Recognizing same-gender marriages in the Catholic Church is entirely possible, says an Indonesian priest, prompting mixed reactions in the country.
Fr. Otto Gusti Madung, SVD, offered his reflection on the possibility of marriage equality in the church during an address to the Journalists Union for Diversity earlier this month. UCA News reported:
“‘In my opinion, it is possible that same-sex marriage will be recognized in the Catholic Church,’ said the priest, who is also rector of the Ledalero Catholic School of Philosophy in Maumere, East Nusa Tenggara province.
“The campus is known for its inclusiveness and for often inviting LGBT people to participate in events it hosts.
“Father Madung said that religion and spirituality only have the legitimacy to exist if they side with marginalized people such as LGBT people and try to reduce suffering in the world.”
Expanding in a UCA News interview, Madung said the church would come to appreciate marriage equality once its theology moves beyond a natural law theory that rejects contemporary science on homosexuality:
“He said these [modern scientific] findings were a sign of the times that challenge the Catholic Church to interpret the scriptures and its teachings in a new way, including those related to same-sex marriage.
“‘An interpretation of scripture and dogma is a product of history and a certain context and therefore it needs a new interpretation to speak for the people of today. Only then will the Church become a sign of God’s liberating presence,’ Father Madung said.
“Those reading historical events must use God’s eyes, which are ‘the eyes of solidarity, empathy, love and care, not the eyes of power that oppress or discriminate,’ he added.”
While some Indonesian Catholics have condemned Madung for his positive comments about same-gender marriages, LGBTQ Catholics took a different tact:
“‘I’m overjoyed that there is a priest who has started to discuss this openly, although of course it is not easy for many people to accept, especially in the context of Indonesia where we are still considered abnormal,’ Hendrika Mayora Victoria, a transgender woman, told UCA News.
“‘We still feel discrimination, including by the Church. Fortunately, I still feel strong because I believe that God, through the Holy Spirit, has given me the strength to endure.”‘”
Fr. Madung’s affirmation that marriage equality in the church is possible is on firm theological ground. Magisterial teachings about homosexuality need updating, and like so many times in church history, the doctrines likely will develop. Same-gender marriages will be celebrated in the church.
But the priest gets at a larger point that is not just about marriage. As long as the church fails to offer a “new interpretation” for today’s world–an interpretation rooted in the lives of marginalized people like the LGBTQ community–it fails to signal God’s liberation as it should be doing. So often, the inclusion of LGBTQ people in the church is framed the care provided for them. It is worth remembering always how much the church needs LGBTQ people for the gifts they offer and the ecclesial holiness they help secure.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, May 27, 2021