Ghana’s Catholic bishops have endorsed a bill that seeks to criminalize LGBTQ people, saying they desired this “abominable practice” be made illegal.
Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference issued a statement as legislators take up the legislation, titled “The Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill, 2021,” for debate this month. Modern Ghana reported:
“The Bishops’ Conference said in a statement that the Catholic church, of which about 13.1% of the population are members, is completely against LGBTQI+.
“‘As a church, we want this abominable practice made illegal in our country’, the statement said, adding: ‘The Bible, which is foundational to Christian beliefs and practices, condemns the practice’.
“The Catholic Bishops said: ‘Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered towards an intrinsic moral evil, and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder’.
“‘The Church rejects the unfounded and demeaning assumption that the sexual behaviour of homosexual persons is always and very compulsive and, therefore, they should not be blamed for their homosexual acts.'” [Editor’s note: The last two quotes from the bishops’ statement are directly quoted from the 1986 “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons” issued by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.]
The bishops’ statement also denied that LGBQ people have a right to equal marriage, and added that, “it is not right to subject homosexuals to any form of harassment simply because they are homosexuals.”
The bill the bishops endorsed would add to existing law criminalizing LGBTQ people. Reuters reported:
“Gay sex is already punishable with up to three years in jail in Ghana, where homophobic persecution is widespread. The bill would also impose a penalty of up to five years imprisonment for being LGBT+ and of 10 years for advocating for their rights.
“Online platforms or media companies publishing information deemed to support LGBT+ people or challenge traditional binary male and female gender identities could also be prosecuted.
“The draft law promotes so-called conversion therapy by allowing flexible sentencing for an LGBT+ person if they request ‘treatment’ to change their sexual orientation or gender identity. . .”
According to Reuters, there seems to be sufficient political support for the bill to pass, though concerns linger about how passage might impact Ghana’s reputation on the international stage, and in particular with external donors.
That Ghana’s bishops endorsed this legislation is not surprising given their vehemently anti-LGBTQ record. Earlier this year, Bondings 2.0 reported on church leaders’ influence in closing down the nation’s first LGBTQ community center.
In 2015, during the Synod on the Family, Bondings 2.0 asked Ghanian Archbishop Charles Palmer-Buckle about African church leaders’ stance on criminalizing homosexuality. At the time, the archbishop asked for time for countries to “deal with issues from our own cultural perspectives” because “we are trying.” He appealed, “Be patient with Africa.”
Six years on, Ghana’s church leaders have not led their country to greater LGBTQ acceptance. It does not even seem they tried. Rather, today they are lead instigators for policies that incite hate against and do real violence to LGBTQ people. If Ghana’s bishops and political leaders insist on this course, people globally need to intervene in defense of LGBTQ people’s lives. One clear step by Catholics could be a statement from the Vatican rejecting the position of Ghana’s bishops and reiterating magisterial opposition to LGBTQ criminalization.
Since 2015, Catholics have been asking Pope Francis to condemn anti-LGBTQ criminalization through New Ways Ministry’s #PopeSpeakOut campaign. If you would like to contact the pope about Ghana’s bishops, you can find information on how to do so here.
To contact Cardinal Peter Turkson, the prefect of the Dicastery for Integral Human Development who is from Ghana, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For New Ways Ministry’s full list of resources on anti-LGBTQ criminalization, including a chronology of Catholic leaders’ positive and negative statements on the issue, click here.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, October 12, 2021