The Lt. Governor of Guam has been prohibited from sponsoring his niece at the Sacrament of Confirmation due to his same-gender relationship, according to Pacific News Source Guam.
In a radio interview with Guam’s K57, Lt. Governor Josh Tenorio explained that after he was chosen as his niece’s sponsor, he was called into local church offices where he had expected to receive more information and perhaps to prepare for the Mass:
“‘I was called in and one of the priests, who I’m friends with, unfortunately, had to send the message to me from the Archbishop that there had been a complaint lodged in the parish when I was seen at a practice for confirmation. And then I was told that I would not be able to participate.
“‘I thought I was going to go in to speak with the priest and do a confession right? … for the mass … but it turned out it was just to let me know that the Archbishop is praying for me but you’re not going to be able because of your same-sex relationship to participate and confirm in the church.'”
Tenorio, who took office in January 2019, is the first openly gay Lieutenant Governor elected in the United States (Guam is a U.S. territory). In addition to his focus on criminal justice reform and mental health, in October he co-founded Equality Guam, a non-profit dedicated to LGBTQ advocacy, particularly protecting legislative rights on the island that are often opposed by the Catholic Archdiocese of Agaña.
Archbishop Michael Byrnes has not been supportive of LGBTQ rights. He declared that Pope Francis’ comments on civil unions carried “little ecclesiastical weight and that the Catholic Church has not changed its stance on marital unions being that of a man and a woman,” according to an October report by PNC Guam.
Tenorio said that he anticipates his treatment from the Archdiocese will be a harbinger of continued LGBTQ discrimination by the Catholic Church, saying: “I would expect that, unforutnately, those will be the same voices that will try and pass legislation to reduce the number of freedoms and liberties we have here on the island.”
This is an all-too familiar scenario now of church officials continuing to marginalize LGBTQ Catholics, even as they attempt to practice their traditions faithfully. In particular, the roles of baptismal godparent and Confirmation sponsor have been weaponized as a litmus test focusing on marriage, sexual orientation or Mass attendance, while ignoring elements such as concern for the poor, social justice, or human dignity. It is still disappointing, if not unsurprising, to see exclusion and marginalization practiced instead of seizing an opportunity for welcome and celebration of the diversity of the body of Christ.
—Angela Howard McParland, December 14, 2020