Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan signed a law making homosexuality criminal last month. Since then, homosexual acts have been punishable by long prison sentences and death, and violence against alleged gays and lesbians has been on the rise. The ban on homosexuality is called the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act and was signed Jan. 7. It sets a 14-year prison sentence for homosexuality. In some Nigerian states, homosexuality is even punishable by death via stoning.
A South-African Catholic publication run by the bishops of Swaziland, South Africa, and Batswana called “Southern Cross” responded by calling African Catholics to stand up against the anti-gay legislation and homophobia common to 34 of 58 African Countries, according to Amnesty International.
Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos lauded Jonathan on behalf of the Catholic Hierarchy of Nigeria days after he signed the law. This incited “Southern Cross” to make a statement about the Church’s part in ensuring social justice.
The anonymous “Southern Cross” editor said, “These laws are not intended to render same-sex acts illegal — they already are, and punishable, in most African countries — but to persecute people on the basis of their sexual orientation.”
The writer goes on to address the Church’s response to laws of this nature and LGBTQ issues in general. For example, the writer criticizes Spanish Cardinal-elect Fernando Sebastián Aguilar for comparing homosexuality to high blood pressure. However, it primarily rebukes Church officials for their silence in the face of the violence and discrimination faced by homosexual people across the globe.
The writer of the piece acknowledges the Catechism’s strict teachings against homosexuality, particularly gay marriage, but references the anti-discrimination portion of that teaching: “[The Catechism says] ‘every sign of unjust discrimination in their [homosexuals] regard should be avoided’. The Catechism further demands that homosexuals ‘must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity’ (2358).”
The article asserts that even Christ would be standing with the victims of these laws, and calls on the Church to respond the same way.
The article said “[The Church] has an obligation, mandated by Christ, to be in solidarity with all those who are unjustly marginalized and persecuted”.
Since the publication of this article, it has gotten attention on both the official Vatican news website and in America Magazine, a Jesuit publication, and, in the secular media, was mentioned in The Washington Post.
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