A Ghanaian archbishop has said the Church’s message of dignity for all human beings will not change attitudes to homosexuality in Africa “overnight”.
Archbishop Charles Palmer-Buckle of Accra, Ghana, said at a press briefing that an approach of compassion and initial welcome toward homosexuals was very difficult to embrace for many African cultures.
Even though the African bishops have made public statements upholding the inherent dignity of people with homosexual tendencies, the archbishop said these calls by the Church will not change people’s attitudes “overnight”. In most African countries, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people hide their sexual orientation for fear of discrimination, persecution or criminal prosecution.
While the Catholic Church condemns homosexual activity and same-sex unions, the person’s dignity as a human being must be respected and their fundamental human rights upheld, the archbishop said. “We must underline that the rights of all sons and daughters of God are to be upheld by the Church everywhere and we are trying.”
Negative attitudes in African cultures against homosexuals have existed for “millennia” and “it would be a bit deceptive to think” that those attitudes would change anytime soon, he said.
However, “it takes time” for such a call to be heard. “Give the countries time to deal with the issues from their own cultural perspective,” he said. “Be patient with Africa. We’re growing.”
The archbishop said being inclusive was letting the world know that God is the father of and for all people, and everyone was welcome to embrace that truth and God’s plan. But to stay with God, he said, requires personal conversion.
Meanwhile, Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto said his presentation to the synod would focus on the true meaning of accompaniment by looking at the Gospel account of the journey on the road to Emmaus.
“Two elements must be there,” he told Catholic News Service. “First we always must be with the people where they are, where they begin.”
But, just as Jesus was with the disciples on the road to Emmaus, “they were going in the wrong direction, actually, and they’re going into the night”.
Jesus’s fundamental message in this account is his call for repentance and conversion, and likewise, pastors and Catholics are asked to “help people to go where the Lord calls them to go”.
“Just to have accompaniment as people are moving in the direction away from the Lord is not enough. We need to be with them in order to help people to follow our Lord.”
“The truest compassionate mercy is a compassion that challenges,” he said. Receiving people as they are is the first step, he said, “but that is only the first thing. The second thing is to help them become what God wants them to be.”