Pop Singer, Comic Strip, and Bishops All Make Headlines in Philippine News

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
Charice Pempengco

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 PostPempengco 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.

The offending comic strip.
The offending comic strip.

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:

Archbishop Jose Palma
Archbishop Jose Palma

“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


Faculty and Staff at Minnesota Catholic College Support Marriage Equality

The debate about Minnesota’s proposed constitutional amendment against marriage equality has erupted on the campus of a small Catholic college in the state.

At St. Scholastica College in Duluth, 192 faculty and staff signed their names to an ad in the student paper declaring that they were not in support of the constitutional amendment.    Though the school had originally decided to stay neutral in this debate, the faculty and staff were moved to place the advertisement because last week the Diocese of Duluth held an event on campus which promoted support for the amendment.

The Duluth News Tribune reports:

“Students at the Duluth school took exception to the event and considered it a breach of the college’s preference that no formal campus groups sponsor events on either side of the marriage amendment question — which is asking Minnesotans to define marriage in the constitution as a union of one man and one woman.

“Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students were especially feeling marginalized after the diocese event, said Gary Boelhower, a professor of theology and religious studies at Scholastica. . . .

“ ‘We want those students to know they are supported,’ Boelhower said.

“ ‘We speak only for our own consciences and do not represent the college or any departments/units within the college,’ the letter read. ‘We recognize that the Catholic Church in Minnesota is taking a clear position in favor of the amendment, while the college itself remains neutral. As educators, we believe we have a responsibility to add our voices to a debate that is often misleading and based on fear.’ ”

“The letter ended with: ‘We are voting “no” to stand in solidarity with all our LGBT brothers and sisters whose fundamental freedoms are presently compromised in our state and country.’ ”

Similar letters were printed by faculty and staff in the student newspapers of two other Minnesota Catholic colleges:  St. John’s University and the College of St. Benedict.

Chris Dolan, a St. Scholastica alumnus commented about how the school supported him while he was a student there in the 1990s:

“The 2001 graduate is an attorney in Minneapolis who credits the culture at St. Scholastica for helping him in a struggle with his sexuality. He is gay and married his partner in Toronto. They have a 4-year-old child.

“ ‘The St. Scholastica experience was instrumental to me in coming out,’ he said. The sisters at the college helped him in coming to an understanding that ‘God made me who I am.’ ”

“Dolan is on the board of trustees at the college and said the efforts of the ‘Vote No’ campaign and especially the faculty letter ‘sends my family a powerful message.’ “

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry