A Mexican Catholic bishop who has been a strong supporter of LGBT issues has declared that homophobia is a “mental illness.” Is that really an accurate classification?
The Billerico Project is reporting on an interview given by Bishop Jose Raul Vera Lopez to a television show, “Terra Mexico,” in which he stated:
“Why would I immediately think a gay or lesbian person is perverse or depraved the moment they approach me? That’s how people who are homophobic react. It’s a mental illness in which you see gays as depraved and promiscuous. You have to be sick in the head for that.”
Bishop Vera Lopez, who is the head of the Diocese of Saltillo, Mexico, You can view a two and a half minute video clip from the interview complete with English subtitles here:
Here are some other notable quotations from the interview in regard to lesbian and gay people:
“They are human beings and deserve respect. The Holy Father knows it’s a. . . .I am certain he knows because the reality is that many in the church do not want to acknowledge the scientific reality on the issue of sexuality. They want to keep homosexuality as a form of human perversion, an illness. But that is no longer the case, scientifically speaking. “
Bishop Vera Lopez also commented on Scripture citations which seem to condemn gay and lesbian persons:
“We just have to read the Bible more carefully within a historical context and within a real context. The Biblical texts we have used to bash the heads of homosexuals to say they are condemned by the Bible? We have to read them much more carefully.”
It is wonderful to know that this bishop is speaking out so strongly for lesbian and gay rights. One caution: I don’t think that he was using “mental illness” as a technical or clinical term. From the manner in which he is speaking on the video, he seems to be using it as a rhetorical flourish, more than a diagnosis. It is interesting to see him turn the tables on homophobic people: it is usually they who are calling lesbian and gay people “mentally ill.”
And because lesbian and gay people have so often been so mislabeled with that diagnosis, I think we have to be very careful of labeling their opponents in the same way. In my experience in working with LGBT issues, homophobia is more often a result of ignorance and misguided piety than by a clinical disturbance.
Another comment worth noting is that during the interview, Bishop Vera Lopez discusses the genesis of sexual orientation as being a result of hormonal influences in the womb. With all due respect to the bishop, while that is one theory, it is still simply a theory, and not totally conclusive as the effective cause of one’s homosexuality. The scientific community is still debating various theories as to the origin of sexual orientation in an individual.
Despite these cautions, I am delighted to read these statements from this courageous bishop. Our church needs more leaders like him who are willing to approach LGBT issues from a knowledgeable and compassionate perspective.
Bishop Vera Lopez has spoken out many times before on lesbian and gay equality. In fact, he was even summoned to the Vatican to defend his point of view, but no sanctions were administered to him. You can read more about him in an article that appears on page three of this PDF of the newsletter version of Bondings. You can also read more about other social issues with which this Nobel Peace Prize nominee is associated by clicking here.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry