Conservative Bishops Headed For Synod Victory?; Indonesian Sharia Official Says Gay Caning Law Meant To ‘Safeguard Human Dignity’; Slovenian Court OK’s Referendum on Marriage Equality Law; Global LGBT Recap

The World Congress of Families, which brings together American Religious Right activists with their counterparts from around the world, gathers next week in Salt Lake City, Utah, the first time one of its annual summits has been held in the U.S. WCF officials have responded to sharp criticism about the anti-gay work carried out by its partners and participants by declaring themselves committed to respect and civil dialogue. That claim does not stand up to the clear record of WCF partners, allies, and speakers, many of whom have praised and defended legislation used to criminalize gay people and silence advocacy for LGBT equality.

Catholic Church: Conservatives Looking Victorious as Contentious Synod Coming to Close

Krzysztof Charamsa, the Polish priest who came out on the eve of the bishops’ synod and lost his job at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has since been defrocked. According to the Advocate, “Polish Bishop Ryszard Kasyna said in a statement that Charamsa was defrocked for ignoring his vow of celibacy despite a previous warning.” Charamsa told the Washington Blade’s Michael Lavers that coming out was “liberation.”

“I suffered for what the church taught about persons like me,” Charamsa told the Blade. “It offended my dignity and kept no fundamentals in the reality, which I can know from my experiences, from my sentiments, my desire to love, my capacity for relationships with others.” Charamsa told the Blade he took particular issue with the 2005 edict against gay priests. “It was a real offense to me,” he said. “I am a good priest with my homosexual sensibility, with my homosexual outreach, with my homosexual capacity to sacrifice me to other people.” “We have horrible language of hate, language of violence, stigmatization, marginalization, discrimination of homosexual people,” added Charamsa. “We judge in the congregation.”

At the synod itself, drama and intrigue continued. The New York Times’ Laurie Goodstein and Elisabette Povoledo describe the situation this way:

Pope Francis had encouraged bishops from more than 120 countries to speak freely when they gathered at the Vatican nearly three weeks ago for a broad discussion of family matters to guide the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics. And speak freely, they have.

The result has been the most momentous, and contentious, meeting of bishops in the 50 years since the Second Vatican Council, which brought the church into the modern era. The meeting has exposed deep fault lines between traditionalists focused on shoring up doctrine, and those who want the church to be more open to Catholics who are divorced, gay, single parents or cohabiting.

As the bishops face a deadline Saturday to present their report to the pope, it is increasingly clear that Francis is struggling to build consensus for his vision of a more inclusive and decentralized church. The question is whether the pope, who has won the hearts of those in the pews, can persuade the bishops to help create a church that fully welcomes people with the kinds of family situations it now condemns….

The Washington Post’s Anthony Faiola writes that the synod “has erupted into a theological slugfest over Pope Francis’s vision of a more-inclusive church, and it has displayed the most bitter and public infighting since the head days of Catholic reform in the 1960s.”

Archbishop Tomash Peta of Kazakhstan captured the magnitude of the divide, raising eyebrows — and a few incredulous laughs — as he decried some of the policy changes floated at the meeting as having the scent of “infernal smoke.”

It was just another day at a gathering that, more than any event since Francis began his papacy in 2013, has highlighted how the pontiff’s outreach to once-scorned Catholics has triggered a tug of war for the soul of the Catholic Church. More important, it underscored just how hard it may be for the pope to recast the church in his image.

The pushback by traditionalists has been so strong that the chances of fast changes on contentious family issues — whether to offer Communion to divorced and remarried Catholics or to craft more-welcoming language for gays and lesbians — have substantially dimmed, if not died….

The divide is not just a liberal-conservative split; it is also geographic, with prelates in Africa, for instance, denouncing the “Eurocentric” and “Western” fixation with issues such as gay rights.

Guinean Cardinal Robert Sarah linked the push for gay rights to abortion and Islamic extremism, comparing them all to what “Nazi-Fascism and Communism were in the 20th century.”

The vehemence of the backlash has shocked even some moderate conservatives, and it has suggested the rise of a tea-party-like faction of bishops within the hierarchy.

New Ways Ministry’s Francis DeBernardo wrote on Thursday that the bishops are offering “little hope” for a synod report that would be positive for LGBT people.

Yesterday was the day that many people had waited for:  the release of the reports of the synod’s 13 small group discussions on the part of the Instrumentum Laboris which contained the three paragraphs on homosexuality.

The results were not impressive, leaving me to think that Bishop Peter Doyle of Northampton, England, was correct when he told Vatican Radio that in regard to homosexuality:

“I’m a little concerned that we haven’t faced up to those issues.”

From the small group reports, it looks like there was not much discussion on the topic, with one group acknowledging that they didn’t have time to even begin to discuss it.

DeBernarndo’s post summarizes what, if anything, each of the English and German-language small groups said about homosexuality.

Thomas Reese, former editor of the Jesuit “America” magazine, drew an analogy between Pope Francis and US President Barack Obama:

“Francis has the same problem that Obama had,” said the Rev. Thomas J. Reese, a senior analyst for the National Catholic Reporter. “He promised the world, but Congress wouldn’t let him deliver. If nothing much comes of this synod, I think people will give the pope a pass and blame the bishops for stopping change.”

The synod has also done little to address the role of women in the church.

Indonesia: Provincial Sharia Chief Says Gay Caning Law ‘To Safeguard Human Dignity’

Gay sex is not illegal in most of Indonesia, but in the Muslim-majority province of Aceh, a new law is going into effect that will punish gay people caught having sex to 100 strokes of the cane. Adulterers will face the same punishment.

The rule applies to all Muslims including foreigners, provincial sharia chief Syahrizal Abbas told AFP.

The regulation was passed in 2014 amid outrage from rights groups, but officials took a year to educate the public about the new law before it came into effect.

“The law is to safeguard human dignity. It is to protect Aceh’s Muslims from committing immoral acts,” Abbas said on Thursday, adding it would come into effect the following day.

Indonesian human rights activist Ismail Hasani has called for the law to be abolished, saying it is “cruel, inhumane and against the constitution.”

More background from AFP:

Aceh gained a degree of autonomy in 2001 in a deal with Jakarta aimed at quelling a decades-long separatist movement, and has been slowly implementing sharia law ever since.

The introduction of sharia laws has speeded up since Aceh struck a peace deal with the central government in 2005.

Slovenia: Court OK’s Catholic Church-Backed Referendum Challenging Marriage Equality Law

On Thursday, the Constitutional Court “gave the go-ahead for a referendum on whether to implement legislation allowing gay marriage, an issue that has divided the central European nation.” More from AFP:

The court’s decision comes after parliament in March adopted a bill giving same-sex couples the same marriage rights as heterosexual couples.

A conservative group close to the centre-right opposition Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) and backed by the Catholic Church had contested the law.

The group gathered enough signatures to trigger a referendum.

But Slovenia’s parliament had halted the initiative in its tracks, saying it was unconstitutional given that marriage — heterosexual or gay — is a basic right.

The Constitutional Court on Thursday struck down parliament’s bid to prevent a popular vote.

Turkey: Report on Plight of LGBT Refugees from Syria, Islamist Militias

BuzzFeed’s Lester Feder reports on the experience of LGBT refugees in Turkey “who had fled everything from Islamist militias to sexual assault to death threats from family members.” Reports Feder, “Many had been pushed out of more than one country, caught up in anti-LGBT crackdowns that have rippled across the Middle East in recent years.”

Even though the UN High Commissioner for Refugees “fast-tracks LGBT refugees for resettlement because it considers them especially vulnerable,” but most will still “have to wait about two years for a ticket out of Turkey.”

But to an individual, those two years can feel like an eternity. Refugees are generally barred from working and often survive doing back-breaking black-market labor or sex work. One sign of how at risk they feel is that all of those who spoke to BuzzFeed News for this story asked to be identified by their first names or nicknames. Many — especially trans people who stand out on the street — will be victims of hate crimes from Turks or other refugees who come from the very countries they are fleeing, according to the Organization for Refuge, Asylum and Migration (ORAM), which advocates on behalf of LGBT people.

The context is the increasingly hostility LGBTs face in other countries.

Istanbul has become an increasingly important safe haven in recent years as other cities — like Cairo and Beirut — have become ever more dangerous for LGBT people.

Back in June, Nader, a bushy-bearded 26-year-old Syrian, helped organize about 100 Arab refugees to turn out for the city’s 13th annual pride march, exhilarated at the chance to celebrate with tens of thousands of people. They carried signs like “Stop the persecution of gays in the Arab world” and “Your life isn’t worth more than mine.”

So it felt like a deep betrayal when local officials banned the march at the last minute and police turned tear gas, plastic bullets, and water cannons on participants. (Turkish LGBT activists are not sure why the event was shut down after years without incident, but it fell during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and came in the wake of a defeat at the ballot box for the party of Turkey’s Islamist President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.)

“I thought we were safe, but the police were attacking us and the people just watching,” said Nader. “That was my last straw with being here.”

Chile: Civil Unions Law Goes Into Effect

Equality advocates celebrated outside the office of the Civil Registry and Identification service as the country’s civil unions law went into effect on Thursday. It had been signed by President Michelle Bachelet in April, to the dismay of some religious conservatives. Activists, and Bachelet herself, hope that the legislature will take the next step toward full marriage equality. At Towleroad, Michael Fitzgerald notes that Chile was the last country in the western hemisphere to legalize divorce in 2004.

United Kingdom: Radio exchange highlights divide among British Muslims

Pink News reports on an exchange between LBC radio Host Iain Dale and two callers. The first, a 22-year old Muslim woman who gave her name as Zainab, declared gay people an abomination who deserved the death penalty. The next caller was “one of a group of Muslims who have erected a stall outside London’s Whitechapel tube station, to spread the word of acceptance of gay people in Islam.”

He said Zainab was misguided but that he had previously prayed to be turned straight.

“Throughout my entire life, I believe that because I had these feelings, I was someone evil…I was demonic.

“I prayed every day, I begged Allah to turn me straight,” he said.

You can listen to audio of the calls at Pink News.

Ireland: Marriage Equality Law Gets Final Legislative Approval

Marriage equality legislation passed the country’s senate on Thursday, sending the bill to the desk of President Michael Higgins and clearing the way for same-sex couples to begin marrying by mid-November.

Armenia: LGBT Advocates Strategize

LGBT activists met in the Lori region on October 17 and 18 to develop a strategy for building a movement and fighting homophobia in the country. Pink Armenia reports that after social media coverage of the event, some participants have faced attacks.

Hong Kong: Interview with Intersex Activist

Activist Small Luk, an intersex activist from Hong Kong, describes the challenges facing her advocacy in Hong Kong and mainland China.


Russia: Six Vigilantes Get Jail Terms for Torturing Gay Youth

Public conversation around Russia’s anti-gay “propaganda” law came with a wave of vigilante violence against gays, often bragged about on social media. Now the Sinarsky Disctrict Court Kamensk-Ural has reportedly sentenced six members of one neo-Nazi group, which called itself Occupy Pedophilia, to prison terms of three to six years.