At a UN panel last week to discuss rights abuses based on sexual orientation and gender identity, the Holy See had a statement that was five parts refreshing and at least one part historic, in that it's likely to be the first time the Vatican has weighed in on the issue of human rights for LGBT people under Pope Benedict XVI.
"[The Holy See] opposes all forms of violence and unjust discrimination against homosexual persons, including discriminatory penal legislation which undermines the inherent dignity of the human person," read their statement. "[T]he murder and abuse of homosexual persons are to be confronted on all levels, especially when such violence is perpetrated by the State."
That would seem to suggest that the Catholic Church thinks (1) murdering LGBT people is wrong, (2) locking LGBT people up is wrong, and (3) killing LGBT people is wrong.
That's great news, but it certainly makes one wonder whether somebody slipped a quaalude into the wine at Mass last week. That's not to downplay the significance of the Holy See's statement. But when the Vatican had the chance to join a group of nation states earlier this year to condemn the criminalization of homosexuality worldwide, the Vatican chose to side with Iran, Sudan and Saudi Arabia in refusing to join the call. What gives?
The excuse the Vatican gave when it chose not to sign onto the international statement condemning the criminalization of homosexuality was that the Catholic Church worried that it would lead to same-sex marriage. For a lot of religions opposed to the idea of LGBT rights, everything seems to lead to same-sex marriage. That rash on your arm? Same-sex marriage. Forgetting to take the trash out? Same-sex marriage. Running that red light on the way to work? Same-sex marriage.
But it's true. Archbishop Celestino Migliore said last year during debate on the UN statement that "states that do not recognize same-sex unions as 'marriage' will be pilloried and put under pressure" to do so. Good thing the Archbishop didn't split any infinitives in that statement, or else...yup, same-sex marriage.
Alright, so the Vatican didn't sign onto an international statement condemning the criminalization of homosexuality. Can that be forgiven, in the wake of their most recent comments this past week? Well, here's another thing to remember. When the Delhi High Court ruled earlier this year that homosexuality should be decriminalized in India, a number of religious groups weighed in denouncing gay people. Among them? Yup, Catholic bishops.
"Homosexuality is against the law of nature and morally unacceptable to the Church," said Father Babu Joseph, a spokesperson for the Indian Catholic Bishops Conference. And if you think that statement is wild, then mosey on over to what the Kerala Bishops Conference said.
"God created humankind as man and woman and ordered to multiply and, therefore, sexual relation is basically heterosexual," Archbishop Andrews Thazhath said. "Homosexuality is perversion of sexuality. Hence idealising such perversions causes anarchy in society which in the long run will destroy human existence itself."
Forget nuclear weapons. It's the homosexuals who will be destroying human existence.
So therein lies a big conundrum for the Catholic Church. While their statement this past weekend that they oppose unjust laws that would imprison and kill LGBT people is a very welcome sign, it's not terribly backed up by members of the Church who continue to blast LGBT people as perverted. That's kind of like offering a dozen roses and then a punch in the face to someone.
Yes, the Church should be commended for weighing in on the decriminalization of homosexuality at a time when countries like Uganda are debating seriously awful bills. But the Church should also remember that blasting homosexuality as perverted, saying that gay people will lead to the end of human existence, comparing homosexuality to the scourge of climate change, or telling LGBT people that they're so sinful they can never get into heaven, really doesn't do the world's LGBT population any favors.
If the Church wants to walk the walk of protecting the human rights of the world's LGBT population, then they need to learn to chew gum, and stop calling folks evil, at the same time, too