Vatican spokesman makes conspicuously timed condemnation of anti-gay violence

Before a UN panel on anti-gay violence, a Vatican spokesman made the following statement:

[T]he Holy See continues to oppose all grave violations of human rights against homosexual persons, such as the use of the death penalty, torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. The Holy See also opposes all forms of violence and unjust discrimination against homosexual persons, including discriminatory penal legislation which undermines the inherent dignity of the human person.

As raised by some of the panelists today, the murder and abuse of homosexual persons are to be confronted on all levels, especially when such violence is perpetrated by the State. While the Holy See’s position on the concepts of sexual orientation and gender identity remains well known, we continue to call on all States and individuals to respect the rights of all persons and to work to promote their inherent dignity and worth.

 The statement does not specifically reference the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Act. No official Vatican statement has been made on the bill. This strikes me as a conspicuous omission given the press the issue has garnered. It was no doubt at least mentioned during an international panel on anti-gay violence.

Moreover, though the statement only condemns use of  “the death penalty, torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment” by the State, this does not preclude humane punishments in promoting the “inheret dignity” of individuals.

This distinction, I think, was not unnoticed by the spokesman. Throughout the catecism‘s discussions of chastity, the vocation which the document obliges homosexuals to follow, it is claimed unchaste sexual activity is damaging to “dignity.” 

Furthermore, ss Kincaid notes, as late as recently as last year the Vatican opposed an EU statement against the criminalization of homosexuality. Given all this, and given the spokesperson’s omission of specific mention of the Ugandan bill, it seems eminently possible that the Vatican’s official position may be opposition only to the most extreme sentences in the bill while supporting criminalization of homosexuality internatioinally. Their spokesmen would be unable to argue this position explicitly, lest they lose support in the more liberal Western nations with whom they are already on chilly terms on questions of LGBT rights.

This arguement may be straw for all I know. But given the absence of an explicit condemnation, and given the Vatican’s track record on LGBT rights, it is not unreasonable to think their silence gives consent to the Ugandan bill.  I remain agnostic on the matter but eager for a clarification, and frustrated at the wait.

Roughly 42 percent of Uganda’s population is Catholic, making the Roman church the largest sect in the country. Official Vatican condemnation of the bill could make Ugandan legislators blink.

But they haven’t.

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