A Carribean archbishop has come out against anti-LGBT criminalization, saying that while homosexuality is immoral, it should not be illegal.
Archbishop Jason Gordon of Port-of-Spain in Trinidad and Tobago made his comment in response to a court ruling that the nation’s criminalization law is unconstitutional.
Gordon said the Church “does not believe that buggery should be criminalised at this time.” The Trinidad and Tobago Guardian reported:
“But Gordon said the position of the church that buggery should not be criminalised ‘is not a flippant teaching of the church,’ but one that came ‘after a lot of reflection.’ . . .
“‘The church made a very clear statement that buggery should not be criminalised and that any country that has buggery as a criminal offence, that the church should find ways to remove it from the statute books,’ he said.
“Gordon said the church remains against homosexuality which it views as a moral issue and not a criminal one. Speaking during a television interview on Thursday night, he said, ‘there is no question in the church’s mind or teaching that this is an act that is immoral, disordered, one would even say a sin against nature.’ . . .
“Gordon said the Roman Catholic Church was saying that ‘homosexuality is immoral,’ but that did not mean that ‘it should be illegal.'”
The judge behind the ruling did not immediately strike down the laws criminalizing same-gender sexual acts, but asked government officials and LGBT activists to help modify existing law so sexual assault remains illegal.
Maurice Tomlinson, a Jamaican LGBT activist involved in the Trinidad and Tobago decision, said the court’s ruling “signals a sustainable and viable approach to get rid of these embarrassing statutes from the Caribbean.” The Trinidad and Tobago Guardian carried further comments from Tomlinson:
“‘We are the only region in the western hemisphere that still criminalises private consenting adult same-sex intimacy. So, while the rest of the hemisphere has galloped ahead to recognise many of the human rights of LGBT people, including legal partnerships, as stated in a recent Inter-American Court of Human Rights decision, we in the region have literally not left the starting gates. . .The region will be stronger for [advancing LGBT rights], despite what the fear-mongers will claim.”
The upshot of the judge’s moderate approach is that de-criminalization will not happen immediately. It may be even further postponed because Trinidad’s government plans to appeal the court’s ruling.
Jason Jones, the gay activist behind the lawsuit, issued a wider appeal for more British Commonwealth nations to de-criminalize homosexuality. Homosexuality is still illegal in 36 of 56 Commonwealth nations, Jones wrote in The Guardian. He said, “The right to dignity that Trinidad and Tobago’s court recognised in me is universal – in lesbians criminalised in Uganda and Tanzania, and in gay men criminalised in India and Singapore.”
Whereas another religious leader in Trinidad made veiled threats about violence in a situation where LGBT activists already faced verbal abuse after the ruling, it is good that Archbishop Gordon made clear the Church’s stance against anti-LGBT criminalization. Yet, his comments reveal a his need for more education, as Church teaching does not label homosexuality immoral.
It is vital that Catholics, especially leaders with public influence, are properly educated on homosexuality if they are to comment on it. But education is not enough, nor is simply criticizing criminalization laws. Catholics must defend every civil right to which LGBT people are entitled and, in the Catechism’s words, must oppose “every sign of unjust discrimination.” Hopefully, Archbishop Gordon will build on his recent comments to preach a more robust message of equality, a message without the false qualification about immorality.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, April 18, 2018