishops will conduct themselves more civilly. If they don’t these recent statements will sound like a noisy gong and clanging bell.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, November 29, 2016

Related article:

PinkNews.co.uk: “Catholic Church in Mexico apologises after saying ‘man’s anus is not designed to receive’ “