Many commentators on Amoris Laetitia have expressed disappointment that Pope Francis’ reminder of respect and freedom from discrimination for lesbian and gay people, was not accompanied by an explicit condemnation of the LGBT persecution found across much of Africa, or of the endorsement of criminal sanctions by some Catholic bishops.
However, at least one key African Catholic sees it differently, saying that the Pope’s words “should galvanize the Church in Africa to embrace wholeheartedly African families and their LGBT members“.
Agbonkhianmeghe E. Orobator, SJ, is a Nigerian Jesuit currently serving in Kenya as the Provincial of the Eastern Africa Province of the Society of Jesus, a position he has held since 2009. An author, editor, and lecturer at Hekima College Jesuit School of Theology in Nairobi, Kenya, Father Orobator specializes in ethics and theology in the church and religion in African society.
Writing at National Catholic Reporter on his early response to Amoris Laetitia, he admits that he had expected more, says that the exhortation is not “groundbreaking”, and adds,
I believe that there is still a long way to go before we actually make the bold steps that are long overdue with regard to critical issues such as the role of women in church, homosexual unions, reproductive rights, all of which are broached and addressed in the document.
However, LGBT Catholics in particular will welcome his admission that bold steps are long overdue with regard to homosexual unions.
Even more welcome is his expectation that African bishops will in fact take on board Francis’ words on respect and freedom from discrimination, and act to welcome LGBT Catholics in the life of the African Church. We can but hope and pray that he is right. As an African myself, I’m delighted that this is being said from within Africa, by a knowledgeable African Catholic leader. (I’m less convinced than he is though, that the African bishops will in fact take the message of inclusion on board).
African theologian responds to ‘Amoris Laetitia’
Furthermore, on a continent where at least 38 countries criminalize homosexuality, the pope’s trenchant call for respect for human dignity, avoidance of unjust discrimination, aggression, and violence, and respectful pastoral guidance [paragraph 250], should galvanize the church in Africa to embrace wholeheartedly African families and their LGBT members who have been stigmatized, marginalized, and excluded from the life of the church. Church leaders need to dissociate themselves from governments and politicians who persecute gay people, and show example of respect for their dignity. In Africa, we say the church is “family of God,” implying that it welcomes all without discrimination. The preeminent mark of this church and the world church is hospitality. Clearly, Francis is calling the church in Africa to practice what it preaches by becoming a church that welcomes all into the family without discrimination.
Source: National Catholic Reporter