World Day of Peace Message and Meeting with Ugandan Parliamentary Leader Cause Controversies for Pope Benedict

LGBT protesters near St. Peter's Square demonstrate against the Pope's World Day of Peace message.
LGBT protesters near St. Peter’s Square demonstrate against the Pope’s World Day of Peace message.

The Vatican became a focal point of LGBT news this past weekend, with Pope Benedict XVI at the center of two controversies.

On Friday, the pope released the text of his January 1, 2013 World Day of Prayer for Peace message.  Though much of the message dealt with other issues, one paragraph of it specifically focused on the question of marriage.  He states:

“There is also a need to acknowledge and promote the natural structure of marriage as the union of a man and a woman in the face of attempts to make it juridically equivalent to radically different types of union; such attempts actually harm and help to destabilize marriage, obscuring its specific nature and its indispensable role in society.
“These principles are not truths of faith, nor are they simply a corollary of the right to religious freedom. They are inscribed in human nature itself, accessible to reason and thus common to all humanity. The Church’s efforts to promote them are not therefore confessional in character, but addressed to all people, whatever their religious affiliation. Efforts of this kind are all the more necessary the more these principles are denied or misunderstood, since this constitutes an offence against the truth of the human person, with serious harm to justice and peace.”
It is not unusual for the pope to use this message to promote heterosexual families, and there is nothing in this statement that differs significantly from things which he has previously stated.
Some Italian LGBT rights spokespeople expressed dismay at the pope’s comments.  According to

“Flavio Romani, the head of the Arcigay association, said that the Pope’s message ‘arms the homophobes of all countries with an invitation to take part in a crusade against marriage between people of the same sex.’

“Nichi Vendola, the gay governor of Puglia and the leader of the left-wing SEL party, was equally dismayed.

“ ‘I’d like to ask the Catholic Church why it is trying to run away from dialogue, from listening, from debate,’ he said.”

Additionally, LGBT protesters staged a demonstration near St. Peter’s Square on Sunday.  A separate story notes:

“About fifteen activists attended the protest, and carried with them coloured paper hearts emblazoned with messages such as “’ove has no barriers,’ ‘gay marriage,’ ‘talk about love,’ ‘marry peace,’ and ‘homophobia=death,’ reported AFP.

“The protesters were not allowed to access the square, which was full of worshippers who turned out to hear Pope Benedict XVI recite the Angelus on the third Sunday of Advent.”

An Associated Press story noted that the protesters issued a statement which said, in part:

“Gay unions don’t harm peace. Weapons do.”

Pope Benedict meets Rebecca Kadaga.
Pope Benedict meets Rebecca Kadaga.

The second, unrelated controversy has to do with the pope appearing in a photograph with Ugandan Parliamentary Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, who has been an outspoken supporter of her nation’s proposed “Kill the Gays” bill, which proposes severe sentences, including the death penalty, for lesbian and gay people.”

Kadaga attended a Mass with the pope while she was in Rome to attend a human rights conference.  Though some news reports claimed that the pope blessed Kadaga, it is unclear if this was a particular, individual blessing for her or if the blessing was the general blessing administered to the thousands at the Mass.

The pope was photographed with Kadaga, which meant he did briefly meet with her.  Too bad he did not use that opportunity to speak out against Uganda’s proposed bill which the Vatican has previously opposed.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Uganda’s ‘Kill the Gays’ Bill Is Postponed

The Ugandan Parliament closed its session today without taking action on the controversial proposed “Kill the Gays” bill, which would have imposed severe sentences, including the death penalty, for lesbian and gay people in that African nation.

The Montreal Gazette reports the reaction of one of Uganda’s LGBT leaders:

Frank Mugisha
Frank Mugisha

“ ‘This bill won’t stop us,’ said Frank Mugisha, Executive Director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), . . . . ‘We will continue to fight until we are free of this legislation. We cannot have oppression forever.’ ”

According to blogger Warren Throckmorton:

“. . . the Anti-Homosexuality Bill will not have a second reading until at least February of next year.”

So the good news is that the bill has been forestalled.  The bad news is that the fight to prevent it from becoming law must still continue.

New Ways Ministry continues to ask you to write to your bishop to ask him to try to persuade the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Vatican to speak against this bill.  The Ugandan bishops, whose record on this bill has been ambiguous, still have on their website a statement against the bill from 2009, when it was first introduced.   Though they oppose the bill, the language and argument of their statement is extremely negative toward homosexuality.

Please continue your prayers and advocacy on this important issue into the new year.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry



Catholic Leaders Must Speak Out Against Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” Bill

Uganda’s infamous “Kill the Gays” bill, which would impose the death penalty on certain people convicted of having sexual relations with a person of the same sex, seems poised for passage soon.

Rebecca Kadaga

The Associated Press reports that Rebecca Kadaga, Uganda’s Parliamentary Speaker, announced yesterday that the bill will be going forward for a vote in the next few weeks:

“Ugandans ‘are demanding it,’ she said, reiterating a promise she made before a meeting on Friday of anti-gay activists who spoke of ‘the serious threat’ posed by homosexuals to Uganda’s children. Some Christian clerics at the meeting in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, asked the speaker to pass the law as ‘a Christmas gift.’

“ ‘Speaker, we cannot sit back while such (a) destructive phenomenon is taking place in our nation,’ the activists said in a petition. ‘We therefore, as responsible citizens, feel duty-bound to bring this matter to your attention as the leader of Parliament … so that lawmakers can do something to quickly address the deteriorating situation in our nation.’ ”

A report in The Advocate notes that the bill can be put to a vote in a matter of two weeks.

A news story in the San Diego Gay and Lesbian News provides some background on the criminal status of homosexuality in Uganda, as well as what the proposed law would mandate:

“Even without the law, Uganda already has laws that criminalize homosexuality and is one of 76 countries where it is illegal to be gay. The proposed law would broaden existing laws, and includes the death penalty to those convicted of aggravated homosexuality and life imprisonment for those convicted of the offense of homosexuality.

“Aggravated homosexuality is defined as gay acts committed by parents or authority figures, HIV-positive people, pedophiles and repeat offenders.

“Offense of homosexuality is defined as same-sex sexual acts or being involved in a same-sex relationship.”

Shamefully silent on this bill have been the Catholic bishops of Uganda, a heavily Catholic nation.  Indeed, earlier this summer it was reported that the Catholic bishops reversed their position from quiet opposition to the bill to outright support for it.

Catholic leaders in the U.S. have spoken in opposition to the bill, including Ambassador Thomas P. Melady, the former U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican.  President Barack Obama has called the bill “odious.”

More Catholic voices will be needed to defeat this horrendous law.  Indeed, in July Ugandan LGBT rights advocates called on the international community, including religious leaders, to lend their voices to oppose the bill.

Catholic bishops here in the United States and Vatican leaders in Rome need to lend their voices to international opposition to the proposed law.  Silence is not an option at this point.  Too many innocent lives hang in the balance.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry