Saturday, July 18, 2009

Venezuelan Catholic Bishops Come Out vs. Gay Rights

Yesterday, I wrote,

The consistent strategy of the leaders of the Catholic church around the world is to oppose any and all rights for gay persons until it becomes inopportune to continue resisting these rights—while the church professes to be a strong supporter of human rights.

I wrote this to challenge the pretense of some Catholic pastoral leaders that they support fundamental human rights for gay persons, now that gay marriage is becoming inevitable in some areas of the world. As I have noted frequently on this blog, the claim of those Catholic pastoral leaders who now say they will accept gay civil unions in lieu of marriage, because they have always supported the human rights of gay persons short of marriage, is a bogus claim.

The Catholic church’s strategy for some time now has been to resist any and all rights for gay persons anywhere in the world that a move arises to recognize the human rights of gay persons. The strategy is to concede only when concession is absolutely necessary.

And now today this report from Clerical Whispers:

Ten years ago, the Catholic Church so vehemently opposed the inclusion of equality language for GLBTs in a reform of Venezuela’s constitution that those protections were excluded from the country’s bedrock law.
Now Catholic Bishops are protesting legislation, the "Organic Law for Gender Equity and Equality," which they say would extend marriage to Venezuela’s gay and lesbian families.
As a defense of their position, the bishops are pointing to the very constitution that the church prevented from including GLBT equality protections.

When Catholic bishops promote a federal constitution that denies fundamental human rights to gay citizens, they can hardly turn around and claim that the discriminatory constitution they have engineered is a credible basis for arguing that those same citizens ought to be denied the right to marriage. Not with a straight face, they can't.

The point seems simple, to me. If the Catholic church expects to be taken seriously when it encourages the culture at large to respect and promote human rights, it cannot continue egregiously violating the human rights of a select group of citizens around the world. The human rights teachings of the church are one of its great treasures and one of its most significant contributions to the modern world.

But those teachings will increasingly appear irrelevant to people who see the Catholic church’s own record with regard to the human rights of gay persons as spotty at best, and downright toxic and corrupt at worst. If Catholic pastoral leaders seriously want to call the culture to esteem human rights, they need seriously to rethink the strategy of consistent opposition to the rights of a select group of human beings, that has guided their “pastoral” outreach to gay persons for some time now. And the many progressive Catholics who continue to keep silence about the church's own conspicuous violation of the fundamental rights of gay persons need to break that silence and stop treating gay persons as invisible.

Otherwise the church will continue to be regarded as irrelevant, cruel, and hypocritical, particularly when many of those same leaders who engage in homophobic crusades are well-known to be closeted gay men themselves.