Friday, May 23, 2014

General Secretary of the Brazilian Bishops says unions between persons of the same sex need legal protection

By Marina Cohen (English translation by Rebel Girl)
O Globo (em português)
May 22, 2014

Since taking over the leadership of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis has been addressing the issue cautiously, but has signaled a willingness of the institution to accept gay believers. In an unprecedented move towards openness, the Pontiff said, shortly after his trip to Brazil in July last year, that homosexuals should not be marginalized -- "If someone is gay and is searching for God, who am I to judge him?". In an interview with GLOBO, the auxiliary bishop of Brasilia and general secretary of the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil (CNBB), Dom Leonardo Steiner, reiterates the Pope's statement that "people of the same sex who have decided to live together need legal protection in society."

The statement could be interpreted as a change in the CNBB's tone. About a year ago, when the National Council of Justice (CNJ) issued a resolution stating that Brazilian notaries should celebrate marriages between persons of the same sex, CNBB was against the measure, which came after a 2011 decision by the Federal Supreme Court (STF).

O GLOBO: Pope Francis said recently, "Who am I to judge a homosexual who is seeking God?". Is the Catholic Church open to accepting its homosexual faithful today?

Dom Leonardo Steiner: You could say that the Pope is echoing what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says about gay people: "They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided." It's understood that accepting them with respect, compassion and sensitivity means walking and being with the homosexual person and helping them understand, deepen and guide their condition as a son or daughter of God.

Is it important for the Catholic Church not to marginalize homosexuals?

Acceptance and walking with them are necessary to reflect on what fits or doesn't fit the reality experienced by homosexual people and what, in fact, is rightfully theirs, for their own good and that of society.

The Pope also wants to study homosexual unions to understand why some countries have opted for their legalization. Does this represent the beginning of a dialogue about marriage between people of the same sex?

It's important to understand unions of persons of the same sex. It's not just a concern when it's about people. It's necessary to talk about the rights of ordinary life among persons of the same sex who decide to live together. They need a legal protection in society.

The CNBB, however, opposed the resolution of the National Council of Justice that ruled that notaries should celebrate marriages between people of the same sex. Why?

By giving legal recognition to stable unions as civil marriage between persons of the same sex in our country, the CNJ resolution is interpreting the 2011 Federal Supreme Court decision. Certain rights are granted to persons involved in such unions, as were already provided in the case of civil unions. The difficulty is in deciding that unions of people of the same sex are equivalent to marriage or family. The strongest statement regarding the decision of the National Council of Justice was that such a decision does not belong to the Judiciary, but rather the whole of Brazilian society, democratically represented by the National Congress, which is responsible for proposing and passing laws after an in-depth discussion, which didn't happen.

Must the Church change to adapt to changing times?

The Church always changes, it's changing. It's not the same over time. Having the Gospel as the power illuminating its actions, the Church looks for answers for the present time. Like all people, the Church always seeks to read the signs of the times, to see what should or should not be changed. The truths of faith do not change.

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