Gay Priest Calls Philippines Bishops’ Marriage Letter a “Far Cry from the Gospel”

September 17, 2015

Philippines bishops

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 NewsArchbishop 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

Marriage Equality Momentum Grows in Philippines, While Australia’s Catholic PM Keeps Up Opposition

August 19, 2015

Filipinos take part in Pride celebrations

Marriage equality’s global progress is still limited, legal in only twenty-one nations so far, but the growing trend has shown that Catholic areas keep advancing LGBT rights.

Below, Bondings 2.0 offers updates about several relevant developments in the Philippines, Australia, Mexico, Poland, and Guam .


Same-sex couples applied for marriage licenses earlier this month, receiving an expected denial at civil registries following the government’s announcement it would not allow equal marriage rights until a law is passed.

The rejections allow challenges to the nation’s Family Code currently before the nation’s Supreme Court to proceed, according to The Strait Times. Lawyer Jesus Falcis claimed that limiting marriage to one man and one woman as the Code does is unconstitutional, and he will file suit on behalf of partners Crescencio Agbayani and Marlon Pelipe, whose application was rejected.

Agbayani is a Christian minister, and he is clear “this is not an issue of religion but of equal protection” reported The Inquirer.

Filipino Catholic bishops vocally opposing marriage equality, fearful of change following the U.S. Supreme Court’s June decision to legalize marriage for lesbian and gay couples. According to The Bangkok Post, Archbishop Socrates Villegas, head of  the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, reiterated the bishops’ opposition to LGBT equality, and he added:

“[T]he US Supreme Court decision will not go unheeded. We shall study it with assiduousness, and revisit our concepts and presuppositions.”

A bishops conference spokesperson admitted the U.S. decision would increase pressure in the Philippines reported UCA News, but the spokesperson also cited Pope Francis’ remarks about resisting “ideological colonization” during a recent visit to the country. As Bondings 2.0 previously reported, that comment has been widely misunderstood, and it seems is being again misapplied here.

Momentum for marraige equality is growing, however, as LGBT advocates expand their voices in a nation where 80% of 100 million residents are Catholic. June’s Metro Manila Pride drew hundreds according to Gay Star News, and one priest’s letter in Outrage reveals the reality that LGBT Catholics are increasingly in need of pastoral care as more people come out and form families. Father RJ wrote about the baptism of a same-gender couple’s child, concluding:

“The baptism went smoothly. Throughout the ceremony, I referred to Frankie and Shane as the parents of Pink. Frankie later told me that she got goosebumps when I first mentioned both their names as the parents. . .

“Out of fear of being subjected to ‘harsh words’ from the so-called ‘good Catholics’ and from the ‘shepherds’ of the Church, Frankie and Shane almost put off the baptism of their beautiful baby Pink. Would that one day, such ceremonies could be conducted openly and without fear, with the loving blessing and warm embrace of our Holy Mother, the Church.”

Yet, in the only nation (besides the Vatican) where divorce is still illegal  and where the bishops’ influence remains pervasive, religion, and specifically Catholicism, will certainly continue playing a major role. Hopefully, more clergy and religious like Father RJ will begin speaking up about the good and faithful LGBT people they know and challenge the bishops’ anti-equality message.


Despite widespread actions for marriage equality and 72% public support, Prime Minister Tony Abbot, who is Catholic, remains firmly opposed to equal marriage. He denied members of Parliament a conscience vote on the Equal Marriage Bill that would have likely passed, and he instead called for a national referendum after 2016 elections, reported The New Civil Rights Movement.

While a recent piece in reveals increasing splits in Abbot’s own government, Australia’s Catholic bishops have been quite supportive of his efforts to stop equality. Their actions have included using children in Catholic schools as messengers for an anti-gay pamphlet.  Additionally,  pastorally insensitive remarks by Sydney’s Archbishop Anthony Fisher were hurtful to many. Thankfully, Australian Catholics are providing more inclusive local communities and among the majority of Australians ready for marriage equality.


Following a June decision paving the way to legalize same-gender marriages, Mexico’s Supreme Court has ruled 9-1 that bans on same-sex adoptions are also unconstitutional and violate a child’s rights, according to The Advocate. Marriage is “already legal in Mexico City and the states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Guerrero, and Quintana Roo,” but is expected to expand when couples challenge local bans. The nation’s Catholic bishops, as expected, objected to expanding marriage rights, reported On Top Magazine.


Polish attitudes towards LGBT equality are slowly evolving, reported NPR. An LGBT pride parade in the historic city of Gdansk drew 1,000 marchers, and there has been more LGBT media exposure recently, according to one advocate.

Robert Biedron, the first openly gay member of Parliament, claims the change in attitude is “in part because the Catholic Church’s is shrinking in Poland and because more Poles are coming out of the closet.” Shrinking episcopal influence, coupled with personal knowledge of LGBT people, have been a key recipe for pro-equality Catholics to effect change elsewhere. Hopefully, there will be rainbows over Poland soon enough.


The legislature of Guam, aU.S. territory passed a both marriage equality law and nondiscrimination protections last week, reported Metro Weekly. This comes despite Agana Archbishop Anthony Sablan Apuron’s warnings equal marriage would “destroy the fabric of society‘ and lead to a “totalitarian system.

For more information on global Catholic LGBT issues, visit the ‘International’ category to the right or click here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Cardinal: Church Must Abandon Harmful Approaches to Lesbian/Gay People

March 14, 2015

Cardinal Louis Antonio Tagle

If you haven’t already done so, please answer our ten-second poll on Pope Francis’ LGBT record by clicking here

The Philippines’ top prelate decried the clergy’s harmful treatment of lesbian and gay people during a recent address in London, saying modern science and social attitudes must be integrated into the church’s pastoral efforts.

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila spoke about mercy to 8,000 young Catholics at the “Flame II” Youth Congress in Wembley Arena, London, noting the problematic treatment of marginalized communities in the past by representatives of the church. The Telegraph reported:

“[Tagle] said the Church had to learn lessons from changing social attitudes and a greater understanding of psychology and recognise the ‘wounds’ its judgmental approach had caused in the past…

“Speaking afterwards, he said it was clear that the tone taken towards gay people, divorcees who remarried against Catholic teaching and unmarried mothers had left many feeling ‘branded’ and socially ostracised.”

He added that the old, marginalizing ways were harmful, and that new ways of pastoral ministry needed and already happening:

” ‘Yes, I think even the language has changed already, the harsh words that were used in the past to refer to gays and divorced and separated people, the unwed mothers etc, in the past they were quite severe…Many people who belonged to those groups were branded and that led to their isolation from the wider society.’

” ‘I don’t know whether this is true but I heard that in some circles, Christian circles, the suffering that these people underwent was even considered as a rightful consequence of their mistakes, so spiritualised in that sense. But we are glad to see and hear shifts in that.

While the cardinal said he would not abandon the magisterial teaching on sexual ethics, he did allow for some consideration of individual circumstances:

“Here, at least for the Catholic Church, there is a pastoral approach which happens in counseling, in the sacrament of reconciliation where individual persons and individual cases are taken uniquely or individually so that a help, a pastoral response could be given adequately to the person.”

In terms of the church’s relationship to science and current social attitudes, Tagle noted that the Church needed to take these into account:

“Cardinal Tagle told The Telegraph: ‘We have to admit that this whole spirituality, this growth in mercy and the implementation of the virtue of mercy is something that we need to learn over and over again.

” ‘Part of it is also the shifts in cultural and social sensibilities such that what constituted in the past an acceptable way of showing mercy, … now, given our contemporary mindset, may not be any more viewed as that.’

“He said that the past approach in Catholic schools and other institutions had often been to dictate rules and tell people that they were ‘for your own good.’ ”

“ ‘Now with our growing sensibilities, growth in psychology, we realise that some of them were not as merciful,’ he said.

“ ‘Now with the growth of insights in child psychology we see some of the wounds inflicted with that – and so we learn.’ ”

What is significant here is not just that Tagle is picking up on Pope Francis’ dominant theme of mercy, noting that the church could no longer operate through edicts, but also that he is willing to admit that church leaders and institutions have made mistakes in the past.

If Tagle is serious about allowing for individualized pastoral care and also about the benefits of new knowledge, then incorporation of modern scientific understandings of human relationships and intimacy must be taken into consideration by pastoral ministers.

Tagle’s remarks are a stark contrast to comments by an Irish bishop who compared homosexuality to Down’s Syndrome and spina bifida, saying God did not intend gay people to be born with their orientation.

Tagle has been suggested as a popular choice for pope during the next conclave. In the meantime, we need more bishops to also consider past harms done to LGBT people and find new ways of bringing about healing, reconciliation, and justice.

–Bob Shine and Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

What to Make of Pope Francis’ Latest Comments on Marriage?

January 17, 2015

Until yesterday, I had wanted to write a hope-filled blog post about Pope Francis’ visit to the Philippines this weekend.  On Wednesday and Thursday, I had been reading articles about the great expectation for his visit building in this nation with the third largest Catholic population in the world (behind Brazil and Mexico, and followed by the U.S.).  There has been much good news lately about Filipino church leaders speaking out for LGBT people.

Pope Francis addressing the meeting of families in Pasay City, Philippines

But then yesterday, the news broke that in one of his talks in the Philippines, Pope Francis decried the “ideological colonization” of the family, of which journalist John Allen said that a Vatican spokesman told him that “at least in part, the pope had gay marriage in mind.”

Joshua McElwee of The National Catholic Reporter provided the details of the statement, made at a meeting of families:

“Saying that God is calling people to ‘recognize the dangers threatening our own families,’ Francis stated, ‘There is an ideological colonization we have to be careful of that tries to destroy the family.’

“Obliquely referencing historical colonization of the Philippines and his native Argentina, he continued: ‘Just as our peoples were able to say no to the period of colonization, as families we have to be very wise and very strong with fortitude to say no to these initiatives of colonization that could destroy the family.’ “

Later in the story, McElwee reported on the pope’s elaboration of these ideas:

” ‘The pressures on family life today are many,’ Francis said. ‘The economic situation has caused families to be separated by migration and the search for employment, and financial problems strain many households.’

He continued: ‘The family is also threatened by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage, by relativism, by the culture of the ephemeral, by a lack of openness to life.’ “

In the same talk, he praised Pope Paul VI’s birth control encyclical, Humanae Vitae, but also urged pastors to be compassionate in particular cases.

What to make of this development, especially since it comes just about two months after the Vatican hosted a conference on male/female complementarity in sexuality, where the pope publicly praised the concept which many see as sexist and irrelevant to authentic discussions of sexual relationships?

John Allen wrote that while many saw Pope Francis as a progressive at the last synod, and that some feared he was stacking the deck for the next synod to align with liberal notions.  Allen’s response:

“In light of the pope’s comments in the Philippines, those conclusions may have to be rethought.”

Allen may be right that for some people, both on the right and on the left, their vision of Pope Francis as a liberal is severely challenged by his recent remarks.  But Francis, while much more progressive in many ways than the previous two popes, had never really stated firmly that he supported same-gender marriage.  The furthest he had gone was to support civil unions as an alternative to marriage when he was an archbishop in Argentina, and to make a vague reference in an interview last spring to being open to the possibility of legal civil unions, though it was unclear if he meant this for heterosexual couples as an alternative to marriage or to lesbian and gay couples as a form of civil protection.

My response to the pope’s recent comments focus more on his use of the words “ideological colonization.”  That to me is more problematic than a negative assessment of marriage equality, which I did not think he ever supported.  “Ideological colonization” invokes a political framework of imposing outside values by force.  There are two reasons why that is problematic.

First, most Catholics who support marriage equality do so because they are motivated by their faith. It is not an ideological or political stand for them.  They believe in the equality of lesbian and gay people, they see their committed relationships as holy, natural, and wholesome, and they want the children in those families to be protected.  These are not ideological concerns, and they are not based in relativism.

Second, “colonization” seems to refer to statements by some African members of the hierarchy who have erroneously stated that homosexuality is not native to their countries, but brought in by Westerners.  Of course, this is not true at all, as homosexuality has existed in all cultures.  If colonialists brought anything in this regard, it was homophobia.

There is a burgeoning LGBT movement in the Philippines, and one of the reasons I was hopeful earlier in the week was that I read a news report that a coalition of LGBT organizations had written an open letter asking the pope to meet with them.   What is interesting about the letter is that there is no mention of marriage equality in it.  They wanted to meet with him to discuss stigma, bullying, assault, disease, and dehumanization, among other problems they have.  Wouldn’t it have been great if the pope met with this group and listened, rather than speaking words which do not reflect the truth about LGBT lives?

Pope Francis could also have met with Filipino pastoral workers who do outreach to LGBT people.  The New York Times reported:

“The church has also become more tolerant of those whose lifestyles conflict with church teachings on social issues.

“ ‘Gay people and people who are living with a partner outside of marriage worship and serve in our parish, said Joseph Zaldivar, a seminarian at the Archdiocese of Manila. ‘They are welcomed.’

“He said that message had reached parishes around the country.”

Or he could have spoken to one lesbian couple who were married in a non-denominational church in the Philippines on the day that the pope arrived there.

The hallmark of Francis’ papacy has not been his outreach to LGBT people, though indeed that has been more marked than his predecessors.  The hallmark has been his openness to dialogue and discussion.  He should have followed his own principles and been a listener in the Philippines, rather than a talker.

And finally, the teaching against birth control and the teaching against same-sex relationships both spring from the principle that all sexual acts should be open to procreation.  If Pope Francis is willing to consider individual cases in regards to birth control, as he said in this speech, couldn’t the same direction be given in regards to lesbian and gay couples?

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related articles:

ABS-CBN News: “Little hope of Roman Catholic revolution”

Reuters:  “Pope says ‘ideological colonization’ threatens the traditional family”

CNN: “Philippines welcomes the Pope” blog: “Pope Francis called marriage equality ‘ideological colonization’ to destroy family” “Pope Calls Same-Sex Marriage a ‘Threat’ to the Family”

The Pope, the Archbishop, & the Lesbian: Hopes for the Philippines Encounter

January 14, 2015

As he journeys to the Philippines this week, Pope Francis will be met there by an archbishop who, like the pontiff, is opening the door to greater openness to the LGBT community. He can also listen to advice from a Filipina lesbian woman in the U.S. about what he needs to teach the Church in her native land.

Archbishop Socrates Villegas

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, who is also president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, gave an affirmative and categorical statement to a question about whether the pope condemned the LGBT community.  Villegas stated:

“Being a homosexual is not a sin. It is a state of a person.”

The archbishop’s remarks came during an interview on a television show hosted by the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper.  The show was aired in anticipation of the pontiff’s visit to that nation between January 15th-19th. You can view the video by clicking here. reported on the interview, in which Villegas elaborated on that basic statement:

“ ‘The Pope says “The Lord came to die for all, homosexuals and lesbians included.” There is no one excluded from the saving plan of God,’ Villegas said in the forum held at the Thomas Aquinas Research Center of the University of Santo Tomas.

“The archbishop said the Church was calling on gay and lesbian believers to embrace holiness.

“ ‘God died for them also. God invites gays and the lesbians to go beyond their present situation and love Jesus,’ he added.”

Shakira Sison

In a blog post on,  Shakira Sison, a Filipina-American lesbian woman penned an open-letter to Pope Francis as he prepares for his visit to her native country.  In it, she offered advice on what messages he should give:

“I hope you’ll teach the Catholic leaders of the Philippines that faith is personal, it is salvation for those who need it. It does not judge, and it does not hate.

“Most of all, please teach our people that your version of faith does not condemn gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender children from their homes or keep them from worshiping their God.

“I would like you to teach your people that the Catholic God’s love and acceptance does not pick and choose. . . .

“You said it yourself that gays must be integrated into society. I’ve lived enough and am secure enough with my life to know that my spirituality will be fine whether or not you accept me. However, there are many others like me who need for you to tell the majority of Catholics that God loves and accepts every single one of us, so they may start accepting my LGBT brothers and sisters as well.”

The Philippines is a heavily Catholic nation.  According to Gay Star News, it is “the country with third largest number of Catholics with an estimated 75.5 million believers, or roughly 80% of the population.”  Although bishops there have been outspoken against marriage equality, there are other signs that greater openness to LGBT people is emerging in the church.

For example, a Catholic parish recently conducted the funeral of a transgender woman, murdered allegedly by a U.S. military man.  The parish used the woman’s preferred pronouns during the Mass and ritual. Furthermore, following the murder, the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines (the heads of religious communities of men and women) issued a statement condemning anti-LGBT violence and called for a full inquiry into murder, especially important because political pressure might come into play because international military personnel are involved.

Archbishop Villegas’ statement is important because it very likely shows the “Francis effect.” In this case, the “effect” is a member of the hierarchy being more willing to speak out affirmatively about LGBT people.

It must be admitted that Villegas’ statement is not really a “cutting edge” statement which pushes the envelope on church teaching.  It is safely within the parameters of very orthodox church discourse.

Yet, it must be remembered that though the teaching of the moral neutrality of a homosexual orientation has been official for four decades, very few bishops in the last two decades have shown any willingness to speak out about this most basic principle for fear of being considered too positive towards LGBT people.

If Pope Francis has done nothing else than given permission to bishops to speak out on even the tamest parts of church teaching on homosexuality, that, in itself, is a major step forward.  If he wants to take the next step, he should follow the advice of Shakira Sison, given above.

Let’s hope and pray that Pope Francis’ visit to the Philippines will inspire greater courage on the part of the hierarchy there to open their doors and their minds to the lives of LGBT people.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry




Murdered Transgender Woman’s Catholic Funeral Is a Moment of Hope and Healing

October 30, 2014

” ‘We don’t eat without praying first. We don’t sleep without saying a prayer. Where were you [God] when this happened?…She had so many dreams and that killer destroyed them all’ ”

These are the laments of Julita Laude, mother of Jennifer Laude, a transgender woman allegedly murdered by a US Marine in the Philippines. The killing has made headlines for increasing tensions between the countries and raising questions about an ongoing American military presence in the Philippines.

Less noted has been the Catholic community’s response in helping Julita mourn her daughter’s death and showing respect to LGBT people in the heavily religious nation. According to PhilStar, Jennifer was “a devout Catholic,” but as an openly transgender woman it is not a given she would be granted a Catholic burial in the highly conservative Filipino church.

Jennifer Laude

Thankfully, compassionate (and Christ-like) principles guided Laude’s funeral and her life was celebrated in a way respectful of her gender identity. While Laude’s death emerges from the most tragic of circumstances, her funeral is a healing moment and one of great hope for Catholics, LGBT people, and Catholic LGBT people, especially in the Philippines. ABSCBN News notes:

“For many people watching along the streets of Olongapo City, the spectacle that is the funeral procession for transgender woman Jennifer Laude speaks of many things.

“To the religious, it is an indirect acceptance of the lesbian, gays, bisexuals, and transgender (LGBT) community into the Roman Catholic mainstream, something that was previously a cause of concern. This is the first time that a transgender woman’s funeral has been thrust into the spotlight and together, the issues surrounding it.

“For the LGBT community, it is a chance to put forward the rights of their kind, while battling the shaming that is ongoing not only in the streets but in social media as well.”

Laude’s funeral procession from the church to the burial site included dozens of family, friends, LGBT advocates, and mourners of all types, who can be seen in this slideshow.

This is not the first high-profile funeral of a transgender person, as the Jesuit mother church in Rome held one last year for Andrea Quintero who was murdered on the streets of that city. However, this moment is quite worthy of Catholics’ reflection. There are still too many damaging experiences at church for LGBT people, like denying communion to same-sex couples, for us to disregard the really good moments too quickly.

This moment shows a more positive approach is plausible and more life-giving. In the wake of a painful tragedy and in the midst of conflict, Catholic ministers mediated God’s love through the sacramental life of the church. A priest responded to a mother’s anguish by celebrating her daughter’s life in a Catholic church, respectful of the victim’s gender identity. A victimized community, whose suffering is in no small part due to ingrained Catholic prejudices, could be respected by Catholic leaders in this moment for who they are, who they love, and how they identity.

Yet, there is a challenge for the church too. Jennifer Laude’s death was, by all accounts, a hate crime. She was killed because transgender people are routinely dehumanized, and religions are deeply implicated in  transphobia. The Catholic community must step back when transgender people face such elevated levels of violence and of discrimination to ask how we are complicit.

As Catholic leaders consider issues around family life in the coming year, perhaps they can look to Jennifer Laude’s funeral as both a hopeful sign that LGBT pastoral care is possible and an informative moment for how much work remains to be done when it comes to LGBT human rights.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Philippines Abp. Says It’s Okay for a Gay Man to Marry a Lesbian Woman. Huh?

June 26, 2013
Archbishop Oscar Cruz

Archbishop Oscar Cruz

Sometimes it is difficult to imagine what a bishop was thinking when he makes a statement that is so incorrect and irrelevant.  A case in point is the news from the Philippines that retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz recently said that it would be permissible for a gay man and lesbian woman to marry because procreative possibility would be present.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer quotes the archbishop’s statement, made during a meeting of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines-National Appellate Matrimonial Tribunal:

“May a lesbian marry a gay man? My answer is ‘yes’ because in that instance the capacity to consummate the union is there. The anatomy is there. The possibility of conception is there.”

Archbishop Cruz, who has served as an auxiliary bishop in Manila, the nation’s capital, and as head of the Archdiocese of San Fernando, was also a Judicial Vicar for the nation’s bishops’ conference.  Despite his education and experience, his remarks reveal an amazing lack of knowledge about the dynamics involved in intimate sexual relationships.  A Filipina LGBT activist was quick to respond with statements that reflected not only a more humane approach, but one that is also more in line with what the Catholic church really teaches about sexual relationships.  Gay Star News reported:

Angie Umbac

Angie Umbac

“Filipina LGBT rights activist Angie Umbac told Gay Star News she is ‘speechless’ at the comments of the Archbishop. . .

“Umbac, who campaigns for Filipino LGBT rights organization Rainbow Rights, said that people should marry ‘not because their parts “fit”‘ but ‘for the right reasons’.

‘I’d like to believe that human beings are more than the sum of their parts,’ said Umbac. ‘How about the brain? The heart? The soul? At what point do love, free will, and self-respect come in? They are important components of marriage that the Archbishop’s careless statement choose to ignore.’

The archbishop’s comments didn’t stop there, though.  He went on to acknowledge that homosexuality is a permissible reason to receive a marriage annulment from the church.  While this is true, this statement also highlighted the illogic of his statement about a gay man marrying a lesbian woman. writer Mary Elizabeth Williams was quick to point out this problem:

“But if the Catholic Church can sanction marriage between lesbians and gay men, Cruz also acknowledges it can also retroactively declare that it was never even legitimate in the first place. In the same speech, the Archbishop admitted that homosexuality was valid grounds for annulment, though he added it is rarely invoked.”

The Philippines is currently considering a proposal to legalize marriage for lesbian and gay couples, and the Catholic hierarchy is, predictably, opposed to it.   Despite the hiearchy’s opposition to LGBT equality, a recent Pew poll showed that the Philippines population, overwhelmingly Catholic, is very accepting of LGBT people.

An incident such as this is a reminder that our church leaders are in deep need of education about sexuality and human dynamics.  One can try to think of reasons why Archbishop Cruz made such a wrongheaded statement:  Did he let personal homophobia get the best of him?  Was he caught up in some sort of political fervor to try to block the nation’s marriage proposal?  Is he so totally removed from the lives of real people that he is unaware of the many elements that are involved in relationship-building?

Whatever the reasons, the best thing he can do now is to apologize and promise to educate himself better not only about LGBT people, but about basic Catholic teaching about sexuality and relationships.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry




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