Switzerland and Sweden have recently shared a similar sad experience. In each country, a local Catholic church leader ended up apologizing and retracting incorrect negative statements made publicly about lesbian and gay people. The cases highlight how bishops and priests so desperately need to be educated about the basics of LGBT lives.
A Swiss bishop has done a flip-flop regarding a statement he made to a French-language newspaper in which he claimed that a homosexual orientation can be “cured” through psychological or prayer interventions.
LGBTQNation.com reported on the prelate’s original statements:
“Jean-Marie Lovey, one of Switzerland’s most prominent Catholic Bishops, said on Tuesday that he is persuaded that ‘homosexuality can be cured’ by prayer or ‘psychological healing.’
“Lovey, who is the Bishop of Sion, in southern Switzerland, told the Swiss daily Le Nouvelliste that gay people sometime feel their sexuality to be ‘like an injury or suffering. We must therefore, honor their desire for change.’
“ ‘Regarding the fundamental question – “can a homosexual person change?” – there is a domain which you be sure of: prayer,’ said Lovey.
“ ‘In nature, the human being is gendered, masculine-feminine. And is not fully human unless he lives this complementarity. It is a question of natural morality,’ he said. ‘Homosexuality can be cured.’ ”
A few days later with another newspaper, Le Matin, Lovey corrected his original statements. SwissInfo.ch reported on this second interview, which had also originally been conducted in French:
In Thursday’s Le Matin interview the bishop said he was very surprised by the heated reactions to his comments, both on social media and by gay and lesbian organisations, which he said were ‘misunderstood’.
“ ‘I don’t consider homosexuality to be an illness. But I do know people whose homosexual tendencies were fleeting, without claiming this is the case for everyone. I used the term “cure” for a person who was homosexual and who talks in these terms about his personal experience,’ said Lovey.”
In the first interview, the bishop did state that he felt that being did not diminish a person’s human dignity, and so gay people should be respected.
This Swiss incident echoes a similar one which happened in Sweden in April. TheLocal.se reported that a priest in that country made mis-informed comments about the psychology of lesbian and gay people, but then, later, apologized and corrected his remarks. The news article stated:
“Preaching to the Catholic parish of Ärkeängeln Sankt Mikael in Växjö, priest Ingvar Fogelqvist allegedly told students at a confirmation class that certain gay people could be ‘cured’ of their ‘psychological disorder’ while other forms of homosexuality are incurable.
“The priest added that gay people, as well as those who suffer from impotence or other health problems, should not take on the responsibility of family life. . . .
“When contacted by The Local Fogelqvist was not immediately available for comment, but in a press release. . . he later apologized for his comments and said they had been taken out of context.
“ ‘My wording in the interview is clumsy, and I would therefore like to apologize to anyone who may have felt hurt by what I have said. Some of the quotes have also been taken out of context. It was not my intention in any way to express myself in an offensive way against homosexuals,’ he wrote.
“ ‘What I meant by incurable was that homosexuality can be a permanent sexual orientation and is not to be regarded as an illness that can be cured,’ he added.
While it is good that Bishop Lovey and Father Ingvar Fogelqvist corrected themselves, I hope that they and other bishops and priests learn from this incident an important lesson: they need to educate themselves about basic scientific knowledge and theological developments about LGBT people. As educated people, bishops and priests should not be making such ill-informed comments. It indicates their lack of knowledge about sexual orientation and the lives of LGBT people.
Lovey, like many bishops who have made negative comments about lesbian and gay relationships, has acknowledged that respect for LGBT people is a main tenet of church teaching. The most basic form of respect is to not speak about a person or group of persons without the most basic knowledge of their reality.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry