A controversy is brewing in the Dominican Republic after President Obama’s choice of an openly gay US ambassador to that nation provoked a severe backlash from conservative Christians, including an anti-gay slur from a Catholic cardinal.
Choosing James ‘Wally’ Brewster, also a major LGBT activist and Obama campaign fundraiser, as nominee for the position is part of a series of LGBT appointments to the diplomatic corp. While equal rights are advancing domestically, critics abroad contend this is the latest efforts of the US to export LGBT rights. Among the critics are members of the Catholic hierarchy in the Dominican Republic, which is 88% Catholic and where bishops heavily influence public opinion. The Miami Herald reports:
“Monsignor Pablo Cedano, auxiliary Catholic bishop of Santo Domingo, said the appointment of Brewster showed ‘a lack of sensitivity, of respect by the United States.’
“Brewster’s position on gay rights ‘is far from our cultural reality,’ he said, adding that if he comes, ‘he’s going to suffer,’ due to the cultural differences, ‘and he’ll have to leave.’ ”
This conflict heightened after Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez used a homophobic slur at a press conference when commenting on the Brewster’s appointment. Daily Mail Online reports he called the nominee a ‘maricon,’ which translates as ‘faggot’ or ‘sissy.’ He continued by saying:
“If the government of Washington considers they are apt to send that kind of ambassador, let the government in Washington go ahead…”
“López warned that if Brewster is sent to the country, ‘the United States can expect anything.’ ”
The cardinal also stated the Church in the Dominican Republic would have no official position on Brewster’s nomination and the Archdiocese of Santo Domingo made no comment. Not all object to President Obama’s choice, however, including LGBT activists in the nation who welcomed the American efforts to expand equality. As The Miami Herald reports:
“It’s a great honor for our country to have someone of his prominence be named ambassador,” Estefanie Hernandez, a member of activist organization GAYP, said as she held a sign welcoming Brewster to motorists who passed a busy oceanfront drive. “To have someone from our community to serve as ambassador is a show of support.”
Supporters also include a Catholic priest, Fr. Jesus Maria Tejada, who openly defied the prelates’ offensive comments and said anti-LGBT prejudice is inappropriate and Brewster would not be discriminated against. More Catholics, clergy and laity alike in the Dominican Republic, need to speak out against this type of anti-gay slander and affirm the Catholic Church’s call to welcome all into the community with respect for each person’s dignity.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry