Anti-gay remarks by Filipino Manny Pacquiao have drawn both criticism and support from Catholic officials, who say the well-known boxer and Senatorial candidate is correct to oppose marriage equality, but should not demean LGBT people while doing so. According to Crux:
“Pacquiao, a high school dropout from a poverty-stricken rural family who went on to become a boxing legend, made the remark when he and other Philippine senatorial candidates were asked by the local TV5 network about their views on same-sex marriage. . .
“Animals, he said, are better because they recognize gender differences, and ‘if you have male-to-male or female-to-female (relationships), then people [in such relationships] are worse than animals.’ “
Facing criticism for these comments, Pacquiao doubled down on his social media channels before he partially apologized. The boxer said on Instagram he was “just telling the truth” about the Bible’s condemnation of homosexuality, and in a second, now-deleted post cited a passage in Leviticus which has been used to imply that gay people should be put to death. Pacquiao, who is a convert to Catholicism from a more conservative Evangelical Christian background, later apologized on Facebook for comparing LGB people to animals.
Church officials in the Philippines, which is 80% Catholic, criticized Pacquiao’s description of LGB people. Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz of Lingayen-Dagupan expressed shock at Pacquiao’s comment, reported The Inquirer:
“When I first heard his statement, I was shocked because he said that he was a Christian but how can he stand firm on his view? Isn’t it one of the teachings of Christianity is to love other people?”
Based on this, the former archbishop said LGBT people should never be understood as or treated less than human beings.
But Cruz did express admiration that the boxer opposes marriage equality, according to Interaksyon, saying Pacquiao was unlike many Filipino politicians who the bishop believes support LGBT rights to simply gain votes.
Fr. Jerome Secillano, head of the Public Affairs Office for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, said the Leviticus quote posted on Instagram is undeniably in Scripture, and it was “unfair” to criticize Pacquiao for quoting it. But Secillano did say the passage should not be used to offend gay people, reported Rappler:
” ‘The church. . .says that if this is your lifestyle, if this is your orientation, then we respect that, we cannot condemn them.’ “
LGBT celebrities and advocates have been more forceful in their criticism of Pacquiao. Nike ended its contract with Pacquiao, calling his remarks “abhorrent.” Gay comedian and TV host Jose Marie Viceral posted a photo of Pope Francis alongside the pontiff’s famous “Who am I to judge?” quote and tweeted:
“The LGBT is a group of people. We are humans. But not animals. Though we’re no saints, we will pray for Manny Pacquiao.”
Manny Pacquiao is famous globally after winning eight boxing world championships and he appears set to win a seat in the Philippines’ Senate this May. By his own admission, he ultimately seeks the presidency. Given his profile, Catholic officials should have been more critical of his deeply prejudiced remarks which are unrelated to their position on equal marriage rights. Describing people with diverse sexual identities as “worse than animals” and improperly using Scripture to threaten those in same-gender relationships are intolerable. Archbishop Cruz and Fr. Secillano should have said so more clearly. In a nation where so many are Catholic and the bishops’ influence remains quite heavy, LGBT communities deserve better from the Catholic Church.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry