3 ways to tell if Catholics are serious about welcoming gays

Pope Francis opens the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family with a mass.
Pope Francis opens the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family with a mass.

The Roman Catholic Church is showing signs that it might accept LGBTI people as no better and no worse than anyone else.

But how to tell whether the church is merely giving lip service to the idea of welcoming all people or is serious about its surprising, still-tentative admission that it sees good qualities in LGBTI people and same-sex relationships?

Here are three ways to measure the sincerity of those statements, which emerged from the ongoing Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family at the Vatican.

1. Will the church answer to its hope-inspiring question?

The synod’s preliminary report stated:

“Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community. Are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities?

“Often they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home. Are our communities capable of providing that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation …?”

When the synod issues its final report, those questions need to be answered. The answer should be “Yes.”

2. Will the church stop discriminating against LGBTI people, especially those in same-sex marriages?

Bruce Knotts, director of the United Nations Office of the Unitarian Universalist Association, stated:

Bruce Knotts, director of the United Nations office of the Unitarian Universalist Association. (Photo courtesy of UUA)
Bruce Knotts, director of the United Nations office of the Unitarian Universalist Association. (Photo courtesy of UUA)

I share the hope that the Catholic Church will change.  For me the proof will be if the firings of same-gender loving staff stop.

Here in the United States, a number of teachers in very good standing at Catholic schools have been fired the moment they have entered into a same-sex marriage.  It seems that the Catholic Church was fine when people had a relationship outside the bonds of marriage, but once a same-sex wedding occurs, the Catholic Church will immediately terminate your employment.

I note this is not done to other Catholic employees who are unfaithful to their opposite-sex spouses or who abuse children.  This is rank hypocrisy and antithetical to healthy committed loving married relationships, which the Church claims to endorse, even if only of a certain kind.

I understand that the tone will change to “give time for people to grow into conformity with the faith.”  I really don’t want to grow into a faith which denies the sanctity of same-gender loving marriages.

It seems the Church wants peaceful coexistence.  That can happen when dedicated Catholic LGBTI employees can remain employed even if they enter into a same-sex marriage.  The violence and reprisals against our community need to stop in substance, not just in tone.

3. Will the church oppose imprisonment of LGBTI people in countries with anti-gay laws?

Mgr. Victor Tonye Bakot, former archbishop of Yaoundé
Mgr. Victor Tonye Bakot, former archbishop of Yaoundé, Cameroon

The Catholic Church is strong in many of the 76-plus countries with laws against same-sex love. If it is serious about accepting and valuing the sexual orientation of LGBTI people, the church will oppose those laws.

That’s not what Archbishop Victor Tonye Bakot did in Cameroon, where he fueled that nation’s anti-gay fervor by saying that “homosexuality opposes humanity and destroys it” and calling same-sex marriage “a serious crime against humanity.”  But last year Pope Francis removed Bakot as archbishop, without explanation, so there’s reason to hope.

Another hopeful sign: During the synod, Roman Catholic Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Nigeria spoke out against jailing LGBTI people for their sexual orientation, which Nigerian police and courts have done to dozens of people since the enactment of a harsh Nigeria anti-gay law early this year.

Will that remain a sentiment that Kaigama expresses only when in Rome, or will he follow it up when he returns to Nigeria by insisting on an end to the persecution of innocent LGBTI people?

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at info@76crimes.com. Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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