Uruguay Passage of Marriage Equality Calls Church’s Role in Latin America Into Question

Flag of Urguay

A successful Senate vote in Uruguay means marriage equality is only formalities away from becoming legal in that nation, making it the twelfth nation globally and second South American one to do so. Historically Catholic nations, like Argentina and Uruguay, have begun a trend in that region and the Catholic Church’s role these matters plays heavily, especially now that Pope Francis oversees the global church with his Argentine background.

CNN.com reports that Uruguay legislators in the upper house approved the marriage equality measure in a 23-8 vote, sending it to the lower house, which successfully passed a similar law last year, and then onto the president for approval. The Catholic hierarchy in Uruguay has made similar statements to those made by then-Cardinal Bergoglio when marriage equality was at issue in Argentina: warnings about the destructive nature of same-gender marriage and threats to children have been prominent in both cases. Their words seem deafened now, as CNN.com reports:

“For years, it was rare to see gay rights issues gaining traction in Latin American countries.

“Not anymore, Javier Corrales, a professor of political science at Amherst College in Massachusetts, told CNN in 2010.

“‘Latin America currently has some of the most gay-friendly cities in the developing world,’ said Corrales, who ranked cities’ gay-friendliness in a book he co-edited, ‘The Politics of Sexuality in Latin America.’

“In 2009, Uruguay was the first Latin American country to allow same-sex couples to adopt children. It was also one the first Latin American countries to allow same-sex civil unions.”

In another South American nation, Colombia, legislators have begun to mull marriage equality,  while Mexico continues adjudicating its tensions of having regionally-legalized rights.

It is well documented at this point that Pope Francis’ record on LGBT rights is mixed, with harsh comments about same-gender marriage coupled alongside vocal support for civil unions.In Uruguay, bishops spoke fervently against passage of the bill. In Colombia, where the measure is expected to fail, there has been greater silence by the hierarchy.

An interview on Public Radio International’s The World program presents one explanation for why traditionally Catholic nations in South America are leading the world in LGBT rights and equality. Lester Feder is a journalist who recalls the powerful narrative of human rights that emerged in Latin America as an explanation for why the quick integration of LGBT rights into legal structures occurred.  Feder also proposes that the Catholic Church is less powerful than is thought:

“”But the Catholic Church, especially in Argentina is a cultural institution with a lot of history, but its a very secular country and it doesn’t have a lot of power in politics…So, we have a kind of monolithic notion of Latin America and the influence of the Catholic Church, but the reality is more complicated.”

As the papacy of Pope Francis seems to indicate a shifting tone from legalism to pastoral concern, perhaps his experiences with the trend of full equality in Latin America will shape the global hierarchy’s response from Rome.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Papal Candidate Turkson Continues to Reveal Anti-Gay Attitudes

Cardinal Peter Turkson
Cardinal Peter Turkson

One of the names that is being bandied about as a prime candidate to become the next pope is Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana.  As his name has surfaced, so too have reports that this African cardinal has a strong record of anti-gay attitudes.

His most recent comments accused gay priests for causing the sex-abuse crisis.  According to London’s Daily Mail:

“The African cardinal widely tipped to be the first black pope in modern history faced a firestorm of criticism last night after he laid the blame for clerical sex abuse crises at the feet of gay priests.

“Cardinal Peter Turkson, who comes from Ghana, told an American journalist that similar sex scandals would never convulse churches in Africa because the culture was inimical to homosexuality.

” ‘African traditional systems kind of protect or have protected its population against this tendency,’ he told Christiane Amanpour of CNN.

” ‘Because in several communities, in several cultures in Africa homosexuality or for that matter any affair between two sexes of the same kind, are not countenanced in our society,’ he continued.

” ‘So that cultural taboo, that tradition has been there,’ said Cardinal Turkson, 64. ‘It has served to keep it out.’ “

You can view the video of the Turkson interview with CNN’s Amanpour here.

Turkson made headlines last week when it was revealed that he supported Uganda’s draconian penalties for homoesexuality.  According to John Becker, writing on The Billerico Report blog:

“. . .Turkson is so anti-gay that he actually defended draconian laws that criminalize homosexuality and gay sex, including Uganda’s notorious ‘Kill the Gays’ bill. Speaking last year to the National Catholic Register, Turkson opined that while the penalties imposed by such laws are ‘exaggerated,’ the desire of many Africans and African leaders to incarcerate or even execute their gay citizens is actually perfectly understandable, and that the ‘intensity of the reaction [to homosexuality] is probably commensurate with tradition.’ “

Turkson also added:

“Just as there’s a sense of a call for rights, there’s also a call to respect culture, of all kinds of people. So, if it’s being stigmatized, in fairness, it’s probably right to find out why it is being stigmatized.”

Becker cites another example of Turkson’s anti-gay attitudes:

“In January 2012, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon delivered an address to the African Union Summit in which he called on African nations to repeal laws that criminalize homosexuality and end discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity; the Secretary-General said that doing so was the only way to live up to the ideals of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. Cardinal Turkson rebuked him:

‘We [the Church] push for the rights of prisoners, the rights of others, and the last thing we want to do is infringe upon the rights of anyone. But when you’re talking about what’s called “an alternative lifestyle,” are those human rights? [Ban Ki-moon] needs to recognize there’s a subtle distinction between morality and human rights, and that’s what needs to be clarified.’ “

Clearly, Turkson is not the right man for the top job.  While many church leaders have, through their comments, revealed their ignorance of LGBT reality, few have done so as boldly as Turkson has.  Let’s hope and pray that the old adage about papal conclaves comes true in his case:  “He who enters the conclave a pope comes out a cardinal.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Lesbian Denied Communion Explains How Her Faith Has Been Strengthened

Barbara Johnson

Barbara Johnson’s story about how she was denied communion at her mother’s funeral because of her lesbian relationship has struck a nerve with Catholics–and so many other people–across the country and around the globe.  She is emerging not as a victim, however, but as a woman of faith who wants to contribute to the life of the church.

In an interview with CNN, Ms Johnson spoke of the pain of the incident, of how they want the priest removed from ministry so that no other family experiences the same pain, and that the incident has actually strengthened her faith:

“My family are very appreciate of all of the outreach we’ve received. However, we believe the only reason to be talking about this still is because we would not want any other family to go through what was the worst experience on the very worst day of all of our lives…we feel that it is important that Father Marcel is removed from parish life. . . .”

“My immediate response to this whole incident was anger and upset, and my first thought was that I would never return to the church. In the days that followed, through a lot of prayer and an outpouring of support and love from many devout Catholics and the clergy themselves its actually strengthened my faith in the Church itself.”

(You can watch the interview on CNN’s website by clicking here.)

Ms. Johnson’s statements are a testimony to how the power of the church defined as the People of God can work miracles of healing for those abused by leaders.

As evidence of the international interest in this incident, QueeringTheChurch.com, a British Catholic LGBT blog, has already reported twice about it: the first post reports the incident; the second post offers analysis and reflection.

In a Windy City Times article, Chuck Colbert reports on the messages and significance that this incident has for the church. He quotes New Ways Ministry’s Francis DeBernardo:

“What it tells me is there has to be a lot better pastoral training of priests, particularly on gay and lesbian issues.”

Colbert also cites Mary Hunt, co-founder and co-director of the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER), who stated:

“The Eucharist is a sacrament, not a political football. . . .This terrible abuse of one family at a time of great pastoral need is but a snapshot of anti-LGBTQ theology in action. It is outdated, outmoded, and outrageous.”

In an op-ed, on the Washington Post’s “On Faith” blog, DignityUSA’s Marianne Duddy-Burke highlights the growing pastoral crisis that this incident might pre-figure:

“The reality is that this could happen to almost any one of us, given the escalating conflicts between pastoral care and the demand for adherence to a handful of socially conservative aspects of doctrine being played out in Catholic churches across the country. Whether we Catholics use birth control, have remarried after a divorce, believe that women are qualified for official ministry, or support lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender equality, most of us hold several views that contradict official Roman Catholic teaching. Could any of us be the next Barbara Johnson?”

LezGetReal.com has posted the response of Joe Murray of the Rainbow Sash Movement,which concludes:

“The present climate of hostility to everything LGBT in the Catholic Church I fear has only encouraged this priest to take this course of action. I fear the example set by US Catholic Bishops in their open hostility to the Gay and Lesbian Community has led this priest to believe he is just following orders.”

Bondings 2.0 has already reported on this incident twice: 1) calling for Catholics to write to the Archdiocese of Washington; and 2) asking readers if and how they find any hope from this incident.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry




NEWS NOTES: January 6, 2012

Here are links to some items that may be of  interest:

1)  CNN’s “Belief Blog reports on the “Courage” story which we commented on yesterday:  “Controversial Catholic program for gays begins in Connecticut.”

2) On HuffingtonPost.com, Joseph Amodeo points out that there are better ministry alternatives than  “Courage” in “Redefining Courage:  What the New Apostolate for LGBT Catholics Gets Wrong.”

3) The Catholic governor of Maryland, Martin O’Malley, will be including a marriage equality bill and a transgender non-discrimination bill in his legislative package this year reports The Washington Blade in “Maryland to take up marriage, trans bills.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry