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.

Michael O'Loughlin

Comments

JIM MCCREA | 2/5/2010 - 6:14pm
To consider this statement a milestone when the church's attitude toward civil liberties of lesbians and gays is a millstone is farcial at best.
William Lindsey | 2/3/2010 - 9:00am
I'm afraid I may be one of those who, as your conclusion indicates, will continue to argue that the church has a long way to go on these issues.
On December 17 last year, Pope Benedict met with the new ambassador from Uganda to the Vatican, Francis K. Butagira.  In that meeting, Benedict did not ever mention-not a single time-the legislation being considered by the Ugandan legislature that would make homosexuality a capital crime.
Instead, he used the meeting as an occasion to praise Uganda for its fidelity to the Holy See, noting, “Diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the Republic of Uganda continue to offer many opportunities for mutual assistance and cooperation for the spiritual good and welfare of the people of your nation.”
At a time in which many people are raising critical questions about the push to canonize Pius XII because, in the view of many critics, he did not speak clearly, publicly, and unambiguously against the Holocaust, Benedict's silence about a situation in which a nation that is 42% Catholic may make being gay a capital crime is profoundly troubling.
And, I would argue, it's scandalous.
james belna | 2/3/2010 - 12:32am
Mr O'Loughlin:
I know nothing about this story other than what I read on your blog post and the stories you linked to. According to those sources, the "American evangelicals" had nothing to do with the drafting, funding, promoting, or any other involvement with the Ugandan legislation that provides for the imprisonment and execution of homosexuals. To the contrary, they have unequivocally condemned it. In fact, if you follow the link to their organization (that is embedded in the NY Times article you linked to in your post), you can see that they have formally protested the law with language that is essentially identical to the statement of Archbishop Migliore.
There is not a single passage in either article that you linked to that supports the claim that these evangelicals provided advice and funding for this particular initiative. In other words, you have slandered three American evangelicals. If you re-read the Guardian story, you will see a footnote in which they have retracted a similarly slanderous claim. You ought to do so as well.
Phillip Clark | 2/2/2010 - 12:42pm
One step at a time I guess... =/
"Veni Sancte Spiritus!"