independent

Tuesday 16 July 2019

Vatican behind curve on LGBTQ issues

Opinion

Pope Francis
Pope Francis

Darragh Clifford - Straight Talking

The Vatican has marked LGBT Pride Month by publishing a new document, called 'Male and Female He Created Them', which was intended to help Catholic teachers, parents, students and members of the clergy address the field of sex education. The document, which rejects the idea that people can choose or change their genders, has been widely denounced by LGBT Catholics around the globe.

Speaking on RTE Radio last week, the chairperson of the Transgender Equality Network (TENI), Sara Phillips, said the document continues to push traditional Catholic teaching, and called it unhelpful and difficult as it denies the reality of the lives of the LGBTQ community.

The document was an attempt by the Vatican to address the changing landscape of gender and sexual identity but all it has succeeded in doing is highlighting just how behind the curve the Catholic Church is on this topic.

The Vatican text called gender fluidity a symptom of the 'confused concept of freedom' and 'momentary desires' that characterise post-modern culture - language that would not be helpful to young people that may be struggling with their identity.

Advocacy group New Ways Ministry said it would further confuse individuals questioning their gender identity or sexual orientation and at risk of self-harm. The group said the Vatican's concepts outlined in the document are outdated, misinformed and ignore contemporary science on factors beyond visible genitalia that determine gender.

The Catholic Church's struggles to remain relevant in modern society, and their falling congregation numbers, has been well documented in recent years. Publicity like this is anything but helpful. They cannot afford to be alienating any strand of society, yet this official Vatican text has done just that. Would the Church be better served simply saying nothing on LGBTQ issues?

In a bizarre turn of events, in the same week as the Vatican's missive, a priest in Kilkenny caused outrage by comparing gay people to infected zombies.

In an extraordinary broadside, Brother Tom Forde spoke of 'the abuse of drugs and alcohol, adultery, fornication and homosexuality, as well as in the acceptance of abortion and contraception and in the move to legalise euthanasia'.

'We sense that many of those around us are physically alive but spiritually dead, morally rotten or at least infected,' he said in a homily at the Capuchin friary in Kilkenny, where some of the congregation reportedly walked out.

'Once you are bitten you are infected and there is no hope. The only way to deal with the monsters is to stab or shoot them in the brain,' said Brother Forde.

The Capuchin Orders has rightly apologised for the disgraceful remarks and while this in no way represents the official Catholic Church line, it is nonetheless an appalling reflection on the state of the Church in Ireland that a member of the clergy would come out with such an awful statement in the middle of a religious ceremony.

If the Catholic Church has any hope of remaining relevant in the 21st century, it must adopt a more open, inclusive approach to not only LGBT issues, but to areas such as women priests and celibacy. And these changes must be adopted fast.

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