The latest place where reconciliation between the Catholic hierarchy and the LGBT community is desperately needed is Valencia, Spain, where the two groups are coming to legal loggerheads over negative comments the cardinal of that city made about LGBT people and family.
Crux reports that a group of LGBT and women’s organizations have threatened to file a “hate crime” complaint against Cardinal Antonio Cañizares for remarks he made in a homily at the University of Valencia:
“In his remarks, titled ‘In defense and support of the family,’ Cañizares said ‘the future of society is played out’ in the family, and, because of that, it’s become a target.
” ‘On the one hand, it’s the most valued, at least in the polls and even among young people, social institution, but it’s shaken to its foundations by serious, clear or subtle, threats,’ he said.
” ‘The family is haunted today, in our culture, by an endless threat of serious difficulties, and this is not hidden from anyone,’ Cañizares continued.
” ‘There we have legislation contrary to the family, the action of political and social forces, with added movements and actions of the gay empire, of ideas such as radical feminism, or the most insidious of all, gender theory.’ “
The cardinal’s inflammatory remarks were met with an equally inflammatory response:
“Soon after Cañizares’ remarks, several pro-LGTB and feminist organizations, such as Lambda, the LGBT collective of Valencia, the Collective for the Sexual-Affective Diversity and the Association of Families with Transsexual Minors announced they were going to file an official complaint with the ‘Office of Hate Crimes.’
“Technically, they intend to charge Cañizares with ‘apologia,’ a term in Spanish law for encouraging or defending a criminal act.”
The cardinal went on to defend his words, summoning memories of censorship under Spain’s dictator Francisco Franco, and using remarks from Pope Francis’ exhortation Amoris Laetitia to support his ideas.
I hope that both sides of this dispute would see this event as an opportunity to dialogue with one another. While the cardinal uses religious liberty arguments to defend his words, does he not see that his language is, at the very least, pastorally insensitive? Perhaps the LGBT and feminist organizations needed to threaten legal action to get the cardinal’s attention, but do they not see that such action is only heightening the antagonism, instead of remedying it? I hope the better angels of the folks on both sides of this dispute would come to see that peaceful dialogue with one another could be an opportunity for opening their horizons.
The Crux news report placed a strong emphasis on the cardinal and his supporters using Pope Francis’ words in his exhortation and in other settings as a justification for the ideas expressed. Yet, clearly, they have not followed all of Pope Francis’ ideas. While the pope has in fact supported marriage and family as exclusively heterosexual institutions, and while he has spoken against new understandings of gender identity, he has also shown that dialogue and encounter are primary ways of being a merciful and accompanying church. No matter how strongly the Pope has ever defended heterosexual marriage, he has never used phrases like “gay empire.” Instead, he has met with LGBT folks, sent them letters, called them on the phone, and insisted that bishops be less political in areas of sexuality.
Terminology such as “gay empire” appears to be designed to instill fear, not to offer logical argument. Like the similar term “gay lobby,” it conjures images of a vast network of powerful people who are manipulating the future. If any of the advances for LGBT equality in recent decades were manipulated by gay people alone, they surely would have failed. By the most generous estimates, gay people are only about 10% of the population. Hardly an empire. It was the recognition by larger segments of the population that LGBT people should not suffer discrimination which have brought about the positive changes we have witnessed.
The news report noted that Cañizares used his homily on the feast of Corpus Christi to defend the idea that religious people have a right to speak their opinions in the public square. He ended with the following statement:
“[The] culture of the Eucharist promotes a culture of dialogue, which in it finds strength and nourishment.”
He used that sentiment to justify the idea that religious people should be part of the public dialogue. However, it equally applies to the cardinal himself when he finds himself discussing LGBT issues. “A culture of dialogue” is the culture of respect and mutual exchange, not a culture of name-calling and fear-mongering. If the cardinal wants to live the Eucharistic culture of dialogue, he should open his doors to leaders of LGBT and women’s organizations to respectfully express his thoughts, and, more importantly, to hear their concerns.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry