FaithWorld

Daniel-in-lion’s-den moment for new Catholic archbishop of free-wheeling Berlin

(St. Hedwig's Catholic Cathedral in Berlin, 20 June 2009/Beek100)

Like Daniel in the lion’s den, Berlin’s new Catholic archbishop met the media on Tuesday to face accusations he was homophobic and far too conservative for such a prominent post in the free-wheeling German capital. Rainer Maria Woelki, a surprise choice for the high-profile post, professed respect for gays, denied membership in the staunchly conservative Opus Dei group and said he did not come to Berlin to point a censuring finger at non-Catholics.

Berlin’s gay community and liberal media reacted with dismay to his appointment last week, saying the Cologne-based prelate was “backwards-minded” and the wrong man for the job. But interest in the new prelate was so strong that the Catholic Church, a minority of about 390,000 in a 3.5 million population mostly indifferent or hostile to religion, had to switch the news conference to a larger hall at the last minute to accomodate over 100 journalists who turned out.

“We will meet with each other,” Woelki, 54, said when asked about the city’s active gay community. “I have respect and esteem for all people independent of heritage, skin colour and individual nature. I am open to all without reservations.” Describing himself simply as Catholic, he denied being a member of Opus Dei despite having done his doctorate at the group’s Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome. That part of his biography led to media reports over the weekend calling him “reactionary.”

“The Church is not a moral institution that goes around pointing its finger at people,” Woelki said. “The Church is for me a community of seekers and believers and the Church would like to help people find their hapiness in life.”

The left-wing daily Tageszeitung said it had expected the worst from Woelki’s premiere but concluded: “You can talk with the man of God. There will be a lot to talk about.”
Berlin’s openly gay Mayor Klaus Wowereit seems to have eased the way for Woelki by warmly welcoming him to the city and promising to work closely with him. The two will host Pope Benedict when he visits the German capital in September.

U.N. rights forum proclaims equal gay rights, Muslims states object

(Delegates talk at the Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva June 9, 2011/Denis Balibouse)

 

The top U.N. human rights body declared Friday there should be no discrimination or violence against people based on their sexual orientation, a vote Western countries called historic but Islamic states firmly rejected. The controversial resolution marked the first time that the Human Rights Council recognized the equal rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, diplomats said.

The text, presented by South Africa, was adopted by 23 countries in favour, 19 against with 3 abstentions and one delegation absent during voting. Libya’s membership in the 47-member Geneva forum was suspended in March.

Vatican tells U.N. that critics of gays under attack

Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican/Tom Heneghan

Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican/Tom Heneghan

People who criticise gay sexual relations for religious or moral reasons are increasingly being attacked and vilified for their views, a Vatican diplomat told the United Nations Human Rights Council on Tuesday.

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi said the Roman Catholic Church deeply believed that human sexuality was a gift reserved for married heterosexual couples. But those who express these views are faced with “a disturbing trend,” he said.

“People are being attacked for taking positions that do not support sexual behaviour between people of the same sex,” he told the current session of the Human Rights Council.

British Christian couple loses foster ruling over gays stance

london court

(The Royal Courts of Justice, 18 April 2003/Michael Reeve)

A British Christian couple opposed to homosexuality because of their faith lost a court battle in London on Monday over the right to become foster carers. The couple, who are Pentecostal Christians, had gone to court after a social worker expressed concerns about them becoming respite carers after they said they could not tell a child that a “homosexual lifestyle” was acceptable.

Eunice and Owen Johns, both in their 60s and from Derbyshire in the English midlands, asked judges to rule that their faith should not be a bar to them becoming carers, and that the law should protect their Christian values.

But Lord Justice Munby and Mr Justice Beatson ruled at the Royal Courts of Justice in London that laws protecting people from discrimination because of their sexual orientation “should take precedence” over the right not to be discriminated against on religious grounds, the Press Association reported.

UK to allow same-sex marriage in church – reports

samesex

(Bride and groom figurines on wedding cakes at Cake and Art bakery in West Hollywood, California June 4, 2008/Mario Anzuoni)

Britain plans to allow same-sex unions to be celebrated in places of worship, removing a key legal distinction between homosexual civil partnerships and heterosexual marriage, newspapers reported on Sunday. The move would lift the ban on religious ceremonies for the registration of gay unions imposed when Britain legalised civil partnerships six years ago.

The government may also propose scrapping the legal definition of marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman, allowing gay men and women to call their partners husbands or wives, the Sunday Times said. Equalities minister Lynne Featherstone will launch a consultation on the issue next week, the Sunday Telegraph said.

France to renew tight bioethics limits, critics hit Catholic lobbying

ivf

(An in-vitro fertilization (IVF) procedure in Warsaw, October 26, 2010/Kacper Pempel )

France’s parliament opened debate on revising its bioethics laws on Tuesday amid protests that Roman Catholic Church lobbying had thwarted plans to ease the existing curbs on embryonic stem cell research. The bill, originally meant to update a 2004 law in light of rapid advances in the science of procreation, would also uphold bans on surrogate motherhood and assisted procreation for gays.

The debate coincided with news of France’s first “saviour sibling,” a designer baby conceived in vitro to provide stem cells to treat a sibling suffering from a severe blood disorder.

Top French court rejects gay marriage appeal

gay

France’s ban on same-sex marriages was upheld by the country’s constitutional authority on Friday, in a ruling that relieves the government of any obligation to grant gays the wedding rights enjoyed by heterosexuals.

A handful of countries in Europe allow couples of the same sex to wed, and rights campaigners had hoped for a breakthrough in France, where two women living together had demanded the view of the Constitutional Council.

The Council said it found no conflict between the law as it stands and fundamental rights enshrined in the constitution. It ruled that it was up to parliament, rather than the constitutional authorities, to decide whether the law should change.

U.N. restores gay reference to violence measure

united nations (Photo: United Nations headquarters in New York, July 31, 2008/Brendan McDermid)

The United States has succeeded in getting the United Nations to restore a reference to killings due to sexual orientation that had been deleted from a resolution condemning unjustified executions.

Western delegations were disappointed last month when the U.N. General Assembly’s human rights committee approved an Arab and African proposal to cut the reference to slayings due to sexual orientation from a resolution on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions.

The 192-nation General Assembly approved on Tuesday a U.S. amendment to the resolution that restored the reference to sexual orientation with 93 votes in favor, 55 against and 27 abstentions. The amended resolution was then adopted with 122 yes votes, one against and 62 abstentions.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and abortion at U.S. military bases…

One little-reported aspect of the political wrangling around attempts to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that bans gays from serving openly in the U.S. military was how the religious right tied it to another hot-button cultural issue: abortion.

This would certainly have caught the attention of socially conservative Republicans who were instrumental in defeating a measure aimed at its repeal in the U.S. Senate on Thursday night.

Many if not most conservative U.S. evangelicals were already strongly opposed to allowing gays and lesbians to openly serve in the military — a point underscored by a Pentagon study unveiled at the end of November that found that military chaplains were strongly opposed to ending “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

U.S. appeals court hears key California gay marriage case

marriage 1Three federal appellate judges considering whether to allow gay marriage in California hear arguments on Monday in a case many expect to land in the U.S. Supreme Court and set national policy. California voters, with a reputation for social liberalism, shocked the United States in 2008 when they narrowly approved the Proposition 8 ban on gay marriage only months after the top state court opened the door to same-sex weddings. (Photo: Same-sex marriage proponents at City Hall in San Francisco, August 12, 2010/Robert Galbraith)

More than 40 U.S. states have outlawed such unions, but the California challenge could shape the nation if the Supreme Court decides to review the appeals court decision. A lower court struck down the ban earlier this year, ruling that marriage is a fundamental constitutional right and that the defenders of the ban showed no justifiable reason for limiting the institution to opposite-sex couples.

marriage 2The ruling is on hold, though, while under appeal. (Photo: A man opposed to same sex marriage at City Hall in San Francisco, August 12, 2010/Robert Galbraith)

The Prop 8 ban proponents say the lower court ignored common wisdom and history that limits marriage to a man and a woman in order to spur procreation. Gay marriage proponents successfully argued in the lower court that the definition of marriage has changed over time, for instance including polygamy in some societies. Same-sex marriages would not harm the institution, they contended.