As hate crimes against the LGBT community continue in Jamaica and around the world, and the debate flares up ever more regularly and heatedly across news media, airwaves and social networks, only the voice of someone as instantly likeable, pragmatically spiritual and obviously human as Pope Francis could be expected to bring the issue to the top of the headlines in the right way. His interview with America Magazine was a historic milestone for the global Catholic Church as he simply, humbly and eloquently stated what millions of ordinary members of the faithful have believed for decades, but which has remained in the stranglehold of dogma and theological double-talk until now.
“A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person. Here we enter into the mystery of the human being. In life, God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation. It is necessary to accompany them with mercy. When that happens, the Holy Spirit inspires the priest to say the right thing.”
In a few sentences, Pope Francis managed to illustrate the only way forward for Catholicism in the 21st century, when millions of Catholics and Christians have become disengaged, disillusioned and disenfranchised by the iron grip of religious conservatism, and millions of others have spewed hate and ugliness about the rights or otherwise of the gay community in and out of the church.
An army of talking heads spewed forth about the significance of Pope’s revolutionary new approach, but in actual fact there is nothing new about the message he clearly delivered via the Jesuit publication. Simply put, the leader of 1.2 billion souls is only reiterating what every Christian has been Sunday-schooled in since the ADs began. Two thousand years later, as far as Il Papa is concerned, it is time to stop judging and hating our fellow man for whatever reason, and start treating everyone how we ourselves would like to be treated. And which one of us can argue with that?
Probably Ralph Gonsalves, whose take on the issue of decriminalising homosexuality in Saint Vincent was riddled with teflon-coated evasiveness, and some crazy idea that changing the laws of a country has nothing to do with politicians.
“… that is a discussion which the church can lead, which the civic society can lead and it is interesting that a journalist is raising it,” Gonsalves said at a press conference this week in relation to the decriminalisation of homosexual acts.
“I don’t think it is an appropriate one on a values issue like this for a politician to be involved. And if a matter like that was to come to Parliament, I suspect that what you would have individual votes of conscience, rather than party lines….”
And this from a lawyer.
With the Caribbean’s woeful reputation as a homophobic region being ramped up by this summer’s highly publicised murders, mob attacks and anti-gay protests in Jamaica, it is a relief to see that some states are stepping up to the platform and supporting the abolition of discriminatory laws in their country.
On Belize’s 32nd Independence Day last week, in an unprecedented move Prime Minister, Dean Barrow, used the opportunity to support the right to equality for LGBT citizens. In his message to mark the day the PM said:
“Government will therefore fully respect the right of the churches to propagate their understanding of the morality, or immorality, of homosexuality. But what Government cannot do is to shirk its duty to ensure that all citizens, without exception, enjoy the full protection of the law.
“After all, the Belize Constitution that affirms the supremacy of God also affirms fundamental rights and the dignity of the individual human being.
“That same Constitution further declares that all persons are equal before the law and entitled to non discrimination; to freedom from interference with their privacy; and to freedom from unlawful attacks on their honour and reputation.”
Curaçao will celebrate its very first Curaçao Pride between Sept 25 and 29, as part of a tourism marketing strategy designed to attract to its “gay friendly island” some of the US$140 billion “pink” dollars in the tourism market. The Curaçao Tourist Board encourages gay and lesbian travelers to visit the island and experience its ‘Live and Let Live’ atmosphere for themselves.
“It is important to us that it’s known to the gay & lesbian community that everyone is welcome in Curaçao. Our island offers diverse culture, art galleries, beaches, museums, fine accommodations and exquisite cuisine that are enjoyed by all visitors to the island,” states the website gaycuracao.com.
A very smart move when Caribbean economies are struggling to grasp every tourist dollar, and one that would work for Saint Lucia if the same pragmatism were applied to developing tourism niches for the island. Gay cruises were a welcome if sporadic source of revenue for Pointe Seraphine vendors and taxis way back in the 90s, and any sensible taxi driver would have told you the gays were great tippers, as long as you were willing to bite back the homophobia and apply a bit of that ‘live and let live’ mentality for the day.
So is the voice of reason from this spiritual, generous and humble religious leader enough to convince Christian nations like Saint Lucia to “consider the person” by taking the opportunity to abolish anti-gay laws and decriminalise homosexuality? That remains to be seen.