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Reflections of a gay seminarian

COMMENTARY: Reflections of a gay seminarian
09-Jul-11, 2:15 PM | Danton Remoto
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The vilification of same-sex couples who had gone through commitment ceremonies a week ago led some bishops to make callous statements like “kadiri” and such. This is what we get for falling in love with whom we choose to love? This led me to dig into my email files. I found a letter sent to me by a seminarian a few years ago. He is gay and has found peace with his sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI). Let me quote excerpts from his email.

"Let me commend you for being a sober voice in the discourse on gay rights in the country," he starts. [Thank you, ahem]. "However, let me chastise you also for your statement on national TV that some priests know nothing about love. Well, let me tell you that priests also know and have experienced loving and being loved. There are honest and sensible priests around, unlike the ones that you see parroting things they know nothing about.”

I was talking about non-platonic love, the kind that goes beyond sisterhood and brotherhood. Yes, the one that involves the body electric. So our seminarian is implying that some priests have also gone beyond platonic love? Hmmm, we enter deeper and more interesting waters here.

He also sums up the stand of the Catholic Church: “Homosexuality is a sin contra naturam, a sin against nature. The classic reference is Genesis 19:1-19, the story of Sodom which, according to classical interpretation, shows an exclusive concern for the sin of homosexuality. However, I find the interpretation too narrow. It seems to compartmentalize and even manipulate the Holy Scripture.”

I begin to cheer for this young man who has made peace with himself, with the fact that he is gay but would still like to continue with his vocation as a priest. How many priests are as brave and honest as him? How many go on and become priests, and when they’re already there, throw mud at gay men who openly live the lives they want to lead? These are closeted priests who see mirrors around them, so they throw rocks to shatter the mirrors, not knowing that the shards still reflect their true selves.

Our gay seminarian has visited gay bars and interviewed male sex workers, but he has never touched them. If Earl K. Wilkinson’s controversial book published ten years ago is correct, there are even pedophiles in the priesthood. But when caught, en flagrante delicto, the higher orders just transfer them to other parishes, as if stink can be hidden if the garbage bin is thrown in another corner of the country.

Our gay seminarian is railing against the hypocrisy that is regnant in the priesthood. “Some priests have allowed themselves to become part of the system, while others break the cycle, and in the process, become more real themselves. Perhaps, if they are able to face the problems of sexuality in our time, all of us must move away from a procreational view of sexuality to a more personal and relational one. I feel it’s the trivialization of the personal encounter that’s the central problem for gays and straights alike. Many have adopted a consumerist attitude to sex – the encouragement of cheap and disposable sex, to the detriment of a deep personal encounter that leads to growth. This is the heart of the problem.”

Is our gay seminarian pushing for celibacy? I will not go there. But our astute seminarian does train his guns elsewhere. “And the Church seems to miss the point. Christians and other people have fallen into the sexist mistake of reducing a person to the sexual act alone. Contrary to the existing myths about homosexuality, gays are not 'sexaholics!' Gays are not phallus-centered. It’s about time that the Church take a look at the truth that gays are discovering in themselves and help it to emerge and flourish. Besides, the Church does not have a monopoly of the truth. And finally, as you said when you sued the Commission on Elections in the Supreme Court for calling Ladlad ‘immoral’ and ‘abnormal,’ refusing its accreditation – the Church and the State are separate entities, and there is no State religion in the Philippines.”

Please allow me to reprint the statement of Ladlad, the party list I founded on September 1, 2003, which is now being run by a new breed of leaders. I am now just a member of this lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender organization, which CNN has called “the only LGBT political party in the world”—again, another first for this country. The statement against the bigotry in the Catholic Church follows.

“Freedom of expression and freedom of religion are not manifestations of mental illness or criminality. These are basic human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that not even the Roman Catholic Church can deny.

“The celebration of same-sex weddings speaks of the love of two persons, and this is not an issue for the Roman Catholic Church to interfere in. It is also not a Roman Catholic Church issue to criticize or question the authority of religious leaders of the Metropolitan Community Church, which do not belong to its denomination.

“While Ladlad is nonsectarian, we are calling for respect, respect that Jesus Christ advocated and which is the basis of Christianity, respect for different forms of expression and diverse views. Let us not resort to name-calling, when the issue is simple: Do LGBTs in the Philippines have human rights? If the answer is “yes,” then there should be no attacks on them based on their expressions of love and exercise of freedom of religion, especially since they are not violating any law or impinging on the rights of others.

“We condemn in the strongest sense the unfair, discriminatory, arrogant and condescending statements of Bishop Teodoro Bacani and others in the Roman Catholic church. The bishops have propagated once again hatred, bias, prejudice and fear toward LGBT Filipinos. We urge them to step back, as we draw the line between their hypocrisy and our rights. We also urge the Roman Catholic Church to clear their names from various scandals before training their guns at us. [The statement refers to the Pajeros that seven bishops allegedly received from the past regime].

We only ask for equal rights and nothing more. But we will accept nothing less.”

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