In case you weren’t already aware, today, May 17, is the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO). Hundreds of organizations around the world have mobilized to hold events calling attention to the various ways that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people are discriminated against and denied basic human rights. Activists, LGBT people, and equality-minded allies are holding commemorations even in places like Uganda, Russia, Bangladesh, and Cameroon, where they face a very real threat of violence.
While homosexuality isn’t illegal per se under the laws of the Roman Catholic Church, its leadership continues to engage in a high-profile campaign of spiritual bullying against LGBT people. While those on the Catholic payroll (lay employees at Catholic schools, churches, and universities, nuns, priests, bishops…) who challenge the Church’s institutional bigotry by taking a public stand in support of LGBT equality don’t risk being put to death, they do put themselves at considerable risk of retribution from the Catholic hierarchy. Standing up in that context takes courage.
Maybe that’s why I find this story from New Ways Ministry so wonderfully refreshing:
In Italy this year, the Catholic LGBT organization Gionata (translated “Jonathan”) will host prayer vigils around their country. Three of those vigils will be supported by the local Catholic Cardinal in each location… The cardinal in Milan is Cardinal Angelo Scola; in Florence, it is Cardinal Giuseppe Bettori.
According to Gay Star News:
Cardinal Paolo Romeo, in Palermo, is one of three cardinals who have backed it, even though he banned the vigil last year. The liturgy there will be celebrated at 9pm tomorrow in the San Gabriele Arcangelo church.
Believe me, I am not operating under the delusion that three Italian cardinals allowing IDAHO prayer vigils in their local dioceses means that we’ll be seeing St. Peter’s Basilica festooned with rainbow banners or a Pride parade marching down the Via della Conciliazione anytime soon. Still, just as it’s important to call attention to the way the Catholic Church persecutes LGBT people, it’s equally important to amplify and commend those who are working hard to take their church back from the forces of homophobia and proclaim that theirs is not a god of bigotry, but one of love.