The National Catholic Review

As some African nations continue or contemplate a judicial and legislative clampdown on gay and lesbian people, the Southern Cross, South Africa's Catholic weekly, took an editorial stand recently. “It would require a very peculiar reading of the Gospel to locate Jesus anywhere else but at the side of the marginalised and vulnerable," its editors wrote. They argue: "Where there is injustice, we must expect the Catholic Church to stand with the powerless. Therefore the Church should sound the alarm at the advance throughout Africa of draconian legislation aimed at criminalising homosexuals."

Recent legislative moves in Nigeria "not intended to render same-sex acts illegal—they already are, and punishable, in most African countries—but to persecute people on the basis of their sexual orientation" may soon be replicated in Cameroon and Tanzania. Southern Cross editors say "such laws are not only unjust, but they also have the potential to tear at the fabric of society if they are misused to facilitate false denunciations for gain, advancement or vengeance, much as what Christians are exposed to in Pakistan under that country’s intolerable blasphemy law."

Noting that homophobia is deeply rooted in African societies and often a deployed as a populist tool by its political leaders, the editors acknowledge that the church too has much to answer for. "Alas, the Church has been silent, in some cases even quietly complicit, in the discourse on new homophobic laws. This absence of intervention for justice may well be interpreted, wrongly or not, as approval of injustice, in line with the maxim Qui tacet, consentire videtur ('Silence gives consent')."

The editors urge church leaders to speak out directly against these new laws and homophobia as a cultural problem, mindful of its own teaching on the treatment of gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.

"Prejudice and the persecution of homosexuals are in defiance of Catholic doctrine. Even as it emphatically rejects homosexual carnal acts, the Catechism of the Catholic Church declares that 'every sign of unjust discrimination in their [homosexuals’] regard should be avoided.' The Catechism further demands that homosexuals 'must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity' (2358)."

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