Gay activists in the Philippines welcomed the sudden end of the leadership of Pope Benedict XVI in the Vatican city-state, saying that the scandals that rocked the Roman Catholic Church worldwide may possibly present opportunities for the religious community to modify its anti-gay and anti-women doctrines.
The Progressive Organization of Gays in the Philippines (ProGay) said it was monitoring the ceremonial farewell of the retired Benedict and the elections now conducted by the conclave of cardinals from all over the world.
“Because our country is 80 per cent Roman Catholic, most of government policies have been heavily influenced by RC bishops, which made it so stifling for the lives of millions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender citizens. Us LGBTs don’t expect much improvements in church policies with whoever becomes the new Pope, but if the church officials are really serious about reversing the decline of their numbers and their morale, it makes sense for Vatican to start reviewing old ideas that alienate people,” said Jomar Amores, spokesman of ProGay.
Amores commented that recently the church’s vaunted influence was compromised when the Reproductive Health Law that mandated publicly supplied contraception finally passed Congress after the church leadership made huge efforts to block it. “It didn’t help the church that around that time, several sexual abuse cases against women emerged,” he added.
Several bishops were also exposed for receiving luxury cars bankrolled by a lottery fund that was controlled by the then government of President Gloria Arroyo, a pro-church doctrine woman reviled for massive human rights violations.
ProGay laments that the Church is desperately shoring up its lost prestige by blocking the passage of a divorce law and LGBT protections in the omnibus Anti-discrimination Bill in Congress. Last week, a diocese in the south started to noisily blast politicians and political parties that the bishops want voters to boycott for having authored the controversial health law, a radical tactic that is a quantum leap from their traditional mandate of providing generic pastoral guidance on voting without naming names.
“It’s time for the bishops and the new Pope to really do soulsearching on how to make the church and its doctrines inclusive to women and LGBTs, while strengthening liberation theology so it can reclaim its dwindling flock of workers, farmers, tribal minorities, and other oppressed sectors. But for now, the number one thing it needs to do is to honestly resolve the sexual abuse cases that victimized untold numbers of women and LGBTs,” Amores said.
Faced with the prospect that a rising contender for the papacy who is compatriot Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle may become the next pope, the ProGay leader said the Filipino prelate most likely share with Benedict many conservative views on gender and sexuality and disappoint LGBTs. “However, he is an outspoken defender of labor rights. If we can unite with him concerning workplace discrimination affecting LGBTs, that would be a good start.”