Change in Established Churches? Eldon Hay Sees Hope.

Posted by Wayves Volunteer 12/02/2014

By Rev. Eldon Hay

Members of a United Nations’ human rights committee cite Vatican policies as enabling child sex abuse to continue for decades.

Last month, a United Nations Human Rights panel in Geneva, focusing on the child abuse scandal that continues to haunt the Roman Catholic Church and its leaders, grilled Vatican leaders on several fronts. As reported in the Globe and Mail, "UN experts interrogated The Holy See for eight hours .. about the scale of abuse and what it was doing to prevent it, marking the first time the Vatican had been forced to defend its record at length or in public." (Read the Globe and Mail article here). Many people, Catholic and non-Catholic, are praying for greater Vatican transparency in this matter. Please, please open the books!

The panel also criticized the Vatican for its opposition to contraception, abortion and homosexuality. It's the last that is addressed in this column, as it effects both Catholic and non-Catholic Christian faith communities.

For a quarter century, I've talked to persons  parents, sons, daughters, friends - about the dislike, distrust and disapproval of "queers". Atheists and Anglicans, Baptists and Brethren, Catholics and Orthodox, Presbyterians and United - people of no religious stripe to those deeply committed - formed a largely unified cacophony of homophobia. Quakers and Unitarians were the sole, discordantly loving voices.

Over the course of those years, there has been a vast sea change. Where it once was cool to disdain LGBT people, it is now decidedly uncool to criticize them.

There are holdouts,of course, among religious communities. The Orthodox Church in Russia is solidly behind the Russian government's attack on LGBTQ people. The majority of Episcopal bishops in Uganda and Nigeria are staunch supporters of the anti-homosexual legislation in those countries. The Convention of Atlantic Baptist Churches in Canada is the backbone of Crandall University's prejudicial policy of excluding gay staff and faculty.

My hope is that the UN criticism will nudge the Vatican to be more open, not only on sex-abuse cases, but in its practice towards LGBTQ people. The new Pope, Francis, has already made very significant gestures in that area. Surely not all Anglican bishops agree with their colleagues in Uganda and Nigeria; indeed the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York (himself a Ugandan), neither usually seen as allies of the LGBTQ Community, have jointly called on Anglicans in those countries to oppose the anti-gay laws as violations of basic human rights, (Read their statement here on Pink News). And not a few Baptists and Catholics, while remaining loyal to their church, have blessedly abandoned Baptist and Catholic homophobic practice. They know, respect, accept and love queer individuals.

There is hope.

Editor's Note: A frquent and welcome contributor to Wayves, Eldon Hay is a retired United Church Minister and Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies at Mount Allison University. He has been a dedicated ally of LGBTQ equality, instrumental in creating PFLAG groups all over the Atlantic Provinces, and honoured for his commitment to human rights by the New Brunswick legislature. In 2004 he was invested as a member of the Order of Canada in Ottawa. 

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