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Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics respond to Vatican statement opposing criminalization of homosexuality

Date: 
December 14, 2009

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WASHINGTON, Dec. 14 —The National Religious Leadership Roundtable, convened by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, responds to the announcement by the Vatican that it opposes the criminalization of homosexuality. Legislation is currently being considered in Uganda that would make homosexuality illegal and in some cases it would carry a death sentence. Just over the weekend, David Bahati, an Ugandan lawmaker who proposed the bill, vowed to press forward with it.

In a statement at the United Nations last week, the Vatican’s permanent observer issued a statement that said, in part, “the Holy See continues to oppose all grave violations of human rights against homosexual persons, such as the use of the death penalty, torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. The Holy See also opposes all forms of violence and unjust discrimination against homosexual persons, including discriminatory penal legislation which undermines the inherent dignity of the human person.”

Statement by Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director, New Ways Ministry
National Religious Leadership Roundtable Member

“New Ways Ministry applauds the Vatican for speaking out at the United Nations for the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Uganda. By speaking against Uganda’s proposed law to institute the death penalty for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, the Vatican has taken its first step on the world scene to acknowledge that civil laws should not harm lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

“Such a statement has been a long time coming. Too often, the Vatican has been silent and complicit when it comes to legalized abuses against sexual minorities. For decades, Catholic laypeople and theologians have been calling on their church’s leadership to speak out clearly for justice, and the Vatican had ignored them. Can this event signal a turning point? We certainly hope so.

“We hope, too, that Vatican leaders will reflect on the importance of this historic action, and come to see that they can use the church’s social justice tradition as their benchmark when they consider the human and civil rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.”

Statement by Mary E. Hunt, Ph.D., Co-Director, Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER)
National Religious Leadership Roundtable Member

“The Vatican’s laudable statement opposing human rights violations against same-sex loving persons deserves praise. But it reminds me of a Spanish expression which, loosely translated, means ‘what you give with the wrist you erase with the elbow.’ While the Vatican rightly calls out those who would perpetrate violence, it also reiterates that ‘the Holy See’s position on the concepts of sexual orientation and gender identity remains well known.’ Therein lies the problem. “Catholic teaching that homosexual orientation is ‘objectively disordered’ and homosexual acts are ‘contrary to natural law’ provides the foundation for much of the violence it purports to reject. It is disingenuous unto dangerous to condemn those who act on the basis of the teaching one espouses. For example, Uganda is 40 percent Catholic so it is likely that the pending legislation there has been shaped by institutional Catholic thinking.

“I urge Father Philip Bene, legal attaché to the Holy See’s UN mission, and his colleagues to rethink their theology. Let them join Catholic theologians who claim that same-sex love is simply a marvelous expression of human diversity created by the Divine. Otherwise, despite their rhetoric to the contrary, they are complicit in the very violence they abhor.”

Statement by Marianne Duddy-Burke, Executive Director, DignityUSA
National Religious Leadership Roundtable Member

“We commend the Vatican for stepping forward to condemn the harsh criminal penalties imposed on gay people by some governments. The Vatican’s acceptance of its responsibility to help safeguard the lives and human dignity of gay people is an important step in gaining universal protection for an often oppressed population.

“We urge the Vatican to recognize the fundamental human rights of all, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, and to do so consistently and forcefully.”


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The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the grassroots power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. We do this by training activists, equipping state and local organizations with the skills needed to organize broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.