In an interview with El País newspaper, the outspoken bishop used some of his most powerful arguments yet to show how Catholic leaders need to refine some of their language in regard to LGBT people and marriage equality. Here’s an excerpt from the interview:
“Q. Not long ago you baptized the daughter of a lesbian couple. What do you think about homosexuality?
“A. That is a topic that we have refused to address. The people who say homosexuals are sick are sick themselves. The Church needs to come to them not with condemnation, but with dialogue. We cannot cancel out a person’s richness just because of his or her sexual preference. That is sick, that is heartless, that is lacking common sense.
“Q. Is it not the same with abortion?
“A. I share the Church’s views on abortion, and see it as murder. The difference lies in how you penalize it. Abortion, just like same-sex marriage, has served us subterfuge to tell ourselves that we in the Church have our morals. It is very easy to go against a woman who has an abortion, it poses no trouble and we have support from the ultraconservative right. When there was a national campaign against abortion here, I organized rosary recitations to reflect on the defense of the lives of migrants, miners and women as well as the unborn. But we are hypocrites. It would seem that the only moral rules deal with condemning same-sex couples and abortions. You do that and you’re the perfect Christian.
The full interview, in English, can be read by clicking here.
This is not the first time that Bishop Vera has made strong statements about homophobic people. Almost a year ago, he made headlines by calling homophobia “a mental illness in which you see gays as depraved and promiscuous. You have to be sick in the head for that.”
At the time of that earlier statement, I made the following comment on this blog, which I think is appropriate to repeat at this time:
“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.”
While noting that distinction, it’s important to recognize that Bishop Vera operates out of deep courage fpr speaking out for all sorts of marginalized groups. The El País article referred to him as
“the Mexican bishop who holds the record for death threats. He has survived more than one attempt on his life, and his work in favor of missing persons, immigrants, children and juveniles, indigenous populations, prostitutes and pariahs of all types has earned him the undying hatred of many, including the drug rings.”
In the interview, he explains how his work with exploited indigenous communities in southern Mexico taught him about the importance of courage:
“I learned that you have to risk your life if you want to stand on the side of the poor. I learned that in order to defend human life, you have to put your own life on the line. There is no other way to be a shepherd.”
In The Advocate’s report on this story, they noted:
“In 2011, when John Paul II was pope, the Vatican investigated Vera’s work with a gay group. But much has changed under Pope Francis’s leadership.”
The El País article made note of the change of atmosphere in the Church since that time:
“For a long time, Raúl Vera was the Catholic Church’s black sheep, the old-fashioned left-winger. But that was until the ideological earthquake represented by the new pope, Francis I, gave renewed relevance to his words. Now, other bishops are suddenly turning to Vera for guidance.”
Let’s hope and pray that his guidance sways many more bishops to his line of thinking.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry