An international coalition of Catholic LGBTQ organizations has issued a statement calling on the Catholic hierarchy to “stand with the weak and the persecuted in Ghana,” in response to recent efforts in Ghana to further criminalize homosexuality.
The statement from the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics (GNRC) addressed “the Pope and all Bishops around the world to intervene in this matter and to roundly condemn the criminalisation of LGBTIQ+ citizens whose human rights are being denied.”
Imploring church leaders to “speak out against this violent and retrograde step,” the statement went on, “We ask that they turn to church teaching and practice, as advocated by Pope Francis himself and as is directed in Church teaching to treat the LGBTIQ+ person with respect, compassion and sensitivity.”
The organization’s statement comes in answer to Ghanaian bishops’ recent endorsement of a bill that would criminalize LGBTQ people, “The Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill.”
GNRC is an organization whose stated goal is to “work for pastoral care, justice, inclusion, dignity and equality for LGBTIQ Catholics and their families in the Roman Catholic Church and wider society.”
“The Church believes in human rights and preaches against discrimination directed against minorities of any kind. And yet, we are seeing church leaders supporting and encouraging this in Ghana,” said Chris Vella, the co-chair of GNRC, in the statement. “In the light of the Gospel and of Christ crucified, the Church must stand with the weak and the persecuted.”
The GNRC wrote that they had urged Pope Francis to advocate for the protection of LGBTQ people in March 2021, asking the Vatican “to speak out against the violence being meted out to some of our members which emanated from the inflammatory language used by the bishops in Ghana.” The statement continued that the organization was saddened by the lack of response from the Vatican and the progress of anti-LGBTQ legislation in Ghana. The bill is up for debate this month.
As Bondings 2.0 reported, the Ghanaian bishops said in their endorsement of the bill, “As a church, we want this abominable practice made illegal in our country.” The bill would promote the use of conversion therapy to “treat” LGBTQ people.
Last month, Bondings 2.0 also reported that one of Ghana’s top bishops, Archbishop Philip Naameh, who serves as the head of the Ghana Catholic Bishops Conference, announced his active support for the use of conversion therapy against LGBTQ people.
The news outlet Modern Ghana recently reported on Catholic bishops’ continued support for the anti-LGBTQ bill, stating that the bishops’ conference had “reaffirmed its unflinching support” for the bill and “urged Ghanaians to support its passage into law.”
“The position of the Catholic Church on LGBTQIA has remained the same: that, such practices are against not only Christian Values but Muslim and Ghanaian Traditional values as well,” the bishops wrote.
Despite the bishops’ endorsement for the bill, not all of Ghana’s clergy concur with the bishops’ stance. According to an article in Modern Ghana, Fr. Andrew Campbell is a parish priest who has stated that LGBTQ people should be treated as the children of God that they are.
While still framing his comments around the message that “Christ said love the sinner but hate the sin,” Campbell’s words also provide an important assertion about the fundamental dignity of LGBTQ people as made in God’s image and likeness.
“Everybody is a child of God. If you read Ephesians 2:10, it says you are God’s work of art,” Campbell said. “We are all made in the image and likeness of God and so, no matter who you are, you are a child of God.”
As the debate continues in Ghana over this bill, GNRC’s statement calls on more clergy to likewise affirm the God-given dignity of LGBTQ people. As GNRC reminds its readers, church teaching itself calls on Catholics to treat LGBTQ people with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. It is incumbent on Catholic leaders, then, to counter any efforts that criminalize, persecute, or deny the dignity of LGBTQ people.
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.
—Grace Doerfler, November 26, 2021