Gay Ambassador Faces Harsh Letter from Bishops and Ban from Catholic School


Ambassador James “Wally” Brewster

Religious leaders’ opposition to gay U.S. Ambassador James “Wally” Brewster is again intensifying in the Dominican Republic (DR), spearheaded by the actions of Catholic officials in the Caribbean nation.

In a mid-March statement, the Dominican Episcopal Conference (the organization of Catholic bishops in DR) condemned Ambassador Brewster, and they urged the nation’s government to complain formally about his appointment by the U.S. government. The bishops criticized “abuses” by Brewster since he arrived in 2013, saying the “sovereignty of the nation and its traditional values” is at stake.

The alleged violations of law and of protocol include visits to schools and youth events by the ambassador and his husband, Bob Satawake. Such visits are offensive to the bishops because the couple has “a family model that is incompatible” with the Dominican Constitution and the couple allegedly attempts to “confuse our youth.”

The bishops cited Pope Francis’ condemnations of “ideological colonization” to defend their criticism of Brewster, and Victor Grimaldi, the Dominican Republic’s Ambassador to the Holy See, sent the Conference’s statement to Pope Francis, according to Dominican Today. There is no comment thus far from either Pope Francis or the Holy See about this devolving situation in the Dominican Republic. Responding to the bishops’ statement, Brewster said in a radio interview reported by Buzzfeed:

“We’re promoting equality around the world. . .That’s not why we went to the school, but we’re not going to have people continue to condemn and try to keep Bob and I or anyone else in the closet because [sic] that’s not who we are — and we’re proud of who we are, and we’re proud of representing the values of making sure that people aren’t marginalized.”


Signs outside San Juan Bautista

In a second incident, San Juan Bautista School in Santiago banned Brewster from its property. Officials posted at least three signs outside the school which read, “The entrance of the US Ambassador of the United States is not permitted in this institute.” They have since been defaced by LGBT activists and were then removed for Holy Week. The school’s director, Fr. Manuel Ruiz, defended the signs,reported Dominican TodayRuiz told a radio interviewer he had the right to put up signs on private property and that “[Brewster’s] presence and of his partner in a school isn’t innocent.”

Finally, a petition launched by the Dominican Council of Evangelical Unity, a Protestant coalition, which asks President Barack Obama to remove Ambassador Brewster has gained 32,000 signatures.

In response to the criticism of the ambassador, public figures and organizations in the U.S. and the in the Dominican Republic have come to Brewster’s defense against these religious attacks. The Human Rights Campaign released a statement supporting Brewster, and one of their board members said it was “deeply concerned” by the religious leaders’ actions. HRC President Chad Griffin invoked the pope when he reiterated that support in the Blade, saying:

” ‘It’s time Pope Francis spoke out against this campaign of hate being perpetrated by Catholic Church leaders.’ “

Rosanna Marzan, director of Diversidad Dominican, an LGBT equality group, said the issues referenced by the ambassador’s critics are “a smokescreen to cover up other issues.” Her remarks were backed by Cristian King of Trans Siempre Amigos, another Dominican LGBT organization.

In the last few months, the White House and the State Department have been clear that they fully support Ambassador Brewster. Last week, 61 congresspeople signed a letter to the Dominican Republic’s president, Danilo Medina, affirming their support for Brewster and his work to “advance universal human rights,” reported the Washington BladeThese politicians and others are using the hashtag #ImWithWally to express their support. Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, a Catholic, previously wrote to Pope Francis asking  him to intervene in attacks against Brewster, who is Durbin’s friend.

Brewster himself has been diplomatic but firm in rebutting Catholic leaders’ criticism and promoting LGBT human rights. In an interview with Michael Lavers of the Washington Blade, he commented on Cardinal López’s repeated homophobic comments:

“The disappointing thing for me is that I don’t see that as something that you’re hearing from the leader of the Catholic Church in Rome. . .I would hope that the Vatican — as we would not do that with their officials — would understand and condemn those types of words to any official with any government. . .”

Brewster said, too, that the attacks against him and his husband have prompted many Dominican citizens to express their support for marginalized LGBT communities:

“It’s a great social conversation that needed to happen and I think its happening now. . .It’s rising the level of those who bully and perpetuate prejudices in areas for all marginalized groups and it’s allowing them to be seen for who they are.”

While these incidents may indeed be increasing visibility of and support for LGBT justice in the Dominican Republic, Catholic officials’ participation in the homophobic attacks must cease immediately. What is happening in the Dominican Republic against Ambassador James Brewster and his husband demands ecclesial action.

Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus López Rodriguez, the leading prelate in the DR, has previously said Brewster was “wife to a man” and should stick to housework. In 2013, López used an anti-gay slur to refer to the ambassador , and he said Brewster should “take his gay pride elsewhere.”  The Washington Blade reported that López once described LGBT tourists as “social trash” and “degenerates.” Cardinal López’s remarks made Bondings 2.0’s lists of Worst Catholic LGBT News in both 2013 and 2015.

Cardinal López’s anti-gay leadership has harmed the Dominican hierarchy and other clergy.  Pope Francis should immediately accept his letter of resignation submitted four years ago on López’s 75th birthday. As Bondings 2.o previously argued, Pope Francis’ direct involvement in the local church would not undermine his efforts towards decentralized power in the Catholic Church. It would be a necessary action to cull some Catholic leaders’ overt prejudice. Dominican Catholics should use the Year of Mercy to promote greater respect for and inclusion of LGBT communities, as a way to undo some of the damages recently inflicted.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry




0 replies

    I can think of a couple possible responses to this organized attack on the ambassador by the Catholic Cardinal who has called the ambassador “the little faggot” on more than one occasion, and by the Catholic bishops and the Protestant leaders. One would be for Catholic Secretary of State John Kerry to visit the country, and to speak directly to the Cardinal about his outrageous behavior, and to publicly stand with the ambassador and his partner in solidarity, and praise them for the work they are doing for the people of the country. The second is for John Kerry to appeal to Pope Francis to rein in the behaviors of the Catholic bishops in this country. Bishops wonder why so many people have been turned off by the Catholic Church over the years. This boorish and unchristian behavior is just one example of a reason people find the Catholic Church as embodied in some of its leaders repulsive.

    • Loretta Fitzgerald
      Loretta Fitzgerald says:

      Excellent suggestion, John, although I doubt it will happen.

      When I showed my students the Freedom Rides documentary they saw that violence and hate towards other human beings actually turned the tide against the prejudice. So Brewster’s comments regarding the hateful rhetoric initiating the discussion in the DR may actually be the life from death that we proclaim in the resurrection. My prayers are with Brewster and his husband as he continues to be persecuted by the church. And Jesus wept.

  2. Will
    Will says:

    Cardinal Lopez has made successive homophobic and misogynistic comments abut this. And absolutely nothing has happened – total silence from above. So it is not now surprising that a greater wave of hateful acts from emboldened homophobes should follow.

    As in Malawi these clerics should be challenged and perhaps disciplined. But I’m not holding my breath waiting for it.

    If a parish priest or a nun makes a comment that is perceived as supporting gay people they are immediately set upon by a mob of pitchfork-bearing rightwing Catholics – and the hierarchy respond with sanctions. Now here we have clear examples of hate and intolerance towards LGBT people – directly contradicting the catechism. And what do we get from the mobs and the hierarchy? Tumbleweed.

    This appalling double standard, so contrasting with inreasingly tolerant attitudes and views in the laity (and society in general) in the West, is why so many are turning from the Church. Including me.

    What can be done? How do you get a layer of church hierarchy to respond, that have demonstrated so well their ability to sit on their hands when confronted with child abuse?

  3. Thomas
    Thomas says:

    The pope decries terrorism,yet the church continues to wage war against people for being whom God made them. And they wonder why the congregation dwindles.

  4. Paula Mattras
    Paula Mattras says:

    Ambassador Brewster, we have just celebrated the resurrection – life over death – where angry, cruel and misguided words and actions crucified our Lord………….but in the end, the victory was His. Goodness wins. Praying for strength and courage for you and your partner.

  5. David Pais
    David Pais says:

    It is indeed sad that in this Year of Mercy, in this pontificate of a pope who has said he wanted the shepherds to be out among his sheep and not in some sterile building, and in the week following the resurrection of our Lord, who preached love, not hate, that we have such a horrible example of bigotry and prejudice. An ambassador who has worked to help the marginalized, those whom Christ would have sought out, is pilloried by a modern day pharisee. Go figure.

    I am thankful that the cardinal will turn 80 on Halloween (how ironic) and must retire.

  6. Christian
    Christian says:

    Let’s just recall Cardinal López’s role in defending Jozef Wesolowski, the criminal former papal nuncio who was pulled by the Vatican after allegations of child sexual abuse and paying for sex with minors surfaced. Cardinal López called this criminal “un gran amigo y buen promotor de la paz” – and he has the audacity to use homophobic slurs against an ambassador of the US Government?
    This homophobia is pathological and is a smokescreen for his complicity with the actual endangerment of children. Let’s not forget this little fact…

  7. amagjuka
    amagjuka says:

    I feel betrayed by the Catholic church. I am a lifelong social justice loving Catholic. The church is a big part of my identity and family customs. I went to the University of Notre Dame, as did my husband and two of my children. These heinous acts of bigotry and injustice by some in the hierarchy make a mockery of my religion and all I stand for. These right wing zealots are perpetuating hate crimes in the name of the church. Why are they not stopped? Why is the doctrine not changed so that it is clear that firings, marginalizing, isolating, shaming, and all other homophobic and hateful behavior will not be tolerated?! My husband and I gave almost every cent of our disposable income to educate our two children at the University Notre Dame. The behavior of these hateful church “leaders” is diminishing the value of their degrees. Soon, “Catholic” will be synonymous with “homophobic to the level of hate crime.” This is not ok with me, far from it. How can Catholics of conscience take back our church when the doctrine itself, when read literally, condones this horrific behavior? How can anyone who loves justice watch this happen? The hierarchy of the church makes the individual powerless, except in personal behavior. The church should stand for what is right and good. Right now, it is doing a terrible job of this. The hateful acts harm all of us, not just LGBT people.

  8. Larry
    Larry says:

    And Pope Francis does nothing. He had an easy out to accept this hatemonger’s resignation long ago but he is silent. Doesn’t he realize that when he is silent he is complicit?

  9. Friends
    Friends says:

    We have a number of high-impact journalists who cover the Vatican and Catholic issues in general — the name John Allen comes immediately to mind — whose positive work is certainly known and appreciated by upper-level Vatican officials in close contact with Pope Francis. Clearly, Francis himself needs to deal with this diplomatic and pastoral abomination unfolding in the Dominican Republic. If anyone in our Bondings administration has direct e-mail contact with any of these key journalists, please write and ask them to raise the issue pointedly in their own Vatican reporting. Perhaps this journalistic channel will “get through” to Francis, and provoke him to act — just as he did against the outrageous antics of Cardinal Burke. But admittedly, it shouldn’t take that sort of behind-the-scenes manipulation to get the Pope to respond to such clearly hateful and anti-pastoral behavior by one of his deputees.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] Catholic school in the capital posted three signs just before Holy Week this year announcing it had banned Brewster and his husband from […]

  2. […] in 2013, have issued regular and intense attacks against him. The Dominican Episcopal Conference condemned the ambassador in a March 2016 letter, citing Pope Francis’ concept of ideological colonization. […]

  3. […] The Vatican has thus far refused to intervene to stop Dominican Republic church leaders’ increasing attacks on gay U.S. Ambassador James Brewster. For church leaders whose hearts remained hardened to LGBT […]

  4. […] The Vatican has thus far refused to intervene to stop Dominican Republic church leaders’ increasing attacks on gay U.S. Ambassador James Brewster. For church leaders whose hearts remained hardened to LGBT […]

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