Archbishop’s Criticism of Anti-LGBT Criminalization Law Reveals a Need for More Education

Archbishop Jason Gordon

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



10 replies
  1. Kris
    Kris says:

    Gordon used the word ‘buggery’ at least three times in his statement. This will confirm for many the view that the Church is obsessed with sexual morality and sexual acts between male couples. (Lesbian relationships obviously don’t exist in this man’s world.)

    Archbishop Gordon, go back to school: there is much more to many such relationships than sexual intercourse. Your ignorance in this matter is inexcusable, as is your misrepresentstion and degradation of loving, same-sex relationships.

    • Frank Johnson
      Frank Johnson says:

      A common term that is used in the British legal system.
      It refers to anal intercourse between two men.
      Many former British colonies model their judicial system on the British model.
      While antiquated, the term is still in use.

  2. Ned Flaherty
    Ned Flaherty says:

    The penultimate sentence contains both an inadvertent error, and a profoundly troubling truth, both of which should be addressed.

    1. Firstly, the next-to-last sentence distinguishes between universal “civil rights” versus some subset of “civil rights to which LGBT people are entitled” and implies that these two sets of rights are somehow different.

    That is incorrect. There is no difference.

    LGBT people are people, and even in places where some civil rights are denied by law or by custom, they still deserve full civil rights equal to those of every other human being, not just a subset of everyone else’s rights.

    2. Secondly, the next-to-last sentence notes that the Catechism opposes “unjust discrimination” but fails to note that it often endorses “just discrimination.”

    Discrimination is never excusable.

    There is neither “just discrimination” nor “unjust discrimination.” Discrimination which is inexcusable against some people does not become excusable when it is against other people.

    Discrimination doesn’t need any adjective calling it “unjust.” After all, no one speaks of “unhappy sadness,” or “sweet sugar.”

    The idea of “unjust” discrimination was coined by clergy to subliminally make “just” discrimination excusable, such as when it is committed against LGBT people. This is why the Roman Catholic opponents of civil marriage equality so often mention “unjust discrimination.” It lets them sound as if they oppose discrimination against all people even though they actually endorse discrimination against some people.

    Every mention of the notion of “unjust” discrimination reinforces the subliminal notion of “just” discrimination, so every such mention of it deserves to an accompanying discussion of its origin, its purpose, and the vile, linguistic deceit that it perpetrates.

    • John Hilgeman
      John Hilgeman says:

      “The idea of ‘unjust’ discrimination was coined by clergy to subliminally make ‘just’ discrimination excusable, such as when it is committed against LGBT people.”

      So true, Ned. It’s another way of saying that LGBT people aren’t equal to and deserving of the rights that other people have. The words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. about racism apply just as well to discrimination against LGBT people: “If a man” (person) “asserts that another man because of his race” (sexual orientation or gender identity) “is not good enough to have a job equal to his, or to eat at a lunch counter next to him, or to have access to certain hotels” ( or bathrooms), “or to attend school with him, or to live next door to him,” (or to marry the person he/she loves) “he is by implication affirming that that man does not deserve to exist. He does not deserve to exist because his existence is corrupt and defective.”

      “Just discrimination” is a rationalization for using a moral norm based on old books and biases rather than knowledge, to treat certain people as lesser than others. And this applies not only to issues of the sexual orientation and gender identity of LGBT people, but also to the gender of girls and women. Thus it is a rationalization to treat women and LGBT people as lesser than the men who run the organization and hold the power and the claim to be speaking in behalf of the divine creator. Which paints the Creator of all as a patriarchic, sexist, homophobic, transphobic bigot, instead of as a being of Love, inclusive of all God’s creation.

    • Frank Johnson
      Frank Johnson says:

      Is discrimination “unjust” if a convicted pedophile wants to be licensed to teach first grade, when he is released from prison and is rejected for licensure?
      Is discrimination “unjust” if people from a different culture want only a female physician to take care of the female members of their family?
      Is discrimination “unjust” if a person, who is a convicted drug offender wants to be accepted to a Pharmacy program?

      You paint with a brush too broad.
      Some “just” discrimination is valid.
      I cannot see how this is “vile”. Seems like the prudent thing to do.

      • Kris
        Kris says:

        You made a strawman argument against John’s post: he wasn’t referring to convicted paedophiles and drug offenders, but to LGBT people.

        His point, about unjust discrimination, remains unrefuted, therefore.

      • Ned Flaherty
        Ned Flaherty says:

        Frank Johnson fails to see the fundamental distinction between the legal application of a specific rule versus broad discrimination using unfair stereotypes against an entire class of people.

        In all 3 of his examples, he is wrong.

        Firstly, banning a convicted and released pedophile from more contact with children is not discrimination; it is a consequence of a former criminal’s own specific history. It would be discrimination to refuse employment to such a person based on ethnic heritage, because that is a broad-brush restriction that is irrelevant to employment.

        Secondly, no physician has any civil right to demand any specific patient in the first place, so one patient’s choice of one physician is ever treated as a discriminatory act against all other physicians.

        Thirdly, pharmacy curricula which ban all convicted drug offenders must justify the basis for — and implementation of — such rules. If the rule is supported by science and is fairly administered, it is not discrimination, whereas if the rule is not science-based or is unfairly used, it is discriminatory.

        Frank Johnson advises against “painting with a brush too broad” (his words), but then that is exactly what he does when he conflates relevant, science-based rules applied to one person (which is never discrimination) with bigoted exclusions of an entire class of people (which is always discrimination).

        Thus, none of his 3 attempted examples are even discrimination to begin with, so they’re not relevant, and prove nothing.

        The Vatican’s creation of both “unjust discrimination” and “just discrimination” authorizes some discrimination against all LGBT people.

        Frank Johnson denies that this is “vile,” and dares to call it “prudent” (his word).

        It is only with LGBT people that the Vatican parses discrimination into “unjust” vs. “just,” and that fact alone proves how un-scientific, vicious, and vile the whole notion truly is.

  3. Friends
    Friends says:

    All of the above responses are spectacularly on-target in addressing the root problem: the failure of forcibly-celibate, cloistered and aloof Catholic clerics to come to grips with the existential issues of real life in the real world, as it is lived and experienced by ordinary human beings. Clergy in other denominations — most notably Lutherans and Anglicans and Episcopalians — are much more flexible, and generally more compassionate, in their judgment of other human beings’ life situations. Why? Because those clergy in other denominations live in the REAL WORLD — not in the cloistered world of frustrated and forcibly-celibate Catholic prelates. For God’s sake — literally — just let Catholic priests marry and have families of their own. There is absolutely no theological barrier against doing so. Catholic priests were in fact married men, until well into the Middle Ages. Simply restore this perfectly valid privilege, and watch how many other existential dysfunctions within the Catholic Church begin to be rectified.

  4. Janelle Lazzo
    Janelle Lazzo says:

    I have reached a point in discussions about many vital human issues at which I no longer believe that ignorance is an excuse. The institutional Church , and therefore, all of us, suffer when bishops make statements that reveal such a lack of understanding about the humanity of such a large percentage of the world’s population, much less that portion which believes in the same God that he does. Even equating homosexuality, the sexual reality , with the intimate acts it may motivate, is not, in my view, correct. I keep wondering what the Creator makes of the reactions on certain of His creatures to the reality of so many of their fellows. I take the words of Jesus , “Do not be afraid”, but it is getting more difficult to deny my fear in the face of some of the attitudes of my fellow human beings toward others they perceive not to be their equals in faith , holiness, or anything else, or even to be in error simply because of who they are.When these individuals are members of the hierarchy, it is doubly disturbing.


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