Indonesian Priest Apologizes After Expressing Support for Marriage Equality in Church

Fr. Otto Gusti Madung

A priest in Indonesia who suggested there could be marriage equality in the church has now apologized for his comments.

Fr. Otto Gusti Madung, a priest in the Society of the Divine Word and professor known for human rights work, said last month that same-gender marriages occurring in the church were “possible.” UCA News reported on his backtracking:

“Father Madung acknowledged that he had ‘generated controversy, discussion and also the anger of many of the faithful.’

“‘Therefore, personally and from the bottom of my heart, I apologize for … hurting the religious feelings of my brothers and sisters as Catholics,’ he said on May 31.

“‘Hopefully my brothers and sisters will forgive me and we can pray for one another so that we will remain faithful followers of Christ. God bless and greetings from me in love.'”

A separate piece from UCA News provided more details:

“In his clarification, Otto stated that his comments were misquoted for reasons beyond his knowledge. He made the original comments in response to questions by some journalists. Otto, referring to the findings about LGBTQ as well as to the history of the Catholic Church in wrongful condemnation of certain scientific findings, made an ethical argument that it is possible for the Catholic Church to change its current position on same-sex marriage.

“As part of his defense, Otto emphasized the word ‘possibly’ in his statement, and he also stated that he did not make explicit mention about the likely Catholic acceptance of same-sex marriage as sacrament as in the Catholic theology of marriage.”

His apology may have been caused by the intense backlash Madung faced, including calls for his removal as director of the Ledalero Catholic School of Philosophy and his excommunication from the church. But the debate over Madung’s even mentioning marriage equality is actually a hopeful sign, wrote Justin L. Wejak for UCA News:

“This controversy over Father Otto Gusti Madung’s comments about the likelihood of same-sex marriage being accepted by the Catholic Church should be seen as positive energy. Many who may never have thought about the matter before in relation to Catholic theology and marriage law, human rights issues and gender rights may now begin to ponder what all it means for the future. Will there be more talk about gender equality and justice without robust actions for eradicating the discrimination that uses biblical pretexts such as the first chapter of the Book of Genesis?”

A more hopeful reading seems appropriate. Any time respectful, open dialogue about LGBTQ issues in the church occurs it is better than the silence which has long been the predominant approach. What is unfortunate in this situation is that Fr. Madung felt the need to apologize for simply offering his scholarly insights. Hopefully, this incident can be a learning moment from which Indonesian Catholics can be inspired to the openness and freedom that true dialogue requires.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, June 22, 2021

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