Over the past week or so there has been some good news and some bad news out of Africa concerning Catholic LGBT issues.
On the good news side, a papal envoy to Kenya recently called for the protection of lesbian and gay human rights on a visit to that nation to open a new pastoral center. Kenya’s The Star newspaper reports:
“The pope’s representative to Kenya Charles Daniel Balvo has asked Kenyans to accord homosexuals respect, dignity and human rights and not discriminate against them.
“Speaking after commissioning a Sh400 million pastoral centre at the Embu Catholic Cathedral in Embu town, Balvo said the Catholic Church does not approve of homosexuality but it recognises the dignity of every individual.
” ‘The homosexuals should be defended against violation of their dignity and human rights, they are human beings like anyone of us,’ he said.”
The newspaper article notes that these words from a papal envoy come soon after many African religious leaders criticized U.S. President Obama’s recent trip to Africa where he spoke in favor of LGBT human rights. A Religion News Service article quotes Obama as saying:
“My basic view is that regardless of race, regardless of religion, regardless of gender, regardless of sexual orientation, when it comes to how the law treats you, how the state treats you … people should be treated equally. And that’s a principle that I think applies universally.”
One of those religious leaders speaking against Obama was a cardinal from Kenya. London’sTablet magazine reports:
“Kenyan Cardinal John Njue has issued a strongly worded riposte to US President Barack Obama’s call for the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Africa.
“At the start of his three-nation African tour in the Senegalese capital, Dakar, on 28 June, Mr Obama said gays deserved equal rights. Homosexual acts are illegal in 38 African nations.
“Speaking in Nairobi the next day, Njue, president of the Kenyan bishops’ conference, said Obama, whose father was Kenyan, should forget the decriminalisation of homosexuality.
” ‘Let him forget and forget and forget … I think we need to act according to our own traditions and our faiths,’ said Njue. ‘Those people who have already ruined their society … let them not become our teachers to tell us where to go.’ “
Obviously, Cardinal Njue is unaware that the Catholic faith’s most authoritative traditions are on the side of protecting LGBT human rights, as Archbishop Balvo stated. TheReligion News Service article also quotes Anglican, Lutheran, and Muslim religious leaders who similarly condemned Obama’s intervention. The article also notes:
Prominent among those nations is Zimbabwe, headed by Robert Mugabe, a Catholic, whose homophobic rants we reported on recently. On the campaign trail for re-election, he is continuing to spew anti-gay vitriol, some of which can be read here. For stories of the reality of gay lives under Zimbabwean terror, I refer you to the blog 76Crimes.com.
A controversy is brewing in the Dominican Republic after President Obama’s choice of an openly gay US ambassador to that nation provoked a severe backlash from conservative Christians, including an anti-gay slur from a Catholic cardinal.
Choosing James ‘Wally’ Brewster, also a major LGBT activist and Obama campaign fundraiser, as nominee for the position is part of a series of LGBT appointments to the diplomatic corp. While equal rights are advancing domestically, critics abroad contend this is the latest efforts of the US to export LGBT rights. Among the critics are members of the Catholic hierarchy in the Dominican Republic, which is 88% Catholic and where bishops heavily influence public opinion. The Miami Herald reports:
“Monsignor Pablo Cedano, auxiliary Catholic bishop of Santo Domingo, said the appointment of Brewster showed ‘a lack of sensitivity, of respect by the United States.’
“Brewster’s position on gay rights ‘is far from our cultural reality,’ he said, adding that if he comes, ‘he’s going to suffer,’ due to the cultural differences, ‘and he’ll have to leave.’ ”
This conflict heightened after Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez used a homophobic slur at a press conference when commenting on the Brewster’s appointment. DailyMail Online reports he called the nominee a ‘maricon,’ which translates as ‘faggot’ or ‘sissy.’ He continued by saying:
“If the government of Washington considers they are apt to send that kind of ambassador, let the government in Washington go ahead…”
“López warned that if Brewster is sent to the country, ‘the United States can expect anything.’ ”
The cardinal also stated the Church in the Dominican Republic would have no official position on Brewster’s nomination and the Archdiocese of Santo Domingo made no comment. Not all object to President Obama’s choice, however, including LGBT activists in the nation who welcomed the American efforts to expand equality. As The Miami Heraldreports:
“It’s a great honor for our country to have someone of his prominence be named ambassador,” Estefanie Hernandez, a member of activist organization GAYP, said as she held a sign welcoming Brewster to motorists who passed a busy oceanfront drive. “To have someone from our community to serve as ambassador is a show of support.”
Supporters also include a Catholic priest, Fr. Jesus Maria Tejada, who openly defied the prelates’ offensive comments and said anti-LGBT prejudice is inappropriate and Brewster would not be discriminated against. More Catholics, clergy and laity alike in the Dominican Republic, need to speak out against this type of anti-gay slander and affirm the Catholic Church’s call to welcome all into the community with respect for each person’s dignity.
Catholic commentators continue to reflect upon the two Supreme Court marriage decisions this week, and their intellectual and personal musings are too good to pass by. We present you with a patchwork of summaries and excerpts for you to consider as you do your own reflections on this week’s events.
Two writers have noted the sad juxtaposition of Supreme Court decisions this week. On Tuesday, the Court unfairly dismantled the Voting Rights Act, greatly restricting justice, and on Wednesday, the Court decided two cases in favor of marriage equality.
“with a heavy heart, knowing full well that, unlike Wednesday, the Supreme Court rulings that took place Tuesday were not a great moment for America, justice or civil rights.”
Manson notes both the moral and practical connections that exist between the Voting Rights Act and LGBT equality:
“The fight against voter suppression laws and the fight for LGBT rights share some deep connections. At the most fundamental level, both are civil rights battles for equal protection under the law. In the same way that LGBT activists have asked other victims of discrimination to identify with our struggle, LGBT people must continue to foster the bonds of identity and solidarity across communities of justice-seekers.
“At a strategic level, LGBT activists must also consider the ways in which voter suppression could undermine the fight for equality in the 35 states where same-sex marriage continues to be illegal. If right-wing lawmakers are successful in restricting voter eligibility among the disenfranchised, LGBT civil rights will be as vulnerable as government entitlements, civil liberties, collective bargaining and protections for immigrants.”
Fr. Daniel Horan, OFM, on his blog DatingGod.com, also noted the disappointment in the Voting Rights case, and noted that the U.S. bishops’ characterization of the marriage decisions as “tragic” seemed misplaced:
“[W]hile the Tuesday decision might rightly be called ‘tragic’ for its short-sightedness and lack of historical appreciation for the crimes and abuses against women and men of color in the south, the decisions on Wednesday were absolutely not tragic. That anyone would say that — and this quote has circulated widely in subsequent days — strikes me as quite appalling. Wednesday’s decisions, as best I can tell, affect no one for the worse. They do not threaten different-sex marriages. They do not ruin the foundations of our society. They do not do anything but provide another step to guarantee that all human beings have the right to be treated like other human beings in the United States. We’ve come as a society to recognize, oftentimes too slowly, the need for these legal protections with regard to sex, race, and now sexual orientation — all things inherent to a person and outside one’s control. . . . Vatican II’s Gaudium et Spes reiterates the need the church has to recognize the legitimate role of governments to protect the rights of all people regardless of this inherent characteristics of their personhood:
‘If the citizens’ responsible cooperation is to produce the good results which may be expected in the normal course of political life, there must be a statute of positive law providing for a suitable division of the functions and bodies of authority and an efficient and independent system for the protection of rights. The rights of all persons, families and groups, and their practical application, must be recognized, respected and furthered, together with the duties binding on all citizen (no. 75).’
“All persons, families, and groups!”
Mark Silk, a professor of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College and director of the college’s Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life, offered a very Catholic way for “How the bishops can live with Same-Sex Marriage” in a Religion News Service essay with that title. In it, Silk points out how “marriage” is used frequently as an analogy in Catholicism to describe other realities. A nun is sometimes considered married to Christ, a bishop is considered married to his diocese.
Using this very Catholic notion of analogical thinking, Silk suggests that the bishops do the same for thinking about lesbian and gay couples who marry:
“In the USCCB’s letter condemning the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decisions, Cardinal Dolan and Archbishop Cordileone write, ‘Marriage is the only institution that brings together a man and a woman for life, providing any child who comes from their union with the secure foundation of a mother and a father.’
“Sure, guys, but in your book marriage is not only that. So what if same-sex civil marriage is not oriented toward biological procreation and achieved sacramentally in a Catholic church? Use your analogical imaginations.”
Finally, one of the more profound reflections on this week’s news comes from Thomas Bushlack, a professor of moral theology at the University of St. Thomas, in St. Paul, Minnesota. Writing on the blog PoliticalTheology.com, Bushlack recognizes that with DOMA struck down, we are in a new political, cultural, and theological moment:
“We are clearly in the middle of a fairly rapid cultural turning point regarding the moral and legal status of same-sex couples, and the views of many Americans are tethered to and influenced by the underlying theological issues that inform their opinions. Despite the plurality of voices within these theological debates, one thing seems certain: what was once taken as a commonplace definition of marriage as between one man and one woman can no longer be assumed.”
This new “moment” means giving up some of old ways of thinking and acting:
“I believe that efforts on the part of individual Christians and church leaders . . . to solidify the legal definition of marriage as between one man and one woman has neither served to promote the common good nor to facilitate the preaching of the Gospel. Even if one agrees with the theological and moral arguments against same-sex marriage (and there is clearly not consensus here), it has not appeared obvious to the majority of Christians that this necessarily entails prohibiting it in a civic and legal arena. The Supreme Court decisions offered today reflect this general public sense that same sex couples deserve the equal protection conferred by the Fifth Amendment – regardless of the theological and moral issues involved (which the courts are not competent to judge anyways).”
Most importantly, Bushlack offers some important advice on moving forward for both detractors and supporters of marriage equality:
“If I were to offer my opinion with regard to the best way for theologians and church leaders to move forward following today’s rulings, it would be to reassess our rhetoric. For those opposed to civil recognition of same-sex marriage, the argument that allowing same-sex marriage will have a negative impact upon the common good of society has been found unconvincing, not least because there is little tangible evidence to back it up. And there is no logical step from a theological argument based on Genesis 1 to inscribing “one man, one woman” into civil law. For those of us who support the extension of greater legal protections and rights to same-sex couples, we need to refrain from gloating and find ways to remain united as a church with a common goal of spreading the Gospel even amidst vehement disagreement.”
Bondings 2.0 will continue providing you with links to relevant commentary on this past week’s historic decisions. You might also want to read our previous posts on the topic:
As we wait here in the United States for our Supreme Court to weigh in on two marriage equality cases this week, news from across the Atlantic about Catholic support gay and lesbian couples is positive.
A Belgian archbishop and cardinal have both joined the growing list of senior Catholic Church officials who are now supporting civil unions for same-gender committed couples. London’s Tablet magazine reported this month:
“Two of the most senior Belgian clerics have voiced support for civil unions, but said the Church would not see such a partnership as a marriage, which they said was only between a man and a woman.
“Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard, Archbishop of Brussels, made his comments through his spokesman in response to an interview by the Belgian newspaper De Tijd with his successor, Cardinal Godfried Danneels.
“In an interview to mark his 80th birthday, the cardinal told the paper it was good that states were making reforms to normalise same-sex relationships, saying it showed ‘more nuanced thinking about the person in their totality rather than being fixated on the moral principle.’ He said the recognition of gay relationships was a legal matter and not one for the Church to comment on, even though they could not constitute real marriage.
Danneels said the Church had evolved in its understanding of homosexuals.
What is significant here is not just their support, but, more importantly, Cardinal Daneels’ reasoning behind his support. The fact that he wants a more nuanced approach to gay and lesbian relationships, and that he sees this as an issue affecting the entire person, not just sexual activity, are major steps forward for the way a Catholic leader has described this matter.
QueeringTheChurch.com’s Terence Weldon, intrepid gay Catholic blogger in the United Kingdom, cites additional information about Cardinal Daneels’ support, gleaned from an Italian news source,Chiesa Expressso. Their account points out that Daneels’ statement is a significant departure from a 2003 Vatican statement from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) which repudiated any support for marriage or civil unions for lesbian and gay people:
“Ten years have passed since the publication of that document by the Ratzingerian CDF under the pontificate of Karol Wojtyla. But the contents of the ‘considerations’ cited above seem by now to belong to another ecclesial era.
“One faithful mirror of this new course are the declarations released to the press by Cardinal Godfried Danneels, archbishop emeritus of Mechelen-Brussels, on the eve of his eightieth birthday on June 4.
“The Belgian cardinal – who without hypocrisy did not conceal his disappointment at the election of Benedict XVI at the conclave of 2005, and this year was one of the main electors of Pope Francis – stated that the Church ‘has never opposed the fact that there should exist a sort of “marriage” between homosexuals, but one therefore speaks of a “sort of’ marriage, not of true marriage between a man and a woman, therefore another word must be found for the dictionary.” ‘
“And he concluded:
” ‘About the fact that this should be legal, that it should be made legitimate through a law, about this the Church has nothing to say.’
“The Belgian newspaper ‘Le Soir,’ in reporting the words of Danneels, added that ‘the position of the cardinal is shared by Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard,” his successor as archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels. The newspaper does not provide the evidence for this agreement, which in fact has been denied by Léonard’s spokesman. But there is no doubt that Danneels has effectively said, with the frankness that distinguishes him, what other cardinals and prelates have said in recent months.”
Additional quotations from Cardinal Daneels on the issue of civil unions can be found at the Gay Mystics blog.
Weldon has a very comprehensive list of all of the recent support for civil unions by senior church leaders, which can be found here.
As we have stated before, this recent development shows that Catholic leaders are in fact, if slowly, responding to the growing support that the Catholic laity are exhibiting for supporting committed gay and lesbian relationships. May this development continue, and may the leaders continue to follow!
The Pew Research Center released a report last week about a survey they conducted of LGBT people in the United States, including their participation and attitudes toward religious institutions. The major finding, which grabbed the headlines, is that LGBT people find religious institutions unfriendly towards themselves, and many are alienated from these organizations.
“Gay Americans are much less religious than the general U.S. population, and about three in 10 of them say they have felt unwelcome in a house of worship, a new study shows.
“The Pew Research Center’s study, released Thursday (June 13), details how gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans view many of the country’s prominent faiths: in a word, unfriendly.
“The vast majority said Islam (84 percent); the Mormon church (83 percent); the Roman Catholic Church (79 percent); and evangelical churches (73 percent) were unfriendly. Jews and nonevangelical Protestants drew a more mixed reaction, with more than 40 percent considering them either unfriendly or neutral about gays and lesbians.”
Those statistics are not very good for Catholics. It shows that we have a terrible image problem in terms of how LGBT people perceive us. Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, in a HuffingtonPost blog noted the difficult challenge that this presents our church:
“The Pew Survey should serve as a wake-up call to Catholics — not only those supportive of LGBT equality but all those who in conscience disagree with the bishops on a broad range of issues related to gender and sexuality, from women’s ordination to birth control. We need to grapple with the fact that our bishops are defining Catholicism in a way that is directly opposed to what most Catholics believe and want our church to be. We have a worse brand-identity issue than J.C. Penney!”
The Washington Post story offered the perspective or Ross Murray, director of faith and news initiatives at GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) who suggested a reason for the negative attitudes LGBT people have of religion:
“[Ross Murray] thinks the sense of unfriendliness comes in part from the loudest voices of faith speaking through an anti-gay frame. Religious groups that support gays and lesbians, as a GLAAD study found last year, get far less media attention.
“ ‘The leading anti-gay voices always put it in religious terms, which taints how people view religion,’ Murray said.”
“Almost 50 percent of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender adults say they have no religious affiliation, compared to 20 percent of the general population. One-third of religiously affiliated gay and lesbian adults say there is a conflict between their faith beliefs and their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
“Among LGBT Catholics, two-thirds (66 percent) say the Catholic Church is unfriendly toward them. . .”
Clearly, religious people have their work cut out for them if they want to make sure that LGBT people feel welcome in their communities. Duddy-Burke offered some suggestions:
“There are many options for Catholics troubled by the findings of the recent Pew survey. Most effective would be ensuring that anytime a church leader says something untrue, unkind or unwarranted about LGBT people; fires someone due to sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, or an expression of support for LGBT people; or takes a position on a public matter that upholds institutional discrimination, call him out on it. Let him and others know that he is speaking only for a minority of Catholics.
“If you know LGBT people in your parish or faith community, tell them you’re glad for their presence and gifts. Ask if they find the community supportive, or if they find anything that happens there discomforting. If a priest delivers an anti-gay message, let him know you find it problematic, given Jesus’ model of broad inclusion.”
Is there any good news in this survey? There might be one small glimmer for Catholics. The Huffington Post news story about the survey cited some interesting data comparing church affiliation of LGBT people to the church affiliation of the general adult population. 14% of LGBT people identify as Catholics, while 22% of the general population do. That means that the discrepancy between LGBT Catholics and general population Catholics is only 8%, which is not anywhere near the discrepancy for Protestants generally (27 % of LGBT people identify as Protestants, compared to 49% in the general population.)
This statistic is cold comfort, however, when we realize how many LGBT Catholics feel alienated from their church and how many LGBT people view Catholicism negatively. I think the reason we have a smaller discrepancy has to do more with the loyalty that LGBT Catholics feel toward their church, rather than anything positive that the church is doing for them.
“I think that relationship is going to mend, but it will happen slowly … I hope that inclusive faith communities are able to get their message out even better, so that there can be better trust between LGBT people and religion.”
In the United States, the general population has been growing accustomed to realizing that Catholics are strongly supportive of LGBT justice and equality. Poll after poll keeps showing that Catholics lead all Christian denominations in their support for issues like marriage equality.
Therefore, it should come as little surprise to find out that, according to a new survey of 39 nations by the Pew Research Center, when one looks at the global picture of LGBT acceptance, one finds that traditionally Catholic countries stand out as far more accepting than other nations. What’s more, the United States is not the leader in global acceptance of LGBT people.
“The broadest acceptance was found in countries where religion is not central to life, such as Canada (80 percent), France (77 percent) and Australia (79 percent). Yet the poll also found high levels of tolerance toward gay people in some heavily Catholic countries, including Spain (86 percent), Italy (74 percent), Argentina (74 percent) and the Philippines (73 percent). In the United States, 60 percent of the public said gay people should be accepted in society.”
The United States, in contrast, had only a 60 percent rate of acceptance.
Gary Gates, a demographer at The Williams Institute, which tracks LGBT issues in surveys, gave one explanation of why strongly religious nations may be more accepting:
“There are cultures where religion is a very, very important factor, as a regular part of daily life. In those countries, it’s harder to distinguish what’s religious and what’s culture. But in other countries, like Italy or Spain, the culture has always had a live-and-let-live dimension to it. Even with a very strong religious presence, you see that kind of attitude coming out.”
Results for factors other than religion tended to mirror the trends seen in the United States. The Washington Post reported:
“As in the United States, age was a factor. The Pew study said those younger than 30 are more accepting of homosexuals in society than people who are 30 to 49. Both groups are more likely to express tolerance of gays than people 50 or older.
“The Pew poll generally found little difference in attitudes held by men and women in any given country. But in countries where there is a difference, women are more accepting of homosexuality than men are, Pew said.”
“Roughly, an increase in GDP [gross domestic product] of $620 is good for one percentage point more people agreeing with the statement ‘homosexuality should be accepted by society.’ “
BusinessInsider.com noted that one of the important exceptions to this rule was the Philippines:
“The biggest outperformer on acceptance is the Philippines, again heavily Catholic, where Pew finds levels of acceptance comparable to western Europe despite per capita GDP of less than $5,000.”
The Washington Post said that the new study’s results were corroborated by a similar earlier study:
“A smaller study, conducted in 2011 by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, found support for homosexual behavior growing in 27 of 31 countries. The highest level of acceptance was in northern Europe, while disapproval remained strong in Russia and several other Eastern European countries that used to be part of the Soviet Union.”
It seems that the news of acceptance across the globe just keeps getting better and better, especially where Catholics are concerned!
Congratulations to the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) for voting to allow openly gay scouts in their troops! Let’s continue to pray that this experience will pave the way for also allowing openly gay scout leaders to be accepted by the organization. The same Catholic principles of justice and human dignity apply in both cases.
So far there has been no official Catholic response to the Boy Scouts’ decision. Last week, the National Catholic Committee on Scouting (NCCS) said that it was taking a wait and see approach to the decision, and would issue a statement after the vote. Bishop Robert Guglielmone, the U.S. bishops’ liaison to the NCCS offered a more hopeful statement this week, noting:
“With regard to a possible BSA membership change, we will continue to uphold the truths of the Church’s teaching and strive to maintain our ties with the BSA.”
Noted Catholic author Father James Martin, SJ, posted the following reaction on his Facebook page:
“As a former Cub Scout and Webelo I support the Boy Scouts’ welcoming everyone into the Scouts. As a Catholic I support the recognition of the fundamental human dignity of every person..”
Interestingly, the conservative Mormon church had already expressed support for including gay scouts, even before the vote. According to The New York Times,
“The Mormon Church has declared its support for the Boy Scouts of America’s proposal to end a longstanding ban on openly gay youths, while continuing to bar gay adult leaders.”
“The current BSA proposal constructively addresses a number of important issues that have been part of the on-going dialogue including consistent standards for all BSA partners, recognition that Scouting exists to serve and benefit youth rather than Scout leaders, a single standard of moral purity for youth in the program, and a renewed emphasis for Scouts to honor their duty to God.
“We are grateful to BSA for their careful consideration of these issues. We appreciate the positive things contained in this current proposal that will help build and strengthen the moral character and leadership skills of youth as we work together in the future.”
“About 70% of all Scout troops are run by faith-based organizations, according to the Boy Scouts of America. About 37% are Mormon, 10% Methodist and 8% Catholic.”
Kevin Kloosterman, a Mormon bishop from Illinois, reflected on his church’s support of inclusion:
“I look forward to a day when our LGBT sisters and brothers will be judged not by orientation or gender identity but on the content of their character. We still have not come to that day yet, but I do see progress. I hope my faith community and the BSA will continue to make progress towards inclusion and acceptance of our gay neighbors and loved ones, and that scouting will return to its honored tradition of developing leadership and values in all of our youth and the ban against gay leaders will be lifted.”
Wouldn’t it be great if our Catholic bishops followed the same course as the Mormons, not only tolerating the Boy Scouts’ decision, but welcoming it, and look forward to the day when Gospel justice is an active principle for all in society, including gay Boy Scouts’ leaders.