IN THE wake of Pope Francis’s support for same-sex civil unions, the response of local leaders of the Cebu Archdiocese is a resounding silence.
The disparity between the pope’s stance and the silence of local Catholic leaders surfaces in the SunStar Cebu report of Wenilyn B. Sabalo on Oct. 22. The Archdiocese of Cebu said it “will wait for the Vatican to issue a clarification” before issuing a statement about same-sex civil unions.
Catholic dogma is rigid in rejecting homosexuality, declaring a homosexual orientation as “objectively disordered;” homosexual acts, as “intrinsically disordered.”
In keeping with dogma, the pope holds the traditional view of marriage as a sacrament entered only by a man and a woman; rejects the belief that a person can choose his or her gender; and advises seminaries to reject priesthood candidates who are gay.
On the other hand, Pope Francis asks Catholics to accept members that conservatives cast as outsiders: divorced or separated women, single parents, couples who cohabit outside of marriage and homosexuals.
Notwithstanding Catholic traditionalists, Filipinos generally favor acceptance of members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community.
In 2013 and then again in 2019, 73 percent of Filipinos responded that “homosexuality should be supported by society” in surveys conducted by the Pew Research Center, reported the news website Rappler on June 25.
Filipinos’ support for homosexuals was highest among Asian neighbors taking part in the survey, followed by Japan at 68 percent. Only nine percent in Indonesia, which is predominantly Muslim, expressed support for homosexuals.
The Pew Research Center study pointed out that, “Despite major changes in laws and norms surrounding the issue of same-sex marriage and the rights of LGBT people around the world, public opinion on the acceptance of homosexuality in society remains sharply divided by country, region, and economic development.”
Of greater consequence to the LGBT community is the conversion of social acceptance into legal and institutional inclusion and support for their human rights and welfare. This was recommended during the Philippine National LGBT Community Dialogue organized by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United States Aid for International Development (USAID) in Manila in June 2013.
“Being LGBT in Asia: The Philippines Country Report” documents the participatory review and analysis of the legal and social environment for LGBT persons, particularly in education, health, employment, family affairs, religion, community, media and politics.
While many local government units passed ordinances prohibiting the discrimination of LGBT persons and more companies explicitly adopt gender-sensitive policies in hiring, promotion and office attire, homosexual human rights have yet to be incorporated in curricula implemented in the country’s schools.
Educational institutions must use opportunities for raising the consciousness of youths on gender and sexuality, including enabling their self-protection, vigilance and assertiveness in responding to possible discrimination, harassment and stigma.
In Catholic learning institutions, dogma and conservatism conflict with the understanding of and sensitivity to adolescent sexual transitions, particularly when these deviate from the traditional delineations of male and female genders.
As the UNDP-USAID consultation pointed out: “religion plays a major role in the lives of Filipinos with the strong influence of the Roman Catholic Church.”
The “generally accepting” openness of Filipinos to the LGBT members conflicts with the inflexible stance of the church, which “opposes anti-discrimination policies and sometimes seeks to influence public policy in a negative way,” a divide that continues to affect the human rights and welfare of this vulnerable sector of citizens kept to the margins of society.