A diocese in England has apologized after a priest there described teachers who offer supportive LGBTQ messages as “devils” and “abominations.”
Fr. Rosario Ebanks made the comments during a brief homily at St. Mary’s and St. Columba’s Catholic Church, Gosport, in which he took aim at transgender youth, affirming educators, and the wider LGBTQ movement. The News reported:
“In the video, shared onto the church’s website and seen by The News, Father Rosario said: ‘I would like to speak about a very particular way in which the Devil is tempting the faithful, tempting the little ones, those who are innocent and pure.’
“‘It’s very sad, dear brothers and sisters, that we have opened up a door to the devil in our Catholic schools, embracing all of this “gender ideology” and this rainbow flag revolution.’
“‘Dear brothers and sisters, those teachers are a bunch of devils. What a scandal. What an abomination to think that in some so-called catholic schools, these abominations are being presented and promoted. . .”
In response, a spokesperson for the Diocese of Portsmouth said it was “very sorry” for the homily and recognized “the inflammatory language has caused great offence to many.” The statement continued:
“‘We disagree with the statements that have been made and would emphasise that the Catholic Church respects and welcomes all people.’
“‘We are investigating the matter and will consider what appropriate action is required.’”
The video of the homily has been removed from the parish’s website.
Local advocates for LGBTQ people quickly condemned Ebanks’ statements. Caroline Dinenage, a Member of Parliament, said, “It saddens me that prejudices continue to exist. Given the turmoil in the world at the moment, I would hope we are all focusing on kindness and tolerance.” Transgender activist Katie Yeomans described the comments as “hate speech” indicating the church was “back in the Stone Age.”
Nationally, Stonewall, the U.K.’s leading LGBTQ rights group, issued a statement through spokesperson Sasha Misra, stating, in part:
“It’s appalling to hear people make such offensive judgements about LGBTQ+ inclusive education and the wonderful teachers that welcome all students into their classrooms. . .When young people are taught about different families and relationships, we know that it not only helps prevent anti-LGBTQ+ bullying but also ensures all students feel welcome and included.”
The diocese’s condemnation of Fr. Ebanks’ anti-LGBTQ tirade is notable given Bishop Philip Egan’s own strongly LGBTQ-negative record. Back in 2014, Egan said Catholic politicians supporting marriage equality should be denied Communion. More recently in 2021, he applauded a court decision limiting healthcare treatments for trans youth. In 2020, he criticized a booklet on stopping domestic violence from a women’s group that advises the English bishops because it was LGBTQ-supportive in parts.
The problem, though: it should not be notable for a Catholic diocese to condemn vicious anti-LGBTQ remarks. That should be a given. Still, if this signifies progress in the Diocese of Portsmouth, that is some good to come from a negative moment.
—Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, March 16, 2022