In an unprecedented move, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has issued a public denouncement of a former seminarian for having a wedding service with his partner, according to UCA News.
John Rey Lasap, who has not been a seminarian for several years, and his partner, Kirt Lester Ebrada, had a wedding ceremony in August. Lasap is the first known person in the Philippines, which still does not legally allow same-gender civil marriage, to have spent time in a seminary before having a wedding ceremony with a same-gender partner. The wedding was officiated by the LGBT Christian Church, a Protestant denomination based in the Albay province. Despite the union not occurring in a Catholic church–and not involving any current member of the clergy–the bishops’ conference publicly commented on Lasap’s marriage:
“‘Marriage is not only a relationship among people. It is a divine institution. It has a divine plan, that is, for building family life–to have kids. God willed that marriage is between a man and a woman.'”
While many Catholic bishops’ conferences have issued LGBTQ-negative statements following major policy changes or cultural moments, the CBCP’s statement offered a public condemnation of a personal event in the life of a specific lay person.
Against criticism from the bishops and other conservative Catholic groups in the Philippines, Lasap defended the wedding as a sign of love, commenting:
“‘I do believe that marriage is a sacrament that signifies the union of Christ through the church, through the union of husband and wife. Therefore, the same thing for LGBT couple… we have equal rights because we have equal gender. Our relationship is nothing without Christ.’ . . .
“[Ebrada said:] ‘I am gay and John is bisexual…. He’s a former seminarian and he told me many things about the Bible and the life of Jesus and I fell in love with him because he was kind and intelligent. Why can’t we profess our love for one another if Jesus did not discriminate the righteous from the sinners?’”
Lasap’s story is part of a broader trend of queer Catholics becoming more visible in the Philippines. The nation elected its first transgender congressperson in 2016, and various church leaders have endorsed LGBTQ+ non-discrimination laws.
The intrusion of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines into a marital decision by someone who is not institutionally connected to the church greatly oversteps the bounds of courtesy. As attitudes toward LGBTQ+ people improve in the Philippines, the next generation of Filipino Catholics will likely be raised with a more inclusive understanding of the faith due to the efforts of couples like Lasap and Ebrada, as well as educators in Catholic education.
—Andru Zodrow (he/him), New Ways Ministry, September 19, 2022