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Last Updated
Monday 02 August 2021, 21:48 pm.
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Homosexuals deserve respect, says Catholic bishop

LUSAKA: Ever since revelations by two non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in March that opposition Patriotic Front (PF) leader Michael Sata has decided to recognise gay rights if elected president of Zambia, the issue of homosexuality has been on everyone's lips.
By ARTHUR SIMUCHOBA
Correspondent
(GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: Homosexuals deserve respect, says Catholic bishop








The controversy has been rekindled following an open letter to the Catholic faithful of Bishop George Lungu, the president of the Zambia Episcopal Conference (ZEC), the conclave of the Catholic bishops of Zambia.

In that letter released May 19 and to be read in all Catholic churches on June 5, which is Ascencion Day, Bishop Lungu stated:

"The Catholic Church's constant and firm teaching on homosexual acts is unequivocal: Homosexual acts are seriously wrong and sinful. Under no circumstances can homosexual acts be approved."

The Catholic prelate went on:
"The fact that the Catholic Church makes a distinction between the homosexual act and homosexual orientation or inclination is not promoting homosexuality. Homosexuals are human beings with their problems and their joys, that as human beings they deserve respect, even though they have this inclination, and must not be discriminated against because of it."

Some Catholics have however raised questions on that assertion. In a paid-for media statement one Catholic asserted that what Bishop Lungu said in his letter on the church's teaching on homosexuality made "really puzzling reading to the majority of Catholics".

Yet other Catholics have asked what exactly the "homosexual orientation or inclination" that the bishop is asking them to respect is and how it differs from actual homosexuality and what the result of respecting that orientation or inclination is likely to be.

They have also queried how this position differs from the reported remarks to a Danish Television crew in favour of gay rights by Sata and whether in fact those who criticise the church for being pro-gay can be wrong in the circumstances.

"Since homosexuality or homosexual related inclination are criminal offences categorised together with defilement, rape, incest and abortion as offences against morality under our penal code, it defies all perspectives and raises a lot of questions why 'respect should be accorded to homosexuals' alone..."the concerned Catholic said.

There are questions why the bishop wants to add to the "already comprehensive list" of constitutional rights, liberties and protection from discrimination, the protection of what he has acknowledged as a "seriously wrong and sinful act". The bishop's letter was in reaction to mounting criticism of the church by the apparatus and supporters of the ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) party arising from the perception that the Catholic clergy are supporters of the opposition, especially the PF.  Supporters of the governing party are insistent that the remarks of Catholic clergy are calculated to bring about what they term "regime change." As a result, the church has come under intense criticism of late.

Vatican City ambassador Archbishop Nicola Girasoli had earlier stated that though homosexuality was wrong, according to the

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church doctrine, homosexuals were people and for that reason they deserved respect and consideration. Critics of the church immediately jumped on that saying the Church supports homosexuality. The fact that the PF leader Michael Sata, who is alleged to have promised gay rights recognition if elected president of Zambia, is a Catholic, has not helped matters.

Sata's political opponents immediately said the Catholic Church should publicly condemn him for advocating gay rights. Some said he should not receive the holy Eucharist any more since he had deviated from the teachings of the Church. But not wishing to be dragged into partisan politics the church did not do that. Instead it merely stated that the church's position on homosexuality had not changed. With the Catholic clergy continuing to issue critical remarks on government performance, the supporters of the ruling party rallied together and attacks on the church increased. It was accused of spearheading "regime change" and that it in fact supported homosexuality as evidenced by its failure to condemn Sata and the remarks of Archbishop Girasoli. The conduct of the church and its clergy rapidly became a political issue and that is what prompted Bishop Lungu's letter:   

"In recent months, we have all witnessed a growing barrage of attacks in the public media against the Catholic Church in Zambia, its leadership, priests and even its doctrine. Many of you have made representation to us, your bishops and spoken of your pain at these unwarranted attacks," reads the letter.

It continues:
"First and foremost, it has become clear that these attacks on our Church are co-ordinated and planned...  The gist of the attacks, clearly, is meant to discredit and cast aspersions against the leadership and general membership of the Catholic Church in Zambia... We can safely conclude that these attacks on our Church are sponsored by Government. Whatever the case, this is not the way of winning the Catholic vote in an election year."

"When these attacks distort the Catholic Church's moral doctrine on celibacy or homosexuality, we all have cause for alarm.  With regard to homosexuality, let me re-state categorically that Catholic teaching does not promote homosexuality," he said.   

The letter said the Catholics would not be "intimidated, cowed into silence or compromised or be silenced on national issues -important issues that affect poor people!"

Government has denied orchestrating the attacks and has pointed out that the attacks are the result of some clergy misusing the pulpit to politick instead of preaching. President Rupiah Banda has said that he has never attacked the church and he cannot do that because Catholics are among his supporters. (Sila Press Agency)

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