Bishops in Colombia Kill Anti-Bullying Education Program


President Juan Manuel Santos

A proposed anti-bullying program in Colombia will not go ahead as planned, following a meeting between the country’s president and Catholic bishops.

Colombia’s Ministry of Education, in conjunction with two United Nations agencies, had prepared a document, titled “Discrimination-Free School Environments,” to handle sexual and gender diversity training for educators. But, after meeting with three Catholic bishops, President Juan Manuel Santos announced that the document would not be implemented, reported The Catholic Herald.

In reply to the president’s announcement, the Colombian Conference of Catholic Bishops said in a statement that it “received with satisfaction the announcement of the National Government and the Department of Education that they will not promote or implement gender ideology in the country.” The bishops did note that all human beings should be respected regardless of identities, including their “sexual orientation.”

The meeting between the president and the bishops was held one day after thousands of Colombians demonstrated against the document, which had been released on the website of the United Nations Children’s Fund. The bishops’ statement said these protests were “an exercise by the parents of their right to be assisted in educating their children in accordance with their convictions and values.” But the church-encouraged protests were, in part, inspired by pornographic images released to the public that were falsely attributed to the document. There are claims the images were released by the Office of the Inspector General, Alejando Ordonez, who is a traditionalist Catholic, though he denied them.

Colombia Reports explained the anti-bullying document was merely aimed at giving teachers “the tools to teach children about sexual diversity and show how this can reduce bullying,” an idea first proposed after a gay Colombian teenager, Sergio Urrego, died by suicide two years ago. The document was part of larger efforts to update sexual education programs and protect LGBT people, led by Education Minister Gina Parody, who is herself a gay woman.

Church leaders, however, remain powerfully connected to the Colombian government and opposed to nearly any acceptance of sexual and gender minorities. The bishops’ voices joined other LGBT-negative critics in the country who condemn, without any specificity, “gender ideology” and make claims of “colonization” against those people seeking to expand LGBT rights.

LGBT rights have, however, expanded slowly in Colombia. For instance, in June, citizens were granted the right to change legal documents to match their gender identity. Earlier in the year, the Constitutional Court legalized marriage equality.

Despite this most recent bad news in Colombia, early August has been a positive time for LGBT rights in Latin America. As of this month, transgender people in Bolivia and Ecuador are now able to have their government records match their gender identity, reported Americas QuarterlyBelize’s Supreme Court overturned an anti-homosexuality law, ending the last criminalization of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people in Latin America, according to Out Magazine.

As LGBT acceptance expands, bishops in Colombia and elsewhere should not partner with anti-LGBT movements to suppress human rights. Avoiding this strategy is most important when it comes to anti-bullying initiatives targeting youth. Yesterday’s post on Bondings 2.0 about teenager Daniel Fitzpatrick’s suicide, as well as the memory of Sergio Urrego in Colombia, are sufficient evidence of the harm caused when schools are not safe places for all students. Given these high stakes, pastoral leadership demands more from bishops than empty slogans.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

10 replies
  1. lynne1946
    lynne1946 says:

    Isn’t it amazing how phrases like “gender ideology and colonization” which basically mean nothing, can bully a government that wants to do the right thing into caving in to Bishops who care only about maintaining the status quo, which is that they control everything. And then, of course, come up with another phrase which is functionally meaningless, about “treating everyone with respect and dignity.” How do you treat someone with respect if you refuse to acknowledge who they are?

    • Wilhelm Wonka
      Wilhelm Wonka says:

      Excellent comment.

      Those phrases ‘gender ideology, colonization’ are alarmist. They are a sign of the increasing desperation of Catholic bishops, King Canute-like, to hold back a rising tide of universal human rights.

      Ultimately, these bishops will fail. But, in the meantime, the damage they will do worldwide to the credibility of the institutional Catholic Church, already seriously compromised by sex-abuse scandals involving clergy and subsequent cover-ups, can only be surmised. A church which encourages respect for human life while similtaneously obstructing legal protection for the more vulnerable appears hypocritical and duplicitous.

      Pope Franicis himself has bandied such alarming phrases. I suspect that he would, sadly, agree with the obstructive behaviour of the Colombian bishops.

  2. John Hilgeman
    John Hilgeman says:

    I can see the headline now: “Bishops in Columbia Kill LGBT Children and Youths.”

    We all remember the phrase: “Silence = Death” as a challenge to the silence and lack of response to the crisis of AIDS.

    We all have seen the response to the “Black Lives Matter” cry, by those who did not or could not understand that this cry came from people who knew first hand the pain of being targeted for death by some police officers. The response was “All Lives Matter,” as though those who were grieving their losses were saying only their lives mattered.

    We have seen the appalling lack of willingness on the part of many bishops in our own country to speak openly against the targeting of LGBT people by perpetrators of violence, even in the instance of the Pulse massacre.

    And we see the opposition to anti-bullying programs that mention LGBT youths, because addressing discrimination in such programs might lead other youths to think being LGBT and finding joy in healthy same sex relationships is ok.

    And we see in this instance, the opposition to a program that dares to differ from the sacrosanct RC doctrine that there are no real transgender people, only male or female people who make choices on a whim to try to become another gender.

    Silence does equal death. The demeaning of LGBT people is abusive. The suicides of LGBT youths due to doctrines based on bias rather than truth and due to bullying and rejection are a tragedy. The physical and psychological attacks and the killings must be stopped. The opposition to programs designed to reduce the violence and deaths is complicity in the abuse and the deaths. These bishops can stand on the sidelines, decrying any deviation from their destructive doctrines; but – whether wittingly or unwittingly – they are part of the abuse, they are part of the problem.

  3. James Sheya
    James Sheya says:

    Why does the Catholic church continue to punish gay folks who were born gay? Gays are such a terrible threat to the church and it really angers me when they use the phrase, “Catholics should love the sinner but hate the sin” which simply put means that they despise gays and their actions. How about leaving us alone and letting us enjoy life as all the straight people do? It’s called human rights! Please accept us as we are because we cannot and never will be able to become straight as you would wish us to be.

    • Friends
      Friends says:

      Something to keep in mind is that — according to this site’s own reported credible estimates in field research — up to 50% of active Catholic priests are believed to be closeted gay men. It’s small wonder that some of those priests become “Hell On Wheels” against openly gay parishioners — whose “outness” existentially threatens their own privately repressed and traumatized life experience. It’s way past time for ALL major Christian denominations — including the Catholic Church — to allow for a faithfully-bonded married priesthood, regardless of the incidental gender of the married partners. Fidelity in a marital relationship is what counts. Genetic chromosomes are a secondary biological artifact.


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