In one of the more interesting developments after the Synod family assembly, the Indonesian bishops have held their own, local synod to share the message of the synod with the local community – and to listen to the struggles of local families.
Of particular importance for LGBT Catholics, is that Archbishop Ignatius Suharyo Hardjoatmodjo of Jakarta, who attended the synod, stressed the clear message from the assembly that all people deserve respect – and that includes “homosexuals”.
The archbishop said that one of the main points of the synod is that all people deserve respect, forgiveness and mercy.
“The pope said many times that every individual — whoever they are: divorced couples or homosexuals — must be respected,” he told ucanews.com.
This should not be worth noting, but it undoubtedly is. Although it is clearly stated in the Catholic Catechism that homosexuals should be treated with “respect, sensitivity and compassion”, this is one rule which is widely ignored by many Catholic bishops. For Indonesia, we also need to consider the context.
As an overwhelmingly Muslim nation, this is not a good place to be gay or transgender. At the national level, there is no direct criminalization, but there is also no protection from discrimination, prejudice, or outright hatred, and some discriminatory laws apply (for example, on the age of consent). At the provincial level, it is worse. Provinces have the power to outlaw homosexuality in their areas, and some have done so. In Aceh, province, gay sex can be punished with 100 lashes of the cane. Popular sentiment is hostile, often stoked by religious authorities, both Muslim and (up to now), Catholic.
That is why Archbishop Hardjoatmodjo’s reminder that homosexuals deserve respect, while totally consistent with standard Catholic teaching, is notable as one of the first concrete example of how the Synod assembly on marriage and family, could be leading to improved pastoral sensitivity to LGBT Catholics (and in the longer term, to actual changes in doctrine).