A group of more than 50 LGBTI rights advocates on Friday met with a high-ranking Vatican official and renewed their calls for the Catholic Church to condemn laws that criminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations.
ILGA World in a press release said the activists met with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s secretary of state, and presented him with “the preliminary findings of a research project” that focuses on the criminalization of consensual same-sex sexual relations in the Caribbean. National LGBT Bar Association Executive Director D’Arcy Kemnitz, ILGA World Co-Secretary General Luz Elena Aranda and IBM Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Tia Silas are among those who met with Parolin.
“On receiving the research, Cardinal Parolin pointed out that the church is against all forms of violence, and supports respecting the dignity of all persons,” said ILGA World. “He also vowed to convey all information to the Holy Father to continue the dialogue.”
Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, a Maryland-based group that ministers to LGBTI Catholics, in a statement said the meeting “could be the beginning of a new era of dialogue between the Catholic Church and the LGBT community by working together for the common goal of ending discrimination, violence, and legal penalties against LGBT people around the world.” DeBernardo added, however, Parolin did not specifically condemn laws that criminalize homosexuality.
“We had hoped for a stronger statement from Cardinal Parolin in response to the information presented by the LGBT advocates on human rights violations,” said DeBernardo. “Parolin reaffirmed church teaching on human dignity and opposition to violence of any sort, and he promised to inform the pope of the meeting and to remain in touch with the leaders. But, the Vatican, and especially Pope Francis, need to speak out more strongly against laws which criminalize LGBT people and cultural attitudes which support and promote violence against them. Vague generalizations will not suffice, nor will they be effective.”
The meeting took place two days after a provision of Brunei’s new penal code that calls for the death penalty for anyone convicted of engaging in homosexuality went into effect.
The Vatican’s tone towards homosexuality and other LGBTI-specific issues has moderated under Pope Francis’ papacy. The church’s opposition to marriage rights for same-sex couples, gay men in the priesthood and homosexuality has remained the same.
The Vatican is also facing renewed calls for it to lose its U.N. observer status over its opposition to marriage rights for same-sex couples, abortion and other issues.
“Let’s not forget that same-sex acts are criminalized in more than 70 countries,” said Jon Miller, a partner at the Brunswick Group who founded Open for Business, a coalition of companies that support LGBTI rights around the world, in a press release his organization released on Friday. “We hope that today’s audience is an important first step in bringing in a new and powerful voice in support of LGBT+ inclusion globally.”