It’s been a busy week in the Philippines for Catholic LGBT news, with three big stories making headlines there and around the globe: 1) the top female singer in the nation came out as a lesbian, though a Catholic official was critical of her announcement; 2) a newspaper apologized for printing an anti-Catholic cartoon that had a lesbian theme; 3) the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines predicted that marriage equality would face strong opposition in that nation. We will report on all three in this post.
1) Top Singer comes out as a lesbian
Charice Pempengco, a top Filipino singer who at one time played an exchange student on the popular American television show, Glee, came out as a lesbian this week in a television interview.
According to an Associate Press story in the Washington Post, Pempengco apologized for any hurt her announcement might cause her mother and brother:
“ ‘I don’t know what the problem with that is because for me, that isn’t a problem,’ Charice said, adding, ‘To all those who will accept me, thank you very, very much.’ ”
Yet she also expressed pride and relief:
“Charice said that after her public coming out, she could now ‘leave my house without hiding anything.’ ”
Reverend Melvin Castro, a high-ranking Catholic Church official, had criticism for the announcement:
“Castro, the executive secretary of the Episcopal Commission on Family and Life, asked the public not to judge the singer while she is still trying to ‘discover her real feelings.’
“With spiritual counseling, she may still realize she is really heterosexual, he said.
“ ‘If her situation is really same-sex attraction, then we have to help her live a life that is celibate and pure,’ Castro told The Associated Press.”
2. Comic Strip Controversy
The Philippine Daily Inquirer, one of the nation’s leading newspapers, apologized for printing a comic strip in which it suggested that the nuns and students at Manila’s all-girls St. Scholastica College are lesbian.
In addition, the newspaper suspended the comic strip, Pugad Baboy, (Nest of Pigs), and the cartoonist Apolonario Pol Medina, Jr., until an investigation is conducted, according to The Bangkok Post.
The Wall Street Journal provided a description of the offending cartoon:
“In the controversial June 4 strip, a new character, lesbian atheist Coleen Tang, accused Catholics of being hypocrites because, she says, all-girl schools run by nuns condone lesbian relationships of students even as the Church condemns homosexual activity. Another character said that at a school in Manila, which is run by the Benedictine Sisters, you wouldn’t find a pretty student without a girlfriend. ‘Could it be that nuns are also lesbians,’ asked another character in the strip. (Remark is translated into English.)”
The Wall Street Journal also reported that he school’s administrators are considering a law suit:
“But St. Scholastica’s College, the exclusive school specifically mentioned in Pugad Baboy strip, isn’t laughing. It’s considering suing. Meanwhile, alumni of the all-girl school in Manila took to social media to complain, running a Twitter thread #RespectScholasticans. The school wants to talk with the Inquirer and Mr. Medina.
“On its official Twitter page, St. Scholastica’s published a letter from school President Sr. Mary Thomas Prado explaining what happened. It also quoted a portion of the letter sent to the Inquirer to protest ‘in the strongest possible terms the way the school was singled out and our Sister-administrators accused of allowing homosexual relationships between its female students.’ ”
3. Catholic Bishops’ Conference on Marriage Equality
ABS-CBNnews.com reported that an official at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines are predicting a tough battle for any news laws that would legalize both divorce and marriage equality:
“The head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) believes any proposal to legalize divorce and gay marriage in the Philippines will not come easy.
“In a CBCPNews report, CBCP President and Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma said any proposed legislation to legalize divorce or gay marriage will experience the same fierce opposition posed against the controversial Reproductive Health Law. The RH Law was passed by Congress last year but its implementation has been delayed by the Supreme Court.”
It will be interesting to see what Philippine lay Catholics think, since a recent report shows that they are strongly supportive of LGBT people and issues.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry