Monday, November 30, 2015

Catholic Officials Explain Pope's Silence About LGBT People in Uganda: They Were "Included" in Pope's Comments Though Invisible, and Ugandans Are Concerned with "Real Problems"

More on the not surprising (but nonetheless scandalous) decision of Pope Francis to talk about human rights, social justice, tolerance, and respect in Uganda without ever uttering a single word about the LGBT human beings whose lives are made a living hell by social attitudes and laws targeting them in that largely Christian nation: 

As Chris Morley noted yesterday, the pope's decision to ignore LGBT people and threats to their lives while he spoke of human rights, social justice, tolerance, and respect in Africa is entirely consistent with the pretense of the Catholic hierarchy for some years now that LGBT human beings simply do not exist. And so it's possible, Catholic pastoral leaders keep insisting, to talk credibly about all of those good things without ever naming LGBT people — even in a nation that has considered executing LGBT people simply for being who they happen to be.

As Leah Mickens adds in a comment yesterday, this approach is entirely consistent with the desire of conservative religious groups to shove LGBT people back into the closet. Pretending that people are not even in the room as you talk about human rights while their very lives are at risk due to the denial of their human rights is an out of sight, out of mind tactic. It allows one to speak in highflown moral platitudes while ignoring the huge elephant in the room that most egregiously calls into question the credibility of such platitudes, as long as the elephant is ignored. (Leah has written about this issue on her blog, too.)

Crux's Vatican correspondent Inés San Martín adds corroboration to what Chris and Leah are saying. She cites a Vatican spokesman who, when questioned about the pope's decision to remain totally silent about the threat to LGBT lives in Uganda as he spoke of the need for social justice, tolerance, and respect for human rights, replied that though LGBT people were not mentioned, "they were included" in what the pope said.

She also quotes a Spanish missionary in Uganda who did not wish to be identified, who told her that Ugandans are interested in "real problems" like poverty, corruption, inequality, forced prostitution, gender violence, and a flawed educational system. 

LGBT human are not "real problems," you see. They and their problematized lives are not anything like the real problems that the Christian community must address in Uganda and elsewhere — not even when their very lives are under assault by people claiming for their execution and citing faith-based warrants as they do so. They are to remain invisible, unnamed, ignored, while they console themelves that they are silently "included" when Christian pastoral leaders call for respect for human rights and for social justice.

Something seems radically awry with this picture, doesn't it? It allows people who will not even recognize the existence of LGBT human beings to pretend that their nice-sounding moral norms apply to those invisible, unacknowledged human beings, even when threats to the very lives of those human beings are among the most egregious challenges to human rights to be faced in some societies in the world. And it allows Christian pastoral leaders to pat themselves on the back for facing "real problems" like real marginalization, inequality, and abuse, while pretending that the marginalization, inequality, and abuse faced by LGBT people is imaginary.

Since those people do not even exist.

It beggars belief, doesn't it, that even many well-educated lay Catholics who claim to be champions of human rights continue to give Catholic pastoral leaders a free pass as they carry on this shameful wink-nudge game about the humanity and rights of LGBT people. And that journalists working for major Catholic publications in the U.S. and elsewhere collude in the charade, never pointing out the obvious to unnamed Vatican spokesmen or anonymous Catholic missionaries: that you cannot justifiably claim to be promoting social justice and human rights while pretending that a segment of the human community facing horrendous oppression does not exist and does not deserve to be talked about, defended, and welcomed by the body of Christ.

I'm not sure of the source of this graphic. I find it at pages and pages of blog sites online, but haven't been able to track its original source.

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