Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Times: Love is such a many splendoured thing

Tuesday, 23rd December 2008 by Kenneth Zammit Tabona

The issue of decriminalising homosexuality worldwide was passed at the UN General Assembly by 66 states, including Malta, on December 18. Up to the very last minute it had been opposed by the Vatican on the premise that it would facilitate same-sex unions. Its opposition sparked severe criticism by human rights defenders worldwide. In a significant reversal, however, the Holy See indicated to the General Assembly that it called for repeal of criminal penalties for homosexual conduct. Not doing so was tantamount to condoning the death of many homosexuals in countries like Iran and Afghanistan where homosexuality is considered to be a capital offence. These two countries were two of the 60 that did not sign the statement.

Shockingly, in the United States, Amnesty International has documented serious patterns of police abuse against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, including incidents amounting to torture and ill-treatment. The United States also refused to sign the General Assembly statement.

The statement condemned killings, torture, arbitrary arrest and "deprivation of economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to health". The participating countries urged all nations to "promote and protect human rights of all persons, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity" and to end all criminal penalties against people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

I do not think that we can eradicate from our minds the monstrous photographs of the hanging of two teenagers in Iran that have become iconic symbol of LGBT resistance. These things are happening all the time. In Malta we may not hang homosexuals but the stonewalling of the Catholic Church of issues like divorce, cohabitation and same-sex marriage has led to a lot of frustration and unhappiness. Why preach that these issues are intrinsically evil and lump them in the same boat as abortion? I do not, repeat, do not expect the Vatican to accept these situations with open arms, however, they are realities that exist and that have to be considered with an open mind. The lifting of the objection at the UN indicates that the Vatican may now finally be thinking along these lines.

Despite the Vatican's volte face at the 11th hour, I find it hurtful and incomprehensible that the Church could have opposed a resolution designed to curtail cruel discrimination, outright torture and, in many cases, a frightful ignominious death all to expiate the "crime" of one person loving another.

Homosexuality is a fact of life, part of human existence without which, let me tell you, the world would have been the poorer. Despite the change of heart that must have come as a great relief to millions of Catholics like myself, the bad press, the online petitions and LGBT statements that have been raging for weeks have not brought the Vatican much kudos.

I for one do not believe that the Christ Child, whose birth we will commemorate on Thursday for the 2008th time, will cast me into the deepest pit for loving another man. I simply cannot accept that. I believe that He made me this way for a purpose.

God made Man knows all our faults because He is responsible for every atom of our existence. That a god can become, from the moment of his birth, like us in every way just goes to show that He is prepared to accept us as we are, warts and all. Whatever anyone says, homosexual love is love and love, a many splendoured thing, cannot be negated, either by the Church itself or its self-appointed paladins, who, in the light of this recent development, had better apologise publicly for the patronising and hurtful letters they persist in sending in. Like that brave Iraqi journalist, Al Zaidi, now a world hero, who threw his shoes at a rather sprightly President George W. Bush, we have had quite enough. Today, people in civilised countries are no longer afraid to "come out" and this, unsurprisingly, has earned them far more support from the community at large than ever imagined.

Only a very few bigots wish to see homosexual people, both male and female, lead sad, unloved, unfulfilled and solitary lives and today many have cast age old prejudice into the dustbins of history.

We live rich, loved and fulfilled lives warmly embraced in the midst of an "accepting" not just "tolerating" community. This is why the stand that had been taken, right to the very last minute, at the UN by the Catholic Church was nothing short of repugnant. Let us hope that this is indicative of a fundamental change in attitude, for, whether one believes or not, the Catholic Church leads by example and is and will always remain the strongest moral voice in the world.

May I take the opportunity of thanking all my many, many wonderful friends and acquaintances who have, for the past 52 years, so enriched my life with their love and support. To all, I wish a very happy and joyous Christmas.

Kenneth Zammit Tabona (52 minutes ago)
My optimism about the Vatican's change of heart regarding homosexuality was indeed short-lived. See Page 18 POPE LIKENS SAVING GAYS TO SAVING THE RAIN FOREST; the thing is as a correspondent has already pointed out it should be POPE LIKENS SAVING HUMANITY FROM GAYS TO SAVING THE RAIN FOREST. Well that certainly puts the lid on it. I do not think I can ever call myself a Catholic ever again. This is outright incitement and is what our PN MEPs allowed to happen by abstaining from passing a resolution to stop anyone, even religious leaders, to foment hatred, distrust and unrest with 'fatwas' of this sort.

William P Flynn (2 hours, 14 minutes ago)
So all the fire and brimstone of the bible, changed since Sunday? Has the pope finally twigged that millions of heterosexual catholics have dear friends and dearer family who are homosexual? Share their workplace with them? Depend on them for many of life's things? Are part of humanity and the community?

And they are so because they came wired that way and don't practice homosexuality as a lifestyle choice? And they chose to be homosexual as much as the rest of us chose to be heterosexual?

If the book entitled, "What Jesus said about homosexuals" is ever written the pages would be all blank. The pope should take a page from that book.

What a pontifical disgrace of biblical proportions.

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