Marriage Equality is Expanding, But Bishops in Chile, Japan, and Hungary Remain Opposed

As countries around the world consider legalizing same-gender marriage, Catholic bishops remain mostly opposed to and cautious about such developments.

Legislation has been put forward recently to increase access to marriage and adoption for same-gender couples in Chile, Hungary, and Japan, and in all three cases, leaders in the Catholic Church have resisted these initiatives.

Chilean Cardinal Celestino Aós Braco, archbishop of Santiago and president of the Chilean bishops’ conference, offered the mildest resistance of the three cases. Crux reported that Braco said, “The laws matter, but it matters more that we revise our own options and our relationships within marriage and the family so that they are Christian marriages and families,” he said, adding that this, “takes tenderness, delicacy, courtesy, and respect.” While there is caution, there also seems to be a degree of pastoral complexity in Braco’s position. Notably, Chile legalized marriage equality earlier this month.

In Hungary, Christian and Jewish leaders have united in opposition to newly proposed marriage equality laws. In their statement, which was endorsed by the Hungarian Catholic Bishops Conference, they supported keeping marriage exclusive to mixed-gender couples. The letter cited Pope Francis who defended this model of marriage when he visited Hungary in September. Noting the current season of legislative debate, the interfaith leaders stated:

“‘In preparation for Christmas, in the light of the Hanukkah candles, and in response to the social debate growing recently, we, the undersigned representatives of the Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox Churches and Jewish communities, hereby reaffirm the importance of the Jewish and Christian values of marriage, family and human dignity.'”

A new measure in Tokyo, Japan would give same-gender couples the same rights as mixed-gender couples. Crux reported that “Japan’s bishops, including Tokyo’s Archbishop Tarcisius Isao Kikuchi, have yet to make a statement about the proposal for same-sex partnerships, however, they defended the Church’s position about marriage in a statement last year.” The Japanese bishops reiterated their fidelity to the institution of marriage between man and woman when they condemned the documentary Francesco’s portrayal of Francis’ support for same-gender civil unions.

While these developments may seem either discouraging or commonplace, it is interesting to see the proposal of pro-LGBTQ legislation in countries where homophobia persists and puts many queer people in precarious if not dangerous situations. As the global synod encourages us to listen to voices on the margins of the church, including those of LGBTQ Catholics, I hope that more bishops around the world will listen to LGBTQ voices who are calling for justice and equality in both church and society.

Barbara Anne Kozee (she/her), New Ways Ministry, December 29, 2021

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