A cardinal in South Korea has endorsed the prospect of an anti-discrimination law inclusive of sexual orientation, while at the same time expressing concerns the bill could be a pathway for marriage equality.
According to The Korea Times, Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung of Seoul issued a statement, titled “Lesson from Catholic church on family and marriage,” in which the cardinal clarified that he believes that no one should be discriminated against or face abuse based on sexual orientation or identity. Still, he does not recognize the LGBTQ community’s right to marry.
At issue is an anti-discrimination bill that Rep. Jang Hye-young of the progressive Justice Party proposed in June 2020. Cardinal Yeom stressed in his statement that certain portions of the bill, “especially the policies in expanding the concept of family such as allowing cohabitation without marriage and common-law marriage, are largely different from the universal values in society and religious and ethical beliefs of the Catholic church.”
Despite his reservations, the cardinal is taking positive action, according to The Korea Times:
“[Cardinal Yeom] stressed that he is just a scholar and not an activist, but he has been taking actions in making the church more inclusive, That is likely one of the reasons he signed a petition calling for an overall anti-discrimination law submitted to the National Assembly last month which says any forms of discrimination including based on sexual orientation should not be allowed in society…If the petition is able to attract more than 100,000 signatures within 30 days, the related committee will look into revising the bill.”
Korean Jesuit priest Fr. Sim Jong-hyeok, who also signed the petition and translated Fr. James Martin’s Building a Bridge, commented on the cardinal’s stance and the bill:
“‘I understand Yeom’s position. He is worried about the affirmation of gay marriage. But I signed the petition because I just don’t like any kinds of discrimination including against sexual orientation and gender…I hope the bill could function like an agreement banning such discriminative acts in society.”
The Korea Times quoted Fr. Sim:
“‘The Catholic Church has been enjoying a privileged position in society and stubborn about including homosexuals … If a gay churchgoer came to me for consultation and was told that homosexuality is a disease, then the person will close their mind. The person and I would not develop any relationship, meaning that I cannot carry out any forms of ministerial activities as a priest. It is the matter of doing my job. So far, the church has been taking a patronizing attitude toward the minority, asking them to change their attitudes first. But it doesn’t work. The church should take the initiative to recover the relationship, which it destroyed, between the church and the minority community “with respect, compassion and sensitivity” as Jesus did for those vulnerable in the past.'”
By opposing discrimination based on sexual orientation, both Cardinal Yeom and Fr. Sim attempt to prioritize a loving pastoral ministry towards LGTBQ persons. However, when such a stance is footnoted with church’s official teaching opposing marriage equality, words of support for the LGBTQ community fall short.
—Beth Mueller Stewart, New Ways Ministry, August 23, 2021