Catholic bishops in Kenya have applauded a court ruling that keeps homosexuality criminalized in that nation.
Three judges on Kenya’s High Court declined to repeal laws criminalizing homosexuality, which carry sentences of up to 14 years imprisonment. To do so, they said, would defy both societal values and the spirit of the nation’s Constitution which explicitly endorses heterosexual norms. Legalizing homosexuality was part of, in their words, “foreign doctrines.” SDE reported on Catholic bishops’ response:
“[Nairobi’s] John Cardinal Njue of the Catholic Church said the homosexual agenda was being pushed by foreign forces, reiterating that God created Adam and Eve. . .
“Bishop Alfred Rotich of the Catholic Church said it was God’s wisdom that guided the judges in making the decision to uphold what the church believes is the true foundation of families.
“‘We are happy this has come to pass. Our society is built on family unions and what we are telling homosexuals is that they will be wasting their time to appeal the decision. They should come to us for counselling so that they come out of those groups,’ said Rotich.”
Rotich said further that Kenya “cannot be another Sodom and Gomorrah,” reported Reuters. Gerald Walterfung of the Catholic-backed Kenya Christian Professionals Forum said the ruling helped stop a “destructive sexual lifestyle.”
The situation for LGBTQ people in Kenya is bleak. Between 2013 and 2017, 534 people were arrested for homosexuality, according to The Guardian. But worse is the vigilante discrimination and violence the community routinely faces. LGBTQ advocates claim there have been more than 1,500 hate crimes in the last five years with blackmail and extortion practiced regularly.
Njue and Rotich teach a deformed version of church teaching that ignores LGBTQ people’s human dignity and fails to oppose unjust discrimination. Rotich’s reference to Sodom and Gomorrah is an irresponsible use of Scripture, and Njue seemingly defies science in a reference to counseling that could imply reparative therapy. The two bishops are not alone in prelates who have failed the People of God on anti-LGBTQ criminalization. For instance, a Tanzanian archbishop said it was “better to die of hunger” than to accept homosexuality, while Singapore’s archbishop said decriminalization would have “dreadful consequences.”
But in addition, prelates supportive of criminalizing homosexuality are increasingly at odds with the Vatican’s position. As early as 2008, the Holy See’s representative at the United Nations said the church supports decriminalization. There is hope now that the Vatican will take up this stance more proactively after some fifty LGBTQ advocates met with Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin to discuss the issue. The meeting was a “great step forward” according to one LGBTQ group, but more action is needed. For an exclusive account of the meeting from D’Arcy Kemnitz, executive director of the LGBT Bar Association, click here.
In supporting the High Court’s ruling, Njue and Rotich have put thousands of vulnerable people at risk. Thankfully, their views are held by fewer and fewer church leaders.
For more information on Catholics and anti-LGBTQ criminalization, see New Ways Ministry’s “Criminalization” resource page. For Bondings 2.0’s full coverage of the issues, see our category “Anti-LGBT Criminalization.”
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, July 14, 2019