Catholic Leaders Join Interfaith Declaration Against Anti-LGBTQ Criminalization, Conversion Therapy

Close to 1,200 global interfaith leaders have signed a declaration supporting LGBTQ people which seeks to ban the criminalization of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.

The new Global Interfaith Commission on LGBT+ Lives (GIC+) released the declaration, titled “Declaring the Sanctity of Life and the Dignity of All,” with nearly 400 original signatories on December 16th. Additional signatures were added after the declaration was initially made public.

In the declaration, the GIC+ affirms that people of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions are a “precious part of creation and are part of the natural order.” As such, the interfaith leaders express regret that religion has often been used as tool of oppression against the LGBTQ community and explicitly ask for forgiveness.

Instead, the declaration proposes love and compassion as the guiding faith principles in outreach to LGBTQ people. This love and compassion should compel an end to criminalization of sexual orientation or gender identity, as well as eradicating violence against LGBTQ people. The declaration calls for an end to conversion therapy, or any “attempts to change, suppress or erase a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.”

Original Catholic signatories include former Irish President Mary McAleese, New Ways Ministry’s Francis DeBernardo and Sr. Jeannine Gramick, DignityUSA’s Marianne Duddy-Burke, Fordham University theologian Fr. Bryan Massingale, Mary Hunt of WATER, and Sr. Luisa DeRouen, longtime minister to transgender community.  In addition to other Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu and Buddhist leaders from 55 countries, the list now includes dozens of other Catholic leaders.

McAleese, one of the most prominent Catholics to sign the declaration, said she wanted to:

“[Take] responsibility for the role played historically by my faith system, but also other faith systems, in embedding in our cultures and in our societies this wall, this almost impregnable…wall of attitudes, perceptions, prejudices, and presumptions about LGBTI people.”

Members of the Commission who signed the Declaration acknowledged that their faith traditions can differ on institutional decisions such as same-gender marriage or blessings for same-gender couples, but all faith traditions could and should reject the homophobia and transphobia that leads sixty-nine nations to still criminalize LGBTQ people and inspires conversion therapy.

McAleese noted that the establishment of the commission and the release of the declaration is “a necessary step to remind the faith systems of the world and people of faith that they have an obligation to their fellow citizens who are also entitled to the full dignity of their humanity and their full equal human rights.”

Long a champion of LGBTQ rights in Ireland, McAleese reflected that actions like these communicate to LGBTQ people that even though “their Church’s laws and attitudes are highly oppressive, that among ordinary, everyday people of faith, the people of God, there was great love.”

Some of the other Catholic signers included: Lai-shan Yip, co-founder, Compassion (Hong Kong LGBTQ Catholics); Paul Lakeland, Director, Center for Catholic Studies, Fairfield University; Louisa Grech, Co-Ordinator of Drachma Parents (of LGBTI ); Ruby Almeida and Christopher Vella, Co-Chairs of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics; Brendan Fay, filmmaker; James K. Riley, attorney; Margaret Knowlden, Australian Reforming Catholics; Benjamin Oh and Peter Maher, Co-chairs, Rainbow Catholics InterAgency for Ministry, Australia;, Virginia Saldanha, theologian, India; Martha Heizer, We Are Church Austria; Deborah Rose-Milavec, co-director, FutureChurch; Donald Maher, lay minister; Claire Jenkins, coordinator of LGBT ministry, Nottingham Diocese, UK; Adam Lee, Superior General, Franciscans of Charity, UK; Fr. Donal Godfrey, SJ, chaplain, University of San Francisco; Jason Steidl, theologian, St. Joseph’s College, New York City.

Our church’s response to still rampant homophobia and transphobia should not be a sustained effort to limit protections for LGBTQ people as has been happening in the United States. Rather, it should recognize, alongside our diverse interfaith partners around the globe, that the love God has for all of creation compels us to stand up against homophobia and transphobia. The rejection of LGBTQ-negative sentiments must lead the Catholic Church to take stands against discriminatory practices, including conversion therapy and the criminalization of LGBTQ people, especially in Catholic countries.

In that way, we can be true to the God who calls on us to love and respect each human person created in God’s own image and likeness. That means first acknowledging our shortcomings, seeking forgiveness, and then resolving not to cause further harm to the LGBTQ community. When we do that, we can move forward with full justice and full respect for all human beings.

To sign the declaration publicly or privately, please visit: https://globalinterfaith.lgbt/#peti

Kevin C Molloy, New Ways Ministry, December 29, 2020

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