04Feb The Church must condemn homophobia — an opinion from South Africa

In the current debate on homophobia, and in the interval before a referendum on same-sex marriage next year, an editorial on anti-gay laws in The Southern Cross, Southern Africa’s Catholic weekly on 29 January, may be useful. It can be found here

Here are a few paragraphs.

 Where there is injustice, we must expect the Catholic Church to stand with the powerless. Therefore the Church should sound the alarm at the advance throughout Africa of draconian legislation aimed at criminalising homosexuals. It would require a very peculiar reading of the Gospel to locate Jesus anywhere else but at the side of the marginalised and vulnerable.  

  Recently the Ugandan and Nigerian parliaments both passed severe anti-gay legislation. Other countries, such as Cameroon and Tanzania, are proposing to pass similar legislation. These laws are not intended to render same-sex acts illegal — they already are, and punishable, in most African countries — but to persecute people on the basis of their sexual orientation. Such laws are not only unjust, but they also have the potential to tear at the fabric of society if they are misused to facilitate false denunciations for gain, advancement or vengeance, much as what Christians are exposed to in Pakistan under that country’s intolerable blasphemy law. The effects of homophobia are also seen in the inordinately high rate of suicides among homosexuals, especially teenagers.

  The Church cannot sponsor the criminalisation of matters of private morality, and much less the advocacy of human rights. Prejudice and the persecution of homosexuals are in defiance of Catholic doctrine.

  Even as it emphatically rejects homosexual carnal acts, the Catechism of the Catholic Church declares that “every sign of unjust discrimination in their [homosexuals’] regard should be avoided”. The Catechism further demands that homosexuals “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity” (2358). Jailing homosexuals for being gay and insisting on their human rights, or even for having sex, self-evidently is a sign of “unjust discrimination” that lacks in respect and compassion.

  While the Church’s teachings prevent her from standing with homosexuals on many issues, especially same-sex marriage, she has an obligation, mandated by Christ, to be in solidarity with all those who are unjustly marginalised and persecuted. Alas, the Church has been silent, in some cases even quietly complicit, in the discourse on new homophobic laws. This absence of intervention for justice may well be interpreted, wrongly or not, as approval of injustice, in line with the maxim Qui tacet, consentire videtur (Silence gives consent). Instead, the Church should present herself as compassionate and courageous in standing with the those living in fear. African bishops especially ought to speak out, as loudly as they do on same-sex marriage, against the discriminatory legislation and violence directed at homosexuals, many of whom are fellow Catholics.

  Where is the prophetic voice of the Church in condemning the general homophobia in society? It would require a very peculiar reading of the Gospel to locate Jesus anywhere else but at the side of the marginalised and vulnerable. The Church must be seen to be standing with Jesus and those who face unjust persecution, even if — especially if — it does not condone the lifestyles of those at risk. That would be true Christian witness.


5 Responses

  1. Shaun

    The Nigerian bishops supported the law in their country. The thing is, nobody is forced to be actively homosexual. It’s always a choice to enter into homosexual relationships. Except of course in the case of rape.

  2. Gene Carr

    No reasonable person could disagree with any of this. But the particular issue in the last two weeks in Ireland was not about homophobia as usually understood. Rather it is the attempt to expand its definition to include perfectly reasonable arguments in favour of the age-old definition of marriage as man-woman and the human right of children to a mother and a father and not to be made the objects of a social experiment. This a technique known as “jamming” and is designed to inhibit and silence opposing views.

  3. Joe O'Leary

    Iona people were prominently present at this event: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2178762/Archbishop-Philip-Tartaglia-suggests-MP-David-Cairns-died-44-gay.html

    The Nigerian bishops are a disgrace, and the Anglican one has been rebuked by his confreres in Canterbury and York.

  4. Peter Shore

    It would help if the term “homophobia” wasn’t bandied about as it is. For one thing, a phobia usually means a fear, so the word is a misnomer in this context. For another, gay activists who label opposition to gay marriage and other so-called gay “rights” as homophobia may be losing the hearts of some people who share their revulsion for genuine bigotry.
    All that said, actual hatred and persecution of homosexual persons is an outrage and an offence against decency and morality. It must be repudiated by all Catholics and, indeed, anyone who cares for their fellow man.

  5. Paddy Ferry

    This is an opinion from Ireland — Gene Kerrigan in this week’s Sunday Independent. Gene’s experiences of Ireland when he was young were also my experienceS of Ireland when I was young.