Gays Abroad Have Most to Gain from Pope Francis’ Latest Comments

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Ueslei Marcelino /REUTERS

Pope Francis greets the faithful as he arrives at Copacabana Beach to celebrate mass on his sixth day in Rio de Janeiro, July 27, 2013.

The Pope did not change any official Catholic position when he stated on Monday that gays should not be marginalized or judged. But the effects of his words could be transformational in parts of the world where homophobia is institutionalized. This is especially true in sub-Saharan Africa and other parts of the developing world.

Catholicism has exploded in sub-Saharan Africa over the past century, from 1% of the region in 1910 to 21% in 2010, according to the Pew Research Center. Attitudes about homosexuality in sub-Saharan Africa are also some of the least accepting in the world. A June 2013 Pew report found that 98% of Nigerians say society should not accept homosexuality, as well as 96% of Ugandans, and the numbers are similarly high in neighboring countries.  “The Pope’s comments will have significant resonance in many African countries, including Nigeria, Cameroon and Uganda, and also in the Caribbean,” says Graeme Reid, director of the LGBT Rights Program at Human Rights Watch.

(VIDEO: Pope Francis and Gays: “Loving the Sinner” Is Still Intolerance)

Catholic leaders there are often active in the fight against gay rights, sometimes claiming it is a Western notion to avoid. In Nigeria, Cardinal John Onaiyekan was seen as giving tacit support for parliament’s bill in May that criminalized gay marriage, relationships, and membership to gay rights groups. Catholic bishops in Uganda, a 42% Catholic country, joined other Christian leaders to encourage Parliament to pass the anti-homosexuality bill in 2012. In Cameroon, a 40% Catholic country, homosexuality is illegal.

“Marriage of persons of the same sex is a serious crime against humanity,” Victor Tonye Bakot Archbishop of Yaounde, preached there last year. “We need to stand up to combat it with all our energy.” Earlier this month in the Dominican Republic, a 67% Catholic Caribbean country, Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez referred to President Obama’s nominee for DR’s ambassador by the anti-gay slur “maricón.”

(MORE: Pope Francis Says He Does Not Judge Gay Priests)

The Pope’s comments will now challenge these bishops to adopt a different tone. Change in the Vatican has always moved at glacial pace. But when it does happen, it often starts in small ways in local parishes. “A shift like this could affect everything from the kinds of homilies preached at Sunday Mass, to how much leadership bishops take on anti-LGBT equality measures, to whether bishops speak out when laws making homosexuality a capital crime are being considered,” explains Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of LGBT Catholic organization DignityUSA. And, she continues, the pope’s example matters greatly for gay Catholics, especially those in the least accepting environments.

“For gay people to hear a Pope speak of us as people of faith and goodwill who should not be marginalized in society, rather than as threats to civilization, is a great shift,” she said.

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9 comments
MaximusGluteus
MaximusGluteus

I almost breakdown because I'm gay. It eats up me inside. I feel I'm not part of the world. I pray to God, that "If we are just created to be abominable in this world, better kill us all! If he doesn't kill us, that means, we are part of God's creation, not to be kicked off by the mainstream sex, not to be discriminated and let felt sorry for being gay.

mrbomb13
mrbomb13

What TIME Magazine (and other progressive readers) forget is that homosexuality and actual homosexuals are considered as grace sinners by the Roman Catholic Church.  As such, the Pope as recommended 1) constant prayer for them, and 2) an unceasing out-reach to them, so as to bring them fully into Christian living. 

No where in that sentiment has the Pope said that the Church condones homosexuality/homosexuals.  In fact, in the same interview, he re-iterated the Church's firm position against the notion of, "gay marriage."  Since marriage is considered a celebration, the Pope has made clear that homosexuality is not to be celebrated by the Church. 

Unfortunately, TIME Magazine left out that part of the story.

simplyhua
simplyhua

Sins should be forgiven, but should never be agreed.

Singerman
Singerman

I'm not so sure this says much. Would the Pope say that it is his job to judge anyone for their sin?

Every priest or preacher I know points to God and says, God will judge. The priest or preacher's job is simply to deliver the truth of God and follow God's commandments in the process, including to love everyone. That doesn't mean they condone the wrong things done by the people they love any more than a parent's love equals permissiveness.

roknsteve
roknsteve

I wonder what his position is on molester priests?  That's more important.   

AakritiGhai
AakritiGhai

@MaximusGluteus people who mocks  do not have the real sense and true meaning of life. you get it going.let it be

Ivan_Tucherkov
Ivan_Tucherkov

You are incorrect.  The Catholic church does not teach that *anyone* is a grave sinner.  Under your logic, a chaste homosexual who follows all of Church rules is a grave sinner.   Remember to judge the sin, not the sinner, and be wary of spreading false doctrine.