David McConkey - Columnist, Consultant, Citizen
Columnist. Consultant. Citizen.

LGBT Rights – 50 Years Worth of Challenge and Progress

Brandon Sun, May 27, 2019 – David McConkey

I am delighted with the special commemorative loonie marking 50 years of decriminalizing homosexuality in Canada. I am delighted even though some have pointed out that the 1969 changes did not go very far. I am delighted because it’s good to mark any progress in accepting the dignity and rights of LGBT individuals. And it’s a good reminder that problems persist: generally in the world and specifically within many religions. Recent revelations, for example, point to this issue within the Roman Catholic Church.

Let’s remember the significance of the start in Canada to decriminalize homosexuality. Even today, there are 70 countries in the world where homosexuality is against the law and can be punished by imprisonment, torture or death. (Islamic countries are the worst. The 14 countries that impose the death penalty for homosexuality are all Islamic.)

Moral progress is replacing bad ideas with good ideas. Canada taking our first step in 1969 helped us and others move along. In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from the DSM – their official manual of psychiatric disorders. This advancement resulted from lobbying by LGBT social justice activists. Ideas, arguments and protests matter.

So, let’s celebrate the progress in Canada. And let’s encourage all cultures, all religions, all organizations and all countries to adopt good ideas and best practices.

Of course, even in Canada some religious leaders still do not accept the reality of homosexuality. It is a shame when any religious leader fails to become as up-to-date and as ethical as possible. I assume that many religious leaders who condemn homosexuality are gay themselves, but in denial.

Revelations within the Roman Catholic Church highlight these concerns. For me, these issues became clear after reading two recent essays by conservative writer Andrew Sullivan. In one essay, Sullivan – who is a devout Catholic – reports on his interviews with gay priests in the U.S. In the other, he reviews a new book by French author Frédéric Martel, In the Closet of the Vatican: Power, Homosexuality, Hypocrisy.

Based on his own and Martel’s research, Sullivan estimates that 30 to 40 per cent of parish priests are gay. In religious orders like the Franciscans and Jesuits, the proportion could be 60 per cent. The percentage apparently increases further up the hierarchy. Perhaps 80 per cent of the upper echelons of Catholicism are gay.

Many gay Catholic clergymen – including cardinals and Vatican officials – are reported to have “lively sex lives.” I think it is important to emphasize here that these can be consensual sexual encounters and relationships. They should not be conflated with sexual abuse.

But his church, Sullivan points out, “teaches that gay people are objectively disordered because their very being leads them to an intrinsic moral evil.” This doctrine has been proven to be a lie “by science and history and the church’s own experience.” And the church hierarchy knows it is a lie.

That the Roman Catholic Church is riddled with deception and hypocrisy is one thing. But this reality has disastrous implications for dealing with the church’s sex abuse crisis. What happens when a priest, bishop or cardinal becomes aware of a case of sexual abuse? Many cover it up – to protect their own secrets.

“If you expose a child molester to his superior,” Sullivan notes as an example, “he might expose your own homosexuality and destroy your career.”

Sullivan argues for immediate and radical change within his church; “the crisis is so profound, the corruption so deep, the duplicity so brazen.” This would include sanctifying what is theoretically forbidden but is already happening: a sexually active, gay clergy.

This acceptance of gay reality and dignity could help end the sex abuse coverup. Clergy who were no longer forced to hide a secret life would feel more free to report cases of sex abuse that they became aware of.

And Sullivan praises the positive contributions of gay clergy to the Roman Catholic Church. (He acknowledges the difficulty of describing this without “indulging in stereotypes.”) Sullivan asserts that gay men bring a special sensitivity and compassion for the marginalized. And they also bring a special sense of flair.

“The old, elaborate High Mass,” Sullivan writes, “with its incense and processions, color-coded vestments, liturgical complexity, musical precision, choirs, organs, and sheer drama, is obviously, in part, a creation of the gay priesthood.”

* * * *
See also: 

In the Closet of the Vatican: Power, Homosexuality, Hypocrisy on Amazon.com

Authors Leading Vital Conversation About Islam

Gripping New Memoir from Canadian Author “Unveiled”

Religion and Values in the Public Square

Gay, Good or God?

 

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David McConkey,
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