Cardinal Peter Turkson, head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, has met with two LGBT Catholic pilgrims in Rome – and “reaffirmed his opposition to the criminalisation of homosexuals for who they are”.
When two groups of lgbt Catholic pilgrims visited Rome for a Lenten pilgrimage, it was widely reported by mainstream media around the world, that the group from the USA had been given “VIP seats” for the Ash Wednesday papal audience. More interesting to me, is that two members of the English group were able to meet privately with one of the most influential Vatican officials, Cardinal Peter Turkson, head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and his personal assistant.
Cardinal Turkson has served as cardinal under three popes, is a member of several Vatican congregations and other bodies in addition to his work as head of the Council for Justice and Peace – and is also from Africa, where criminalization of homosexuals is a major cause for concern, and other bishops have supported it. In the last papal conclave, the betting included him as a viable papabile. In view of his relatively youthful age, it is probable that he will still be a contender in the next conclave. His opinion matters.
It also matters that the Council that he heads, is precisely that of Justice & Peace. Far too much discussion of “Catholic teaching” and homosexuality does so in the context of sexual ethics – but that is only one of several possible prisms through which to view the issue. Justice is another, which yields some very different conclusions. Beyond the specific question of homosexuality, In the context of the Gospel message and Catholic teaching as a whole, sexual ethics form a relatively small place. Justice, mercy and outreach to the needy and marginalized are far more prominent.
It’s also important that this meeting simply took place, at all. Some critics of reports about the allegedly “VIP” treatment received by the USA pilgrims objected that in fact, there was nothing particularly special about their reception at all, and that their was nothing in the words of welcome to identify them as lgbt. What is important though, is that the welcome, however it is described, far exceeded that of any previous occasion, when Vatican officials and many (possibly most) diocesan bishops around the world have simply refused to even meet with lgbt groups. Under Francis’ papacy, that has changed, dramatically. Last year, the chair of Quest, the British lgbt Catholic group, was able to meet with Cardinal Gracias, a member of the Pope’s advisory council of 9 senior cardinals, and also met with Cardinal Victor Nichols of Westminster. In the USA, representatives of New Ways, and of Dignity, have been finding it easier to gain access to bishops – including some prominent opponents of lgbt inclusion, who have previously simply dismissed the groups as “not Catholic”. In Malta, an archbishop joined the local lgbt Catholic group Drachma, to mark IDAHOT day – and celebrated Mass for them.
The paragraphs below are taken from a statement released by LGBT Catholics Westminster. According to that statement, this text of this passage, referring to the meeting with Cardinal Turkson, has been agreed by the cardinal.
Further to a request made on behalf of Catholic members of the European Forum of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Christian Groups, two members of the LGBT Catholics Westminster community were welcomed by His Eminence, Peter, Cardinal Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and his Personal Assistant, Fr. Michael Czerny S.J.The discussion on 21 February 2015 included an exchange of views about the global impact of criminalisation on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. Cardinal Turkson reaffirmed his opposition to the criminalisation of homosexuals for who they are, while also urging that neither people nor states be penalized for not embracing such behaviour.The Lineamenta for the 2015 Synod on Marriage and Family, with particular reference to its paragraphs (55 & 56) dealing with same-sex relationships, also came up, with the hope that the pastoral needs of LGBT Catholics, their parents and families, including those of children in same-sex families, would meet with informed discussion during next October’s Ordinary Synod of Bishops.
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