Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, met with a large group of lawyers, politicians, and activists – among them Baroness Helena Kennedy, director of the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute – on Friday 5th April 2019.
The group presented him with research on anti-LGBT+ criminalisation laws in the Caribbean that will be published next year by the Inter-American Institute for Human Rights. The advocates spoke out against laws, practices, and attitudes in various parts of the world which criminalise LGBT people and cultural attitudes which support and promote violence against them. Recent examples of Catholic bishops who have made statements in support of legislation that criminalise LGBT people include remarks by Cardinal Polycarp Pengo of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania who, in a reference to accepting homosexuality, said “It is better to die of hunger than to receive aid and be compelled to do things that are contrary to God’s desire”; and Archbishop William Goh of Singapore, who said that while he generally supported decriminalising homosexuality, nevertheless thought it would be a “slippery path of no return” towards further LGBT+ rights and even the criminalisation of people who oppose LGBTQ equality. As a result, he called on Catholics firmly to oppose efforts at repeal. There are many other instances of Catholic bishops who have either remained silent, or worse, supportive of measures that criminalise LGBT people, often with cruel punishments.
A statement from the Vatican Press Office, reported by La Stampa, described the meeting:
“Cardinal Parolin gave those present a brief greeting, reiterating the position of the Catholic Church in defence of the dignity of every human person and against all forms of violence. After listening to the speeches of some of the participants in the meeting, Cardinal Parolin then assured then that he will inform the Holy Father about the contents of the research.”
LGBT advocates included representatives from the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights, the United Nations Latin American Institute for the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, and the International Bar Association. The three organisations released a joint statement after the meeting expressing their satisfaction with the gathering, but also outlined further requests they were making of the Vatican, including:
“We therefore humbly request the Church to declare that: Human dignity implies the respect of every person as created by God, hence criminalisation of LGBT people is today, as in the darkest times in the history of humanity, a manifestation of irrational hatred for that which is different from the norm and that homophobia is, in effect, a feeling of hatred and rejection which the Church condemns, wherever it takes place.”
After the meeting Baroness Kennedy, according to a report from Reuters, said that Cardinal Parolin had been “very responsive” to the group’s input, and “accepted” their main point about Church teaching requiring a defence of human dignity even if there are other doctrinal issues.
Pictured: Baroness Helena Ann Kennedy and Leonardo Javier Raznovich, talk to reporters in Rome.
Click below to read a joint Media Release from the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights, the United Nations Latin American Institute for the Prevention of Crime & the Treatment of Offenders, and the International Bar Association.