Pope’s ‘Joy of Love’ Brings Little Joy To LGBT Catholics; Gay Atheist Malaysian Granted Refugee Status In Canada; Global LGBT Recap

Catholic Church: ‘Joy of Love’ Inspires Little Joy in LGBT Catholics

Pope Francis released a long-awaited Apostolic Exhortation on love and the family, which comes after fierce infighting at two synods at which bishops debated doctrine and pastoral approaches on issues like divorce, remarriage, and homosexuality. In the words of New Ways Ministry’s Francis DeBernardo, the document offers “some hope but not much joy” for LGBT Catholics.

On other family topics such as divorce and co-habitation, Amoris Laetitia, offers some hopeful advice—and if this advice were simply applied to LGBT issues, which would not be incompatible to do, this document would have been much more positive.  Pope Francis calls for non-judgmental pastoral care, assisting people in developing their consciences, encouraging diverse pastoral responses based on local culture, and calling church leaders to be more self-critical.  All these things, if applied to LGBT people and issues, could produce enormous positive change in the church.

Instead of listening to more progressive voices at the synods who called for greater understanding and dialogue with the LGBT community, the pope simply repeated church condemnations of same-sex unions, adoption by lesbian and gay people, and the complexities of gender identity.

Most egregious is his repetition of the synod fathers’ false claim that international aid to developing nations is dependent upon openness to marriage equality.  No evidence exists for such a claim. Randy Berry, the U.S. Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI People categorically denied this claim last November during meetings with church officials at the Vatican to discuss the persecution of LGBT people globally.

The new document, called “Amoris Laetitia,” or “The Joy of Love,” affirms church doctrine that abortion is never justified, that same-sex unions are not “similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family,” and that divorce is “an evil.” The document urges a more compassionate pastoral approach to people who have been divorced or remarried, suggesting that local bishops may have some flexibility in offering them communion, a very contentious topic.

Crux asked Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich how the document applies to gay Catholics, and he “highlighted the section on conscience, in which Francis said the Church must ‘make room for the consciences of the faithful’ and that individual believers ‘have been called to form consciences, not to replace them.’”

“The pope has made clear that the role and formation of consciences, and not replacing them, is in fact for all Catholics, not just for people who are in situations of being divorced and remarried,” Cupich said.

But DeBernardo had a different take:

“Where is the Pope Francis who embraced his gay former student and husband during his US visit? Where is the Pope Francis who invited a transgender Spanish man for a personal meeting at the Vatican?” …This Pope Francis is hard to find in his latest text,” he said.

Crux quotes Dignity USA, an LGBT Catholic advocacy group, noting with disappointment that the document contains “no strong call for an end to anti-LGBT violence, for Church officials to avoid inflammatory statements against the LGBT community, or for a clear statement that LGBT people and supporters are welcome to participate in the Church’s sacramental life and ministries.”

At the Washington Post, Anthony Faiola and Michelle Boorstein highlighted the pope’s urging that the clergy not wield “moral laws” like a weapon.

More than anything, it amounted to an exaltation of traditional marriage while recognizing that life, in his own words, is not always “perfect.” Yet rather than judging, he commanded, the church should be a pillar of support.

Single women get pregnant, and they need the support of those around them, he wrote. Children sometimes need punishment — and, he notably added — sex education. Gays and lesbians deserve protection from “unjust discrimination.” And while he clearly upheld his church’s teaching that marriage is only between a man and woman, he noted that unconventional unions do indeed form. And they are not, he wrote, without their “constructive elements.”

CNN’s Richard Allen Greene noted, along those same lines, that Francis wrote, “By thinking that everything is black and white, we sometimes close off the way of grace and growth.”

Francis also says that “unjust discrimination” against gays and lesbians is unacceptable, a formulation used by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, who have interpreted the term in ways that allow them to oppose civil unions as well as laws protecting LGBT people from discrimination.

In Religion & Gender, Mary Anne Case explores “The Role of the Popes in the Invention of Sexual Complementarity and the Anathematization of Gender.”  Case argues that the doctrine of the complementarity, “under which the sexes are essentially different though not unequal” is “an invention of the twentieth century” developed in part by Popes from Pius XII through Benedict XVI “in part as a response to feminist claims, including those recently anathematized by the Vatican under the term ‘gender.’”

After more than a year of stonewalling by the Vatican, French President Francois Hollande named Laurent Stefanini ambassador to UNESCO. Stefanini had been named Ambassador to the Holy See, which refused to accept him, reportedly because the Vatican saw the naming of an openly gay man as ambassador to be a “provocation.”

Indonesia: Activist Discusses Consequences of Anti-LGBT Campaign

We have been reporting for weeks on the anti-LGBT campaign being waged by Islamist religious and political leaders. Alturi has published an interview with activist Dédé Oetomo, who founded a health education and advocacy group in 1987, and who says the marriage equality ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court shocked conservative politicians. “

Shortly after this shock, December elections produced losses for religious parties across much of the country. Dédé notes, “The religious parties are very corrupt, with two Ministers for Religious Affairs currently in prison.”

It seems the LGBTI community is a convenient scapegoat to distract from political failure and build fearful public support for future elections. How much longer this tactic can be effective is a real question. In the meantime, groups like GAYA NUSANATARA try to create a space for LGBTI Indonesians. “There is no sex education in public schools, but in GAYA NUSANTARA sexuality discussion groups Muslim students will often talk of ‘queering God’ before and after prayer breaks in the organization’s prayer room.”

The activist says the rhetorical attacks have resulted in police crackdowns, muggings, and physical crimes “as criminals are empowered by the harsh public rhetoric.”

International civil society organizations and foreign governments have been working through diplomatic channels to encourage President Joko Widodo, who was elected in 2014, to end his long silence on the LGBTI backlash. “I voted for him, but he’s not Barack Obama,” says Dédé. “He used to hang with LGBTI people when he was mayor of Surakarta, but he relies on his self-made man biography rather than individual human rights as the best way to achieve equality.” In early February, the U.S. Ambassador hosted a gathering of activists to brainstorm strategies to combat the possible anti-LGBTI propaganda law that could reach Parliament next year. Also in early February, Randy Berry, the U.S. Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons held a series of low-profile meetings in Jakarta.

While high-level efforts offer hope on the horizon, the situation for LGBTI people in Aceh and West Java provinces becomes more dangerous. Violent Islamist movements inspired by Islamic State are growing in these areas and activists are attempting to set up a safe house network to provide protection for targeted individuals forced to evacuate these areas. Dédé notes “The need is urgent in these areas, but funds for the program are very limited.”

Wales: Archbishop Says Church Not Ready for Same-Sex Marriage, Offers ‘Informal’ Prayers

Archbishop of Wales Barry Morgan told the Church in Wales governing body that the church is not ready to authorize marrying same-sex couples, reports Nick Duffy at Pink News, but he released prayers that can be used same-sex couples in informal ceremonies which “do not constitute a service of blessing”.

“We, as bishops, feel that this is the right thing to do at this time. I realise that some people will regard these prayers as too little too late and others will regard them as a step too far.

“No one is compelled to use them, but they are provided for those who would like to do so. These prayers do not constitute a service of blessing.”

Morgan told LGBT people that he knew they had been “persecuted and ostracized” by the chrch and said:

“We deplore such hostility, and welcome and affirm the words of the Primates that condemn homophobic prejudice and violence.

“We too commit ourselves to offering you the same loving service and pastoral care to which all humanity is entitled, and we commit ourselves to acting to provide a safe space within the Church and within our communities in which you can be honest and open, respected and affirmed.”

He said: “While as a Church we remain unable to bless the committed partnerships you form in marriage or in civil partnership, yet we commit ourselves as bishops to work for a Church in which you can be fully affirmed as equal disciples of Jesus Christ or seekers after truth.

“We will pray with you and for you, that together we may seek God’s blessing on our lives, and for faithful discipleship.”

Anglican Communion: Anglican Consultative Council Meeting Begins

The Anglican Archbishop of Kenya, Eliud Wabukala, has reportedly complained that a delegation from his province decided, over his objections, to attend the 16th meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council, which began on Friday.  Wabukala is “one of the most vocal opponents of homosexuality in Kenya” who has criticized Anglican leaders in England who spoke out against anti-gay legislation in Uganda and Nigeria.

At the ACC, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby recognized the differences within the communion and said:

In the midst of such difference we face a choice, of being distracted by difference or being intentionally united in discipleship to Jesus Christ. To be united by Christ, as intentional disciples, is the only way we show to the world that God raised Jesus Christ from the dead.

We are living in a world where the capacity to deal with difference is more and more required, because difference is right in front of us, difference is on our iPads, in our laptops, in our phones. We hold a whole world of difference every time we open a phone. And the response to in the world around is at best insult, and so often violence, a reality which is the living experience of many you here.

Welby also addressed a January gathering of Primates, which voted to suspend the Episcopal Church from questions on doctrine or policy for three years because of its move to bless same-sex unions.

Scotland: More Gay Politicians, Fewer Churchgoers

Labour Party leader Kezia Dugdale revealed that she has a female partner, making her the fourth of the country’s political party leaders who are out as LGB, according to Pink News: “Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson, Scottish Green Party leader Patrick Harvie and UKIP Scotland leader David Coburn all previously came out as LGB.”

In a possibly related story, Pink News reports that the Scottish Social Attitudes survey found that 52 percent of people in Scotland say they are not religious.

The percentage of respondents who said they subscribed to the views of the Church of Scotland has fallen drastically from 35 percent down to 20.

Catholicism, 15 percent and other Christian denominations, 11 percent, remained at a similar level.

In addition, the percentage of those who say they are religious but non-Christian, remains at 2 percent.

In May the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland will consider whether married gay people should be allowed to become ministers or deacons.

Canada: Gay Atheist Malaysian Student Granted Refugee Status

The Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada decided this week to grant refugee status to gay athesist student Hazim Ismail. More from the CBC:

Ismail said his family, who are Muslim, disowned him and stopped paying for his education last year after learning he is gay and an atheist. His story became public after a GoFundMe campaign was launched in December to help pay his tuition for the rest of his semester.

He said he once thought of returning to Malaysia and trying to live undercover there, but his case has since attracted media attention in his home country, along with homophobic comments and even threats from some members of the public there.

“If you had asked me like back in December, I would’ve been like, ‘Ah, well, maybe I can go back.’ But now, like, this was me backed into a corner,” he said before the hearing.

“I’m trying to fight for survival because Malaysia’s not welcoming of homosexuals.”

Ismail added that last week, he received an email from someone claiming to be doing research on apostates — people who no longer subscribe to a certain religious group — in Malaysia.

That person “wanted me to reveal the names of apostates who have come out to me in private,” he said.

Colombia: Court Orders Judges and Notaries to Allow Same-Sex Couples to Marry

The Constitutional Court ruled 6-3 on Thursday that judges and notaries cannot refuse to perform marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples. It had held a hearing on the issue last July, which built on a series of rulings over the years gradually expanding gay rights.

The Court acted in part because Congress refused to pass marriage equality legislation after an earlier ruling. A pro-equality senator, Armando Benedetti, told the New York Times, “Today is a bittersweet day. I’m happy because LGBT people have equal rights, but I’m sad because although Congress looks like a cathedral outside, it is a manger inside.” The Times’ Paula Duran noted that a Gallup poll earlier this year showed 55 percent of Colombians opposing gay marriage, even though “the Catholic Church has lost influence and the country has made progress in indicators of urbanization and social mobility.”

Morocco: Victims of Violent Gay Bashing Tried for ‘Homosexual Acts’

A court has convicted one man, and is trying another, for “homosexual acts” – the men had been dragged naked into the street and brutally beaten by a group of youths.  Human Rights Watch said the conviction and prosecution are evidence of “the determination of Moroccan authorities to enforce anti-homosexuality laws, even when the acts in question allegedly took place in a private residence between consenting adults, and after neighbors assaulted them for their supposed sexual orientation.” A Spanish LGBT group recently launched a campaign calling for decriminalization of consensual gay sex in Morocco.

South Africa: Even in ‘Born Free’ Generation, Black Lesbians Face Violence

The BBC ran a report this week on anti-LGBT violence in South Africa, telling the story of a lesbian woman who was a member of the “born free generation” – born in 1994, the year apartheid ended – and who was murdered and mutiliated in December.

In a country where crime rates in general are high, black lesbians in poor townships face particular risks and often suffer the most violent crimes.

As women, they’re vulnerable in a country with one of the highest rates of rape in the world. As lesbians in an often homophobic and patriarchal society, they face a further danger – the idea that they can be “changed” and “made into women” through what is known as “corrective rape”.

Puerto Rico: Appeals Court Rebukes Judge Who Tried to Block Marriage Equality

A U.S. federal appeals court ruled on Thursday that the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision makes Puerto Rico’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples unconstitutional. BuzzFeed’s Chris Geidner reports that the Court rejected rulings by U.S. District Court Judge Juan Pérez-Giménez who upheld the ban, because, he argued, the Court’s ruling does not apply to a territory the same way it does to a state. The appeals court slammed Pérez-Giménez’s March ruling as having so many errors “that it is hard to know where to begin.” The court took the case away from Pérez-Giménez altogether so that a different judge can formally enter the judgment.

Turkmenistan: Law Requires HIV Test to Marry

A new law requires an HIV test for anyone seeking a marriage license; state media suggest that testing positive would lead to denial of a license.