Last year, I wrote a blog piece entitled A Call for Charity, asking why the Vatican opposed a United Nations resolution condemning the criminalization of homosexuality and the beatings and killings of gay men and women across the globe. It made no sense, I wrote, for the church to take this position considering its otherwise strong and consistent support for the human rights of all individuals.
But to their credit, church officials recently began moving in the right direction. Ugandan officials are trying to pass legislation that would imprison and, in some cases, execute gay men. The Ugandan government receives advice and funding for this initiative from some American evangelicals. Several countries and organizations immediately condemned the bill, including representatives in the Anglican Communion, Sweden, and, though less robustly, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Considering the Vatican's opposition to the UN resolution last year, I was surprised and heartened to read that the Vatican’s permanent observer to the UN is among those individuals condemning the bill. Archbishop Celestino Migliore said:
As stated during the debate of the General Assembly last year, 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.
As raised by some of the panelists today, the murder and abuse of homosexual persons are to be confronted on all levels, especially when such violence is perpetrated by the State. While the Holy See's position on the concepts of sexual orientation and gender identity remains well known, we continue to call on all States and individuals to respect the rights of all persons and to work to promote their inherent dignity and worth.
So let’s give credit where credit’s due. With this statement, the church makes clear its opposition to egregious infractions against human dignity, especially relating to gay and lesbian individuals. Some may argue that the church still has a long way to go on these issues, but this is a welcome milestone.