The Church Must Speak With One Strong Voice Against Homophobia

The Church Must Speak With One Strong Voice Against Homophobia March 31, 2014


“Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” Then he will say to those at his left hand, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” Matthew 25:37-43

This morning, a rally was held in Uganda to celebrate that country’s new and notoriously harsh anti-gay legislation. I was greatly distressed when I found out that the Catholic archbishop of Kampala, Cyprian Kizito Lwanga, had participated.

I find this absolutely unconscionable. This should be so easy. A law that punishes homosexual acts with sentences up to life imprisonment, and punishes non-reporting with prison, is plainly unjust and against the Gospel and the Church’s Holy Magisterium.

Is it not clear that, throughout history, homosexual persons have truly been “the least of these”? That they have been for most of history, and remain, beyond what remain small post-modern enclaves, “despised and rejected of men”?

Let’s get a few red herrings out of the way first:

  1. This is not about the morality of homosexual acts, or the “culture wars” of the postmodern West; saying that politically-motivated homophobia is wrong is fully in accord with the Gospel and the Magisterium of the Catholic Church–indeed, commanded by it;
  2. The Church’s record on this issue is not grim; prelates do often speak well on this issue, as recently in India or in the person of Cardinal Turkson; this is not about demonizing the Church; its record could be worse; it could, however, be better;
  3. I want to give as fair a hearing as possible to people who think homosexual acts ought to be penalized; this is something I strongly disagree with, but this isn’t what this is about either; this isn’t about the law being a moral teacher, this wave of new laws is about a convenient way for tinpot demagogues to get some political capital on the cheap by demonizing a minority and stoking a populace’s worst instincts (see Putin, Vladimir).

Here’s another thing that’s so infuriating, here: all the pseudo-science. We Catholics roll our eyes, rightly, over stupid things like Creationism and “pray the gay away” ministries. We are heirs to the most stupendous intellectual patrimony in the history of civilization. The junk science about homosexuality that is peddled by American Fundamentalists has now found its way to Africa to do even more damage. Supporters of these laws claim that homosexuality is a Western invention foisted upon them by colonialism, and that it is a choice. They use eliminationist rhetoric. The Church of Aquinas and Bellarmine ought to vomit out this nonsense.

This law sits at the nexus of everything that ought to be repellent to a Christian, and especially a Catholic. The victimization of the scapegoat. Junk science. Lies. Political demagoguery. Unchecked majority rule.

Now, where does the Church stand, here? As noted by Catholic activist Frank Mugisha in a must-read post, we could be doing so much better. Yes, the Church has spoken well in some circumstances. But not in every circumstance, as today’s event makes clear. There should be a united, strong voice. All Catholic bishops, particularly in Uganda and other affected countries (here, I think especially of Russia) should speak with one voice. This is where our “Catholic difference”, our being a sign of contradiction, ought to shine most brightly: not the anything-goes of the postmodern West, but not hateful repression either. (By the way, this isn’t what it’s about, but I can’t help but point out that it would be politically deft for the Catholic Church to be outspoken about homophobia in the developing world. People in the West are always asking about evidence for our claim to “hate the sin, love the sinner.” Let’s show them.)

Will this make evangelization harder in the short run? Will it cause some people in these countries to leave their parish church to go to the Evangelical or Anglican church next door? Tough. Take up your Cross.

If you think this isn’t a big deal, just try to imagine what it must be like to find yourself to be gay in a country that has a culture where a politician could get more popular by signing a law that carries a life sentence for homosexual acts. Pause the rhetoric, and just try to imagine that.

Someone like that is someone whom the Gospel says to pour out our love to. The rest can wait. And the Church must speak with one voice.



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  • Why just this phobia? Why not phobias in general?

    • I do not believe, and have not written, that the Church should speak out against “just” one sin.

      • Phobia. Is an irrational fear a sin?

        • arcadius

          No. Being afraid of something has never been considered a sin. Indeed “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.”

      • Also, I am reminded of the people who thought the church should speak out strongly, with one voice, against the evils of communism. At least one poor, harassed pastor/colleague got a lot of grief from some of his parishioners for not doing so. This was in a congregation that was itself unlikely to be tempted by the evils of communism.

      • arcadius

        Coulrophobia‎, cynophobia, aichurophobia … the Church must speak out against them all!

  • Mike

    I agree this law is immoral and wrong and the RCC should say so as did the prelate in India and Turkson.

    As for Russia, i think the issue is one of freedom of speech and assembly which is being denied one particular group for political reasons. That being said IF the west didn’t push so hard on this issue it wouldn’t find as much push back in these countries. I understand totally why Africa and Eastern Europe see the West’s obsession with homosexuality as simply the latest cultural imperialist attack on their cultures. The West has a fixation with this issue for a number of reasons but by pushing it as the most pressing moral issue of our lives sends a weird message to say the least to the people who are starving, to people without jobs, to children who have diseases and to people who aren’t free to say what’s on their minds. It sounds tone deaf and insulting to compare a particular form of sexual expression with modern day slavery and lack of access to clean water!

    • “I understand totally why Africa and Eastern Europe see the West’s obsession with homosexuality as simply the latest cultural imperialist attack on their cultures.” I think this is fair enough, and is a great example of how the Gospel stands in judgement of all cultures.

      • Mike

        I agree. We in the developed West have a sense of our selves and of our culture that is in many instances a source of trouble to say the least; we just assume that everyone wants to live the way we live (by we i mean the cultural elites, both “left” and “right”).

      • Except the homosexuals, right?

        • If you think I wrote anything that even remotely suggests this, you fail at reading comprehension forever.

          • The use of the term homophobia has a tendency to imply that. It was an invented term to begin with to destroy any debate or suggestion that homosexuality may be wrong.

            “Is it not clear that, throughout history, homosexual persons have truly been “the least of these”? ”

            Yep, it’s very much not clear- because the hated unplanned children, victims of the largest genocide in history, most certainly have pride of place on that one!

            Homosexuality is but a roaring mouse- a small minority of a minority that thinks it should be the majority, and will use anything in their power, including the law, to insure that they become the majority.

            Perhaps we should stop our own genocide of the unborn first, before we go attacking other cultures for their sins? Let’s take the log out of our own eye before jumping on the splinter in Uganda’s.

    • oregon nurse

      “the latest cultural imperialist attack on their cultures.”

      Or it could be that they are abhored by the excesses in our culture, determined that tolerance only leads to those excesses, and have decided to take a different course. Substitute the word pedophile for homosexual and we are at the same place as Uganda. But I bet in 20 years we will see the same attitude shift toward acceptance of pedophilia as we have seen with homosexuality. All you have to do is start changing the age of consent and the psychology of ‘harm’ to children. We stopped defending the notion of harm to children deprived of a mother and a father in order to get no-fault divorce. Homosexual couples just took what heteros had already done one step further. Why do we think the notion of harm to a child engaged in a ‘loving’ sexual relationship with an adult won’t change as well? People who ignore the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them. Maybe Uganda is on the right track, heavy-handed but wanting to send an unambiguous message of no tolerance..

      • Mike

        I think that in the Ug context what ppl may be missing is the impact that AIDS has had on the country and the issue of “out doing” muslims on this issue, so being tougher than them in order not to lose people to islam; plus like people in all places except the west, a general belief that homosexuality is not healty. Either way i think the law is just terrible and will hopefully be curtailed somehow. As for lowering the age of consent, well that’s been afoot for decades so i don’t see that changing anytime soon. But first i think what we’ll see if polyamory and polygamy legalised or tolerated. Look at that judge in NY who said that 2 friends can adopt a child because they are in an intimate relationship. Children, all of them deserve as a matter of basic justice the chance to be brought up by heterosexual parents of both sexes; that’s a matter of fundamental justice.

  • NicholasBeriah Cotta

    The proportionality of the laws in Uganda are clearly morally wrong, and Catholicism is a religion that deals so much with this topic. But are you saying it is morally wrong to legislate morality? Scalia saw in Lawrence v. Texas that striking down sodomy laws would have consequence many types of moral legislation. What are you saying about these laws in general? Are you asserting a right to any moral behavior?

    • Mike

      There’s a difference between a law saying this behavior is wrong and can be civilly restricted and saying if you do this you go to jail for 10 years! The first is, if agreed by all in society a reasonable and i think defensible proposition the second is cruel and unjust.

      • NicholasBeriah Cotta

        When I say “proportionality,” I mean the punishment does not fit the crime. My question was: should Catholic thought prohibit criminalization entirely?

        • Mike

          Oh i see. I don’t think it should entirely but i am not quite sure about that; it can certainly place restrictions of course.

    • My post explicitly eschews debate on this question.

      • NicholasBeriah Cotta


  • JohnMcG

    I’m going to share my human response to this, which I’m not claiming I should be proud of or be the basis for action, or inaction, but it’s there.

    1. This feels like a shake down for the Church to prove it’s not homophobic, and I’m not inclined to respond to go along with it.

    2. Where are all the people who just last month were claiming gays were oppressed because a photographer would rather not do their wedding?

    3. I have found the support from other groups to the persecution of Christians in different parts of the world to be underwhelming, to say the least.

    Again, these are probably not thoughts I should be particularly proud of, or an excuse for action or inaction that I suspect would serve me well at the Final Judgment. But it’s there for me, and I suspect for a lot of others as well.

    • JohnMcG

      Part of my uneasiness around #1 is about the inclusion of Russia without a strong case being made of it.

      I don’t know enough about the Russian laws as I should, but my understanding is that they are nearly as draconian as the Ugandan laws, and that they punish “propaganda to youth,” not homosexual acts. It doesn’t take much imagination to see how this could be abused, but I’m not sure it’s fair to assume this abuse.

      We have witnessed the term “homophobia” being stretched to lengths all over. I’m reluctant to be enlisted as a soldier against homophobia if I’m not sure how that enemy is defined.

      • JohnMcG

        To me, asking me to join a fight against homophobia, with the law in Uganda as an example, would be similar to asking today’s American secular liberals to speak with one strong voice in favor or “religious freedom” with, say, the persecution of Coptic Christians as an example. It’s a term that, to many, has become poisoned.

        I’ll much more gladly join a fight against these sort of draconian penalties. But I’m not certain I want to join a generalized fight against “homophobia.”

        • “similar to asking today’s American secular liberals to speak with one strong voice in favor or “religious freedom” with, say, the persecution of Coptic Christians as an example.” That sounds like a good idea, too!

    • JohnMcG

      Of course, progressives just illustrated my points better than I possibly could have :

  • Jeff Walton

    “The junk science about homosexuality that is peddled by American Fundamentalists has now found its way to Africa to do even more damage.” I’m impressed with how influential those “American Fundamentalists” have been at convincing the officials of four nations — all Islamic majority ones — to adopt aforementioned death penalty provisions. Who knew “American Fundamentalists” had such clout with the leaders of Sudan and Saudi Arabia?!

    • arcadius

      Right and the idea that Africans can’t have possibly found any reasons for condemnation by their own reason or by reading the Bible themselves or by following, say, Russia, is just one of many condescending if not racist points in this sad, annoying diatribe.

  • Tolerance for homosexuals is a First World Problem, that cannot be allowed to affect the Third World where human procreation is still a virtue.

    I have become convinced that anybody who thinks homosexuality should be normal, is heterophobic and bigoted beyond the ability to reason.

    Let Uganda deal with Uganda in THEIR culture, stop cultural imperialism to dictate YOUR culture onto them.

    • Noor

      Do you mean that gays and lesbians in third world countries are not suffering from persecution? or that their sufferings are not important enough?
      Considering the fact that many cultures were actually tolerant of homosexuality before western influence, I think it’s fair that some people are trying to undo the damage.

      • I’m saying that there may be reasons behind this law YOU don’t understand. That there may be suffering behind this law, suffering caused by homosexual acts, that you don’t have to deal with in First World privilege of luxury where bribery and hush money can keep the problems to a minimum. That there might actually be *reason* behind the persecution and wish to eliminate homosexuality from their culture. Reason that you can’t see, because you are wearing the blinders of imperialism.

        • Noor

          I don’t live in a first world country. In my country, gays and lesbians are persecuted and killed. I can’t think of a reason for a law that deprives me of my right to live. can you?

          • Yes, I can. Several in fact.

            Spread of the AIDS virus is a huge one.

            A cultural need for heterosupremacy is another, especially where there has been a history of eugenics depressing birthrate.

            Homosexual rape used as a military tactic in a civil war may cause an undue reaction against gays and lesbians after the war.

            The need for a homogenous culture might cause a culture to limit dissenting and fringe minorities.

            Tell me, how could they tell a homosexual from a heterosexual *unless the homosexual comes out and tells them*?

          • Noor

            I can only speak of my own country. The laws were here long before AIDS. We have no history of eugenics depressing birthrate and homosexual rape was and is by no mean more prevalent than heterosexual rape. I don’t know about the need for homogeneous culture but i know that none of what you mentioned is good reason to have death penalty to punish homosexuals.
            As how they can tell, It’s not very difficult. Raiding parties and hangouts, contacting gays and lesbians on the internet and deceiving them, being informed by other people, etc.

          • If the gays and lesbians don’t go to “hangouts”, don’t advertise their presence as gay on the net, don’t tell other people that they are gay, then how can the authorities tell the difference?

            If the laws were there long before AIDS, might the reason for them actually be, gasp, evolution?

          • Noor

            Ok, so you’re saying that people should stay completely hidden and silent and live their lives in fear and shame and loneliness. Do you have any idea how torturous such a life is?
            and how is evolution responsible for such cruel laws?

          • “Do you have any idea how torturous such a life is? ”

            Yes. In fact I do. I live it every day as a person with autism trying to make my way in a world designed for neurotypicals. But I don’t try to force the neurotypicals to be autistic, nor do I claim that the laws should be changed to accommodate me.

            “and how is evolution responsible for such cruel laws?”

            Cultures are as affected by survival of the fittest as much as species are. Laws that don’t make sense in one context, make sense in another; all laws are cruel to somebody. A law against cannibalism that gives the death penalty to cannibals is equally cruel to a law against homosexuality that gives the death penalty to homosexuals. There’s no special pleading to evolution.

  • James Young

    How is it “fear of” to oppose the radical homosexual agenda?

    And “junk science about homosexuality that is peddled by American Fundamentalists”? As opposed to what? The junk science peddled — and bought by the author of this article — by advocates for the radical homosexual agenda?

    The law can address behavior. And while the penalties may be overly harsh, society is certainly entitled to criminalize deviant sexual behavior.

    • arcadius

      Demonizing your opponent as insane lets you avoid having a substantial discussion on the topic. It also provides an excuse for ostracizing and “reeducation.”

      “Junk science” is another shortcut to avoid having to construct convincing arguments using logic and evidence. I would have thought that a high school biology course on human reproduction would be fairly uncontroversial, but apparently the author believes that a shadowy cabal of “fundamentalists” are responsible for the “junk” idea that humans reproduce sexually.

  • arcadius

    “Homophobia” is a word that was recently disrecommended by the AP style guide. It literally means “fear of the same” and so suggests a certain level of illiteracy. Pedantry aside, it, along with the equally Orwellian “anti-gay,” encourage sloppy thinking by obfuscating the distinction between person and action.

  • Homophobia was a creation of the radical left to legitimize homosexual behavior and to use as a cudgel against the Church and Christians. Just look at what happened to Brendan Eich. Accusations of homophobia are a political act to attack any who oppose the homosexual agenda. Homosexuality should be illegal and punished by the State. Obviously not with death, but laws against homosexuality are necessary because the inevitable end if it is not punished is an attack on the Church as in the abortion and birth control mandates by Obamacare, attacks on the Church for not endorsing homosexuality and homosexual marriage, and the celebration of homosexuality in the media and by politicians like Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden,and Barack Hussein Obama. And note that homosexual groups always work with pedophiles like NAMBLA. So evil and vicious crime always follows homosexuality. What Africans are doing is engaging the attacks on the natural law, revealed law, and the Church.

    • paizlea

      Are you Catholic? Because insisting that homosexual groups always work with pedophiles sounds much like the pot calling the kettle black. Or are you just trying to deflect attention away from your church’s own longstanding tradition of institutionalized pedophilia? Perhaps you should clean your own house before criticizing your neighbors.

      • Are you saying that all Catholics are peodophiles? Are you saying that all priests are peodophiles, or are you saying that most Catholic priest peodophiles are homosexual?

        • paizlea

          I’m saying none of those things. I’m saying that it’s disingenuous for a Catholic to accuse another group of harboring or working with pedophiles, when every day we learn more about how the Catholic Church did the same. Is the Church without sin, that it might cast the first stone? Are you?