From Africa and the Philippines, Signs of Hope for LGBT Catholics!

At the family synod 2014, some African bishops were prominent in opposition to the more welcoming tone towards lgbt Catholics, proposed by some of the Europeans, and included in the mid – synod interim relatio. From this it would be easy to read the struggle for lgbt inclusion as a contest between “progressives” of Europe (and North America), and conservatives  of the so-called “developing” world, in Africa, Asia and Latin America. That would be a mistake, as recent news reports illustrate:

Commonweal reports on a fascinating interview with the African Archbishop Charles Palmer-Buckle of Accra, Ghana, in the conservative website Aleteia, His responses should be warmly welcomed for the hope they imply for greater inclusion of both lgbt Catholics, and those who have been divorced and remarried. (There could also be some schadenfreude in noting how the responses clearly discomforted Aleteia’s interview, who did his best to get Palmer – Buckle to modify his words – to no avail).

In a wide-ranging, at points jaw-dropping interview with Aleteia, Archbishop Charles Palmer-Buckle of Accra, Ghana, signaled his openness to finding a way for remarried Catholics to be readmitted to Communion–and suggested the church might reinterpret Scripture to allow the “unbinding” of marriages. Palmer-Buckle, who is sixty-four years old, was selected by his brother bishops to represent Ghana at this October’s Synod on the Family. Early in the interview, the archbishop makes it clear that he takes seriously Pope Francis’s call for open discussion of the challenges facing Catholic families today.

via Commonweal Magazine.

In Asia, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has issued a statement in support of a government bill to prohibit anti-gay discrimination. At the Filipino blog Catholic LGBT (Catholic gay and blessed), there are two posts quoting sections of the statement, in which Archbishop Socrates Villegas, President, Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, sets out the bishops’ opposition to homophobia, and support for greater lgbt inclusion in the life of the church.

On homophobia, Villegas is forthright on condemning parents who inculcate homophobia in their children:

The Church has much to contribute towards the education of Catholics to be more accepting of others and to see through appearances the Lord present in each brother and sister There can be no more approval of parents who imbue in their children the loathing and disgust for persons with a different sexual orientation or with gender identity issues. In Catholic institutions, there should be zero – tolerance for the bullying and badgering of persons in such personal situations.

On lgbt inclusion, he is equally clear:

[We] call on all pastors throughout the country to be as solicitous of the pastoral welfare of all our brothers and sisters regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. Their exclusion from the life of the Church, their treatment as outcasts, their relegation to the category of inferior members of the Church worthy only of derision and scorn certainly does not conform to Pope Francis’ vision of the Church as the sacrament of Divine mercy and compassion”

To be sure, it’s not all rosy in the garden.  A longer news report at Rappler also describes how Villegas, while opposing discrimination, reserved the right to contiue discriminating in its own hiring and selection procedures for the priesthood, and the Church’s firm opposition to both homosexual “acts”, and gender transitions. Like many other bishops, he has no desire to change Church teaching – but just like the 2014 Family synod, this signals a clear desire to adjust pastoral practice, in  a more sensitive, caring direction. That augers well for the 2015 synod, and in the longer run, that will undoubtedly lead to some modification of the core doctrine, itself.

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