Homosexuality: Winds of change blowing in Vatican

This article written by Arvind Narrain first appeared in the Times of India on 16 October, 2014.

A new Vatican report in a section titled ‘Welcoming homosexual persons’ indicates a significant shift in tonality of the approach to gay rights. While Pope Benedict XVI (the previous Pope) called homosexuality an ‘inherent moral evil’, Pope Francis has underlined a less judgmental and more accepting approach. The Pope famously put it when asked about gay marriage, “Who am I to judge?”
The church still has a long way to go, especially when it comes to pushing the boundaries of what ‘welcoming homosexual persons’ means. The document says welcoming homosexual persons does not extend to recognizing same sex marriage. However, it could extend to decriminalisation of homosexuality and recognition of same sex unions. Regardless of what the precise legal implications of the Vatican’s report may be, what is clear is that the winds of change are blowing through the Vatican and prejudices that were long thought to be set in stone are crumbling with a speed nobody anticipated.

To those LGBT persons who were tormented by feelings of guilt, self-hatred and loathing induced by a religious belief, the current re-thinking creates welcome space. The church is moving towards a position where it is possible to be a practising Christian and LGBT at the same time.

This opening in the Vatican position should also hopefully lead to a shake up of rigid positions within the Indian clergy. There is much hurt and pain which has been caused to Indian LGBT Christians by sermons in congregations around the country which preach against LGBT persons and deny them their humanity. These forms of intolerance should become a thing of the past and leaders from various Christian denominations should come out with a statement welcoming the debate in the Vatican. In the light of the Vatican rethinking, church leaders should unequivocally declare their support for the repeal of Section 377 of the IPC.