Like Ireland, Colombia is a heavily Catholic country now considering the introduction of legal provision for same – sex marriage. (It has had civil unions for some years already). As in Ireland, Catholic bishops are opposed to the measure – but also as in Ireland, the tone and rhetoric of this opposition is markedly more sensitive and acceptable than that seen previously in Scotland, say, or in some states of the USA.
In calling for respectful debate, Bishop Juan Vicente Cordoba of Fontibon has made some remarkable admissions (remarkable, that is, for Catholic bishops. For those of us who pay attention to the facts, they seem quite obvious). Number one, according to a report from Crux :
According to local reports, Córdoba said that in the Bible there’s no explicit rejection of homosexuality, suggesting there’s no basis for making a condemnation of homosexuality a Church doctrine.
This may seem revolutionary, but in fact it is not. There is absolutely no Biblical condemnation of “homosexuality” – for the simple reason that in Biblical times, neither the word nor the concept even existed. The most that can be claimed, is that there is condemnation of same – sex genital acts, but even that is being disputed by modern scholars, who argue that the traditional interpretation of a handful of Biblical verses is fundamentally flawed.
Number two (also from Crux):
“We don’t know if one of Jesus’ disciples” had a same-sex orientation, he said. “We don’t know either if Mary Magdalene was a lesbian.”
Well, of course it is likely (not simply “possible” that among Jesus’ many disciples, some will have had a same – sex orientation (what in modern language we would have termed “homosexual”, or “lesbian”), We know that in every human society, in every period of history, a small but significant proportion of the population have such an orientation – just as the same is true of left – handedness. It would be quite remarkable if, among the multitude of Christ’s followers, there were not a similar proportion who were not standard “heterosexuals”.
The bishop made some additional startling claims, which will surprise many – but confirm the frequent observation that the Church regularly changes is teaching, then claims that its new position has “always” been the constant teaching. For example, he stated that the Catholic Church “is not opposed to same – sex couples making a life together”. Really?
So why did Colombian bishops strenuously oppose Colombia’s original legislation for civil unions, back in 2008?
Colombia, like most Latin American countries, does not have fundamentalist groups with the kind of influence and funding to launch a national campaign against gay rights. But it does have a powerful Catholic Church, which argued that extending rights to same-sex couples would violate church doctrine. “This gives legal sanctity to families that are artificial and false,” said José Galat, a prominent Catholic activist.
or Peruvian bishops intervene to derail Peruvian civil unions, much more recently? Or so many other groups of bishops, who opposed civil unions in their territories, until full marriage equality was on the cards, and then suddenly saw the value of civil unions (possibly as the lesser of two evils)?
A further problem with the bishop’s words, was his opposition to gay adoption, because a child “has the right” to a mother and a father”. This is a common “argument” raised by our opponents, but a pretty reeks of ignorance and lack of actual thought. The simple fact that a child is in need of adoption, demonstrates that s/he simply does not have an available “mother and a father”. If there is no opposite – sex couple available to fill the gap, is a loving same – sex couple really a less desirable outcome for the child, than a life with no parents at all?
These however, are quibbles. It’s clear that Bishop Cordoba is an example of just how far the Catholic Church has come in a few years, from outright condemnation of all same -sex relationships and the labelling of same – sex orientation as mere “attraction” and designating it as “intrinsically disordered”, to groping towards a more sensitive respect for our relationships – just as long as we don’t describe them as “marriage”.
Most important of all, is that in the broadest context of all, he gets his priorities absolutely right. The important point really, is not what we do with our genitals – but how we respond to injustice, and the problems of the poor. Crux, again:
Although Córdoba reiterated Church teaching when it comes to marriage – that it’s a union between a man and a woman, permanent, and open to children – he said that homosexuality isn’t a sin.
“Sin is something else. It’s not respecting the dignity of others. Not loving God and our neighbors as we love ourselves, not feeding the hungry, not giving water to the thirsty,” Córdoba said.
He added that he prefers “a thousand times over” for Colombians to have dignity, a proper health system and food for all, rather than talking about whether they’re gay or straight.
- Colombian bishop offends both sides (bbc.co.uk)
- Colombia Bishop Offends Both Catholics, Gays With Remarks (abcnews.go.com)
- Italian bishop: Catholic Church must welcome ‘unconventional couples’ (news.queerchurch.com)
- Theologians Pope Francis Would Do Well to Read: Ivone Gebara on Catholic Church’s Insistence on Maternal Role of Women (bilgrimage.blogspot.com)
- Re-evangelising the Church. (emmaus2rome.co.uk)
- Church Hypocrisy Over Colombian Marriage Equality. (queeringthechurch.com)
- Tina Beattie: Why I Stay (thewildreed.blogspot.com)