Note: I decided to publish the following article by retired Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu which recently appeared in the Washington Post on this blog due to the hatred that is still being forced on some people of God living on the fringes of our society. At the same time I want to provide some background illustrating how this hatred is sometimes reinforced through institutional religion. The latter article was prompted due to the actions instigated by Archbishop Chaput and Fr. Breslin in my previous blog.
In Africa, a step backward on human rights
By Desmond Tutu
Friday, March 12, 2010; A19
Hate has no place in the house of God. No one should be excluded from our love, our compassion or our concern because of race or gender, faith or ethnicity -- or because of their sexual orientation. Nor should anyone be excluded from health care on any of these grounds. In my country of South Africa, we struggled for years against the evil system of apartheid that divided human beings, children of the same God, by racial classification and then denied many of them fundamental human rights. We knew this was wrong. Thankfully, the world supported us in our struggle for freedom and dignity.
It is time to stand up against another wrong.
Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people are part of so many families. They are part of the human family. They are part of God's family. And of course they are part of the African family. But a wave of hate is spreading across my beloved continent. People are again being denied their fundamental rights and freedoms. Men have been falsely charged and imprisoned in Senegal, and health services for these men and their community have suffered. In Malawi, men have been jailed and humiliated for expressing their partnerships with other men. Just this month, mobs in Mtwapa Township, Kenya, attacked men they suspected of being gay. Kenyan religious leaders, I am ashamed to say, threatened an HIV clinic there for providing counselling services to all members of that community, because the clerics wanted gay men excluded.
Uganda's parliament is debating legislation that would make homosexuality punishable by life imprisonment, and more discriminatory legislation has been debated in Rwanda and Burundi.
These are terrible backward steps for human rights in Africa.
Our lesbian and gay brothers and sisters across Africa are living in fear.
And they are living in hiding -- away from care, away from the protection the state should offer to every citizen and away from health care in the AIDS era, when all of us, especially Africans, need access to essential HIV services. That this pandering to intolerance is being done by politicians looking for scapegoats for their failures is not surprising. But it is a great wrong. An even larger offense is that it is being done in the name of God. Show me where Christ said "Love thy fellow man, except for the gay ones." Gay people, too, are made in my God's image. I would never worship a homophobic God.
"But they are sinners," I can hear the preachers and politicians say. "They are choosing a life of sin for which they must be punished." My scientist and medical friends have shared with me a reality that so many gay people have confirmed, I now know it in my heart to be true. No one chooses to be gay. Sexual orientation, like skin color, is another feature of our diversity as a human family. Isn't it amazing that we are all made in God's image, and yet there is so much diversity among his people? Does God love his dark- or his light-skinned children less? The brave more than the timid? And does any of us know the mind of God so well that we can decide for him who is included, and who is excluded, from the circle of his love?
The wave of hate must stop. Politicians who profit from exploiting this hate, from fanning it, must not be tempted by this easy way to profit from fear and misunderstanding. And my fellow clerics, of all faiths, must stand up for the principles of universal dignity and fellowship. Exclusion is never the way forward on our shared paths to freedom and justice.
The writer is archbishop emeritus of Cape Town, South Africa. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984.
A brief background on the development of CATHOLIC teaching on homosexuality in recent times.
When they had told me at St.Mary's School in Alexandria that His Holiness could not make a mistake, I had no trouble believing it. – James Carrol, Constantine's Sword
No one should actually be surprised with the reasoning provided by Archbishop Chaput and Fr. Breslin after all the Church affirms today that homosexuality is an "intrinsic moral evil".
However, 'A New Catechism-Catholic Faith for Adults' published shortly after Vatican II in 1969 spoke of homosexuality in these terms: "It is not the fault of the individual if he or she is not attracted to the other sex. The causes of homosexuality are unknown. In their human isolation, they look for friendship. But even where they find true and loyal responses, the perfect fulfilment of their human longings is not granted them"
Compare that compassionate view with the one expressed by Pope Benedict XVI as Cardinal to the Bishops of the Church, 'On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons'(1986) describing homosexuality as "an intrinsic moral evil and that gay services are not to be tolerated and that Church facilities cannot be made available [for them]".
The 1993 Catechism of the Catholic Church would eventually reflect many of Ratzinger's ideas such as his repeated condemnations of homosexual orientation as "objectively disordered". According to David Gibson author of 'The Rule of Benedict' the CDF* criticised civil antidiscrimination protections for gays and lesbians. And, in 1998 the CDF* had the U.S. bishops rewrite portions of their pastoral letter to parents of homosexuals as a "deep-seated" rather than "fundamental" dimension of personality, and deleted a passage that encouraged the use of terms such as homosexual, gay, and lesbian from the pulpit in or to give people permission to discuss homosexuality. Again in 2003 Ratzinger's office issued a statement against civil unions for homosexuals that described adoption by gay couples as a form of "violence" against children and "gravely immoral". The Pope has been very clear about his position on Vatican II and his desire to build a church on strict orthodoxy even to include the likes of the Society St.Pius X.
* Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
So, again no one should actually be surprised with the reasoning provided by Chaput and Breslin. Pope Benedict XVI has almost single-handedly been responsible for changing and shaping Catholic attitudes towards homosexuality. For those people whose faith is deeply anchored in the Church homosexuality will remain an evil to be hated and combated. However those who stand firm in their faith based on a merciful, compassionate and unconditionally loving God will know better.
Have we forgotten: first it was antisemitism now it is homosexuals?