Catholic Church: LGBT Catholics, Conservative Christians Jockey as Family Synod Approaches
The Ways of Love: International Conference for a Pastoral Care with Homosexual and Transsexual People, took place in Rome today, October 3, in advance of the upcoming bishops’ synod on the family. America Magazine, a Catholic journal published by the Jesuit Order, published “Towards Global Inclusion of LGBT People Within Catholic Communities,” remarks made by James Alison at the conference. Alison recounts the biblical story of Peter visiting the house of Cornelius, a Roman Centurion and gentile, as an allegory of the kind of taboo- and rule-breaking that he says should, but does not, mark the treatment of LGBT Catholics by the hierarchy and anti-gay Catholics. Here’s an excerpt that talks about the global aspect of these debates:
…One of the things people say is: “All this about LGBT people is a decadent Western value and we should defend ourselves against it.” But the people they are defending themselves against are not decadent westerners, but their own brothers and sisters, Ugandans, Nigerians, Iranians, Russians, Saudis, Jamaicans. These are our sisters and brothers who have discovered something true about themselves, and about their capacity for love, and know that what is true makes sense to them. And here is what is remarkable: this discovering of something that is true is working in exactly the way that the Gospel said it would, and following just the dynamic of the Spirit that flows upon us from Jesus. And yet bizarrely, Christian leaders of all denominations are joining together with leaders of other religious organisations, ones that not only do not know of the Holy Spirit, but are in some cases adamantly opposed to the existence and enlivening effect of any such thing. Such leaders would rather fence themselves round with all the trappings of “religion” than spread the Good News of the One who has relativized all religious formalities in order to bring us into a new humanity starting from the rejected and precarious.
PinkNews reports that the first World Congress of Homosexual Catholics’ Associations will be held in Portugal next week, bringing together 28 associations from 16 countries who will call on Pope Francis to make the church more inclusive. According to Portugal News Online, the meeting has been timed to coincide with the Synod on the Family, and will promote the acceptance and integration of LGBT people in parishes and local communities. New Ways Ministry will be active in both Rome and Portugal.
In contrast, dozens of conservative Christian activists are urging Pope Francis and the bishops to “protect marriage” and “reiterate a traditional understanding of sexuality and gender roles” at the synod, notes Jack Jenkins at ThinkProgress.
The signers of the letter are a veritable who’s-who of Catholic “marriage activists,” people who advocate for conservative concepts of marriage, sexuality, and gender roles. Signatories include Robert P. George, Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University and former chairman of the National Organization for Marriage; Mark Regnerus, sociology professor at University of Texas at Austin and author of deeply controversial report on same-sex parenting; Alan Sears, President of the right-wing legal group Alliance Defending Freedom; Ryan T. Anderson of The Heritage Foundation, who infamously sparred with gay marriage advocates and Piers Morgan on CNN; Mary Ann Glendon, Harvard Law School professor and former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican; and Crystalina and Jason Evert, founders of the Chastity Project, an effort “focused solely on promoting purity.”
The letter also included non-Catholic signers such as megachurch pastor Rick Warren, a Protestant Christian and head of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, and Alan J. Hawkins, a Mormon Professor of Family Life at Brigham Young University. Their involvement — as well as the release of the letter itself — exposes a growing sense of uncertainty among many Christian conservatives regarding Francis’ views on family issues. Indeed, even as religious conservatives push for the Vatican to stick to its older policies and positions, religious progressives have reason for hope: Although the first Argentinian pope hasn’t taken any formal steps to change church doctrine, Francis has gained global popularity in part for shifting the Vatican’s focus away from culture war battles, saying the church is too “obsessed” with the issues such as abortion and responding to a question about homosexuality by saying “Who am I to judge?” He has also expressed open ambivalence on the concept of priestly celibacy, and when Francis officiated the marriages of 20 couples at St. Peter’s Basilica in September, there was widespread speculationthat the couples were meant to represent a broader understanding of family: a few of the pairs were already living together, some were getting married for the second time, and one of the brides already had a child.
United Nations: Human Rights Council Adopts Anti-Discrimination Resolution
Last Friday, the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a resolution against anti-LGBT violence and discrimination. From the Washington Blade’s Michael Lavers:
The U.S., along with Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Cuba, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Montenegro, Peru, Philippines, South Korea, South Africa, Macedonia, the U.K., Venezuela and Vietnam voted for the proposal. Algeria, Botswana, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Gabon, Indonesia, Kenya, Kuwait, Maldives, Morocco, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates opposed it. Burkina Faso, China, Congo, India, Kazakhstan, Namibia and Sierra Leone abstained. The U.N. Human Rights Council before the final vote rejected seven proposed amendments put forth by Egypt, Uganda, Pakistan, South Sudan and other countries that sought to strip LGBT-specific language from the proposal…
LGBT advocates earlier this week expressed concern that South Africa would not support the latest resolution, but in the end the country backed it. Ambassador Abdul Samad Minty, who is South Africa’s permanent U.N. representative in Geneva, said after the vote that the resolution “is in sync with our national values shaped on our own history and experience of discrimination.” “This history and the struggle against all forms of discrimination has therefore made us, as a people and a country, committed to the principle that no person should be subjected to discrimination or violence based on race, class, sex, religion, gender and as is the case with this resolution, on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Minty. “It is the same value base that guides our stance on fighting for equality between countries and why we shall always make our voices heard about exploitation and oppression of people in any form.”
Asia was one of two continents from where countries abstained, supported and opposed the resolution. The only other continent that had countries in all three categories was Africa.
Japan, Philippines, Republic of Korea, and Vietnam in Asia were states that supported the resolution. China, Kazakhstan and India abstained. Indonesia, Kuwait, Maldives, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates were Asian states that opposed the resolution.
The 14 nations that opposed the resolution included Muslim Asian countries. Those in favor of the resolution included Western and Latin American nations, as well as South Africa, the Philippines and Vietnam.
“We feel there is an attempt to impose uniculturality [that] runs counter to religious and cultural practices of some countries,” Saudi Arabia’s representative said during the session. “In my opinion, this [resolution] is a human rights violation.”
Countries that opposed the resolution tried to use procedural moves to scuttle the resolution and strip it of any significance by removing all references to sexual orientation and gender identity.
However, the resolution dismissed cultural specificity to justify states allowing anti-gay policies. “While the significance of national and regional particularities and various historical, cultural and religious backgrounds must be borne in mind, it is the duty of states, regardless of their political, economic and cultural systems, to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms,” it said.
You can download the text of the resolution.
Free and Equal, the UN Campaign for LGBT Equality, released a video made during the September opening of the UN General Assembly. The UN Human Rights Office and members of the Core Group on LGBT Rights at the UN set up a photo booth and invited visitors – including chiefs of state and diplomats — to have their picture taken while holding a sign affirming their support for LGBT equality.
Brazil: Evangelicals on Verge of Electing President?
“Brazil’s increasingly powerful evangelical Christians are tantalizingly close to electing one of their own as president next month in what would be a historic shift for the world’s largest Catholic nation,” reports Reuters’ Anthony Boadle.
Marina Silva, an environmentalist running neck and neck in polls with incumbent President Dilma Rousseff, is a Pentecostal Christian who often invokes God on the campaign trail and has said she sometimes consults the Bible for inspiration when making important political decisions.
Some 65 percent of Brazil’s 200 million people are Roman Catholics but evangelicals are rapidly gaining followers and power.
They grew from 5 percent of the population in 1970 to more than 22 percent in 2010 and the trend has continued. Evangelical groups have made particular inroads among urban working Brazilians who benefited from economic prosperity over the last two decades and are now demanding a greater say in politics.
Recent polls show evangelical voters would support Silva over Rousseff by a margin of about 54 percent to 38 percent if the two face each other in a runoff on Oct. 26, as most expect.
In a tight race, that could swing the result.
Boadle writes that the growth of evangelical political power in Brazil has been compared to the rise of the Religious Right in the U.S. a few decades ago, but notes that Brazilian evangelicals have not widely adopted the Religious Right’s economic platform. “Silva and Rousseff both call themselves socialists and push for robust welfare programs.”
Yet similarities with the “religious right” abound. Brazil’s evangelical faithful have turned their opposition to gay marriage and abortion, which are both illegal here, into key national political issues.
Funded by the tithes their followers are asked to pay, the more successful evangelical churches are increasingly turning their newfound wealth into political influence.
They have bought up radio and television stations across Brazil and financed campaigns to elect evangelical candidates, including many pastors, to seats in Congress.
The evangelical caucus in Congress showed its muscle in May by forcing Rousseff to revoke authorization for public health service abortions in exceptional cases of pregnancies caused by rape and of fetuses with brain defects.
For the first time in a Brazilian election, there are two evangelical candidates running for president. Silva has eclipsed the second hopeful, Pastor Everaldo, although he has made his mark in debates by accusing Rousseff’s government of trampling on family values and seeking to legalize abortion.
Under evangelical pressure, Silva has changed her party’s position on gay rights. And Rousseff, a Catholic who has rarely used faith in her political career, is now presenting herself as a good Christian. “Happy is the nation whose God is the Lord,” she quoted from Psalms at one campaign stop.
Chile: Civil Partnership Law Faces Opposition from Church, Politicians.
The Santiago Times’ Laurie Blair reports this week that a civil partnership law is stirring passionate debate and facing fierce opposition in the country’s Senate. According to the paper, LGBT advocates have praised the proposed Life Partner Agreement (AVP), “which would represent Chile’s first legal recognition of homosexual couples.”
Opening the discussions Tuesday, Socialist Party (PS) Sen. Fulvio Rossi described the occasion as “a highly important day for Chilean democracy, for human rights and for a group that has been permanently discriminated against.”
Nevertheless, the vote continues to drag its heels due to the insistence of right-wing Independent Democratic Union senators that each of the 46 articles contained within the law be voted on separately.
“I’m voting against something which contributes towards the legalization of homosexual marriage,” Sen. Iván Moreira of the UDI, said Tuesday. “I believe this is an attack against marriage.”
Moreira also attacked the AVP in relation to same-sex couples adopting children, arguing it was incompatible with the Chilean Constitution, which “demands that [the state] acts in the best interests of minors.”
Earlier this month, Catholic Bishop Hédito Espinoza slammed the AVP proposal, accusing President Sebastián Piñera of compromising the family and saying,“The devil has been attacking the family. The morning after pill appeared after divorce, today we fight for sexual orientation of minors and tomorrow we will have to orientate the pedophile.”
A supporter of the law, Christian Democrat Sen. Ignacio Walker, says the law does not constitute “a religious issue” but aims to formalize same-sex couples as a matter of public policy. “I’m a supporter of heterosexual marriage,” he added. “But it can’t be that no legal status exists for homosexual couples.”
Blair notes that the push for relationship recognition benefits from major changes in public opinion:
Poll data suggests Chilean public opinion has shifted significantly in favour of same-sex marriage in recent years. Surveys by the Centre for Public Studies (CEP) found an increase in public support for equal marriage from 27 percent in 2011 to 36 percent in November 2013.
Similarly, a September 2014 study by the National Institute of Youth (INJUV) found that 70 percent of Chileans between 15 and 29 years of age were in favour of legalizing same-sex marriage.“There’s been an enormous cultural shift,” echoed Jiménez. “Nowadays about sixty to seventy percent of young people are on board with equal marriage and the option of [same-sex] couples having children. Indeed, this right [of same-sex civil unions] has largely been delayed due to a lack of political will among political leaders.”
For now, deliberations over the AVP continue, but Jiménez and Movilh have already set their sights on the future:
“In the next three to four years we’re hoping for equal marriage. Like I said, there’s been an very positive cultural change.”
Levy Fidelix, a minor presidential candidate whose support stands at less than one percent of potential voters, ignited a firestorm of controversy for anti-gay comments he made at a presidential debate on Sunday. Associated Press reports that he said the country needs to stand up against gay people, who should receive psychological help far away from the general population.
Fidelix, a former journalist who founded the center-right Brazilian Labor Renewal Party, gets equal airtime in presidential debates as President Dilma Rousseff, her main opponent Marina Silva and four other presidential hopefuls.
During the debate, candidate Luciana Genro asked Fidelix why some politicians refused to accept same-sex couples as families.
He responded with a vulgar statement about gay sex not leading to reproduction. “Those people who have those problems should receive psychological help. And very far away from us, because here it is not acceptable.”
He also said it was “ugly” seeing gay couples walk by on Sao Paulo’s main avenue.
Some members of the audience laughed at the remarks, but social media exploded with criticism….
Silva, the candidate, has already faced complaints by gay rights activists. In August, she retracted proposals to change the constitution to allow gay marriage and to support a law that would criminalize sex-based discrimination.
A day after launching her government plan in which the proposals were revealed, Silva said there was a mistake in the publication process and clarified that she believed the same-sex unions allowed in Brazil already ensure all rights to same-sex couples.
Uganda: President Yoweri Expresses Doubts About Renewing Anti-Gay Law
President Museveni published an op ed in which he supported legislation to prevent the promotion of homosexuality to minors but said he feared “the possibility of trade boycott by Western companies under the pressure of the homosexual lobbies in the West.” As we have reported, the Constitutional Court struck down the Anti-Homosexuality Act on procedural grounds, and lawmakers are pushing for its passage. Museveni has reportedly asked for amendments to prevent the law from targeting “consenting homosexuals.”
UK: Local Church Hosts Conference on Same-Sex Marriage
Last weekend, St. John the Evangelist Church in Waterloo hosted a conference on the theological basis for affirming same-sex marriage. Among the participants were Alan Wilson, the Bishop of Buckingham, and Rev. Andrew Foreshew-Cain, “who was the second Church of England priest to marry his same-sex partner in June, who said he had lsot respect for his bishop, after he was disciplined for getting married,” according to Joseph Patrick McCormick at Pink News.
Spain: Catalonia Passes Anti-Homophobia Law
On Thursday, the Catalan Parliament approved a law that would punish perpetrators of anti-LGBT violence. According to news reports, the vote was opposed by Spain’s ruling conservative “opular Party and by Catalan nationalists, but was backed by left-wing groups.
Russia: Gov’t Cancels Exchange Program as Gay Teen Opts to Stay in U.S.
The Russian government is up in arms about a teenager who declined to return home after participating in an exchange program. The student is reportedly saying with a gay couple that has other foster children. BuzzFeed’s Lester Feder reports that a Russian official has charged that the 17-year-old boy was illegally put up for adoption and “handed over to a homosexual American couple.” But an attorney with the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center said the Russian government “is completely mischaracterizing the history of what’s gone on here and the legal posture of the case.”
An HBO Documentary, “Hunted: The War Against Gays in Russia,” will be released on Monday, October 6. This week filmmaker Ben Steele talked about his documentary with Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart.
Cameroon: Seven Arrested, Charged with Homosexuality
Seven men were arrested and charged with “homosexual relations, prostitution and pimping,” according to the website 76Crimes.com. The article quotes the officer in charge of the case:
“Lesbians, gay men, men who sleep with men, women who sleep with women, men who act that way — all that is illegal. It’s non-negotiable, except at the prosecutors’ office. These are people who are controlled by an evil spirit.”
Kenya: Human Rights Watch Urges Gov’t to Allow NGOs to Work
“The National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission seeks to carry out basic human rights work, such as standing up for LGBT people who have been victims of violence,” said Eric Gitari, executive director of NGLHRC. “To deny the NGLHRC the right to register is to deny them the chance to carry out this important work and violates the rights to freedom of association and non-discrimination enshrined in Kenya’s Constitution.”
Monica Tabengwa, an LGBT rights researcher at Human Rights Watch, also said the discriminatory refusal to grant legal status to an organization “violates Kenya’s international obligations.”
Kenyans law criminalizes “carnal knowledge against the order of nature.”
France: Anti-Gay National Front Wins Seats in Senate
This week the far-right Front Nationale, led by Marine Le Pen, picked up its first two seats in the French Senate. The Party has aligned itself with the aggressive anti-marriage equality movement in France.
Taiwan: ‘Asian Nobel’ Winner Urges Marriage Equality
Albie Sachs, a former South African Constitutional Court judge, has received a Tang Prize for the rule of law. Taiwan introduced the Tang Prize in five categories this year as an Asian version of the Nobel prizes. In his remarks, Sachs said it is “very heartening” that legislators have taken a first step on drafting a bill on marriage equality. He said such a move would make Taiwan “a leader in terms of openness to recognizing human dignity in forms that were denied before, and bring a lot of distinction to Taiwan.”
Gay Asia News notes that religious opposition has helped stall progress toward equality:
Marriage between same-sex couples is not legally recognized in Taiwan, although 3.5 to 5 percent or at least 1.2 million of the 23.4 million people in Taiwan identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
A draft bill that would legalize same-sex marriage cleared a first reading in the Legislative Yuan last year and was sent to the legislature’s Judiciary and Organic Laws and Statutes Committee for review.
However, since then, the bill’s progress has stalled, largely due to religious opposition as seen in last year’s rally against revising Article 972 of the Civil Code to change the term “man and woman” to “two parties” in the article concerning marriage and the term “father and mother” to “parents” in the Civil Code.
Philippines: Anti-Discrimination Ordinance Passes Quezon City Council
The city council of Quezon City unanimously approved an anti-discrimination ordinance this week, expanding a law from 2003 that banned anti-gay housing discrimination.