Examples of Catholic Opposition to Anti-LGBT Criminalization Laws

Compiled by Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry

(Updated January 22, 2018)


Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay, Council of Cardinal Advisers to Pope Francis, President of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences, and President of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India

“[T]he Catholic Church has never been opposed to the decriminalisation of homosexuality, because we have never considered gay people criminals. As Christians, we express our full respect for homosexuals. The Catholic Church is opposed to the legalisation of gay marriage, but teaches that homosexuals have the same dignity of every human being and condemns all forms of unjust discrimination, harassment or abuse.” (December 2013)

“You must make a distinction with an individual, who is absolutely part of the Church, who we must care for, and who might have a [homosexual] orientation.  You can’t put them in chains, or say we have no responsibility whatsoever.” (October 2015)

“I have met some groups and associations of LGBTs and I had an understanding for them. I don’t want them to feel ostracised. . .I feel that homosexuality should not be criminalised. For me it’s a question of understanding that it’s an orientation.” (February 2016)

Cardinal Peter Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Peace and Justice

“Homosexuals should not be criminalized.” (October 2015)

Archbishop Charles Daniel Balvo, Apostolic Nuncio to Kenya

“The homosexuals should be defended against violation of their dignity and human rights, they are human beings like anyone of us.” (July 2013)

Archbishop John Baptist Odama of Gulu, President of the Uganda Episcopal Conference

“It is not that I am advocating for homosexual practice in the country, but we should not take laws into our hands to harm and hate the homosexuals because we all have weaknesses. . .People should not take the laws into their hands and harm homosexuals, since they are also human beings though with different sexual feelings.” (August 2014)

Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations

“The Holy See continues to advocate that every sign of unjust discrimination towards homosexual persons should be avoided and urges States to do away with criminal penalties against them.” (December 2008)

Laity & Clergy

Jamie Manson, National Catholic Reporter

“Anti-homosexuality legislation is quickly becoming a global threat to human dignity. These laws do not simply violate human rights; they foster a climate of rage, scapegoating, and violence against LGBT people. . .These repressive laws offer an opportunity for the pope’s now-legendary ‘Who am I to judge?’ comment to actually translate into action. No one is asking Pope Francis to change doctrine or create a revolution. We are only asking him to honor the catechism’s teaching that gays and lesbians should be ‘accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.” (April 2014)

Fr. James Martin, SJ, author of Building a Bridge

“Every Catholic, every Christian, every person, should oppose these laws. Every Catholic, every Christian, every person is called to love their brothers and sisters–straight or gay. Period.” (February 2014)

Ambassador Thomas P. Melady, former U.S. ambassador to Uganda and to the Holy See

“As I stated in a previous article on this matter, I urge U.S. faith leaders of all denominations to speak out against the campaign to demonize gays in Uganda. The Catechism of the Catholic Church notes that ‘every sign of unjust discrimination’ against gays should be avoided. As a layman I would like to observe that the legislation being advocated by a few, which emphasizes severe punishment, runs contrary to the Christian tradition. In view of the high numbers of Christians of all denominations in Uganda, this represents and opportunity for American faith leaders, especially Christians, to urge their co-religionists to respond more correctly to Christian teachings and traditions. . . Our Catholic faith in the inalienable dignity of every human being demands no less.” (August 2012)

Msgr. Robert Vitillo, HIV/AIDS advisor to Caritas International

“At face value, the legislation in some countries is supposedly to protect marriage between a man and a woman, or to prevent a more open concept of marriage which many northern countries seem to be legislating now. But many times, legislation like this causes more discrimination, even violence, against sexual minorities. . . in no way would the Catholic church condone violence or discrimination against anyone.” (August 2014)


Editorial from America Magazine

The church’s vigorous support for traditional marriage, moreover, must be accompanied by advocacy for the human rights of gays and lesbians in equal measure. This is required by the church’s own teaching. Indeed, a growing number of Catholic leaders have offered unqualified support for the decriminalization of homosexuality…

We add our voice to this swelling chorus. Pope Francis has described gay people as ‘socially wounded’ because ‘they feel like the church has always condemned them.’ Catholics must examine how we contribute, perhaps even inadvertently, to a culture of fear and shame…

The church must oppose violence against gay persons and should strongly advocate for the decriminalization of homosexuality. No one should be subject to a criminal penalty simply for being gay. If laws like these do not constitute the ‘unjust discrimination’ against gay people that the church rightly denounces, then what possibly could?” (February 2014)

Editorial from The Southern Cross, official newspaper of the Southern African Bishops Conference; later picked up by Fides, the official Vatican news agency

“These laws are not intended to render same-sex acts illegal they already are, and punishable, in most African countries but to persecute people on the basis of their sexual orientation. Such laws are not only unjust, but they also have the potential to tear at the fabric of society if they are misused to facilitate false denunciations for gain, advancement or vengeance, much as what Christians are exposed to in Pakistan under that country’s intolerable blasphemy law. . .

“Their position is in conflict with Catholic teachings. The Church cannot sponsor the criminalisation of matters of private morality, and much less the advocacy of human rights. Prejudice and the persecution of homosexuals are in defiance of Catholic doctrine. . .Jailing homosexuals for being gay and insisting on their human rights, or even for having sex, self-evidently is a sign of unjust discrimination that lacks in respect and compassion. . .

“Alas, the Church has been silent, in some cases even quietly complicit, in the discourse on new homophobic laws. This absence of intervention for justice may well be interpreted, wrongly or not, as approval of injustice, in line with the maxim Qui tacet, consentire videtur (Silence gives consent). . .Instead, the Church should present herself as compassionate and courageous in standing with the those living in fear. . .

“It would require a very peculiar reading of the Gospel to locate Jesus anywhere else but at the side of the marginalised and vulnerable. The Church must be seen to be standing with Jesus and those who face unjust persecution, even especially if it does not condone the lifestyles of those at risk. That would be true Christian witness.” (February 2014)