Catholicism, Duterte and same-sex unions

By King Anthony Perez |September 03,2018 - 10:10 PM


After more than three years together, gay couple Michael Cano and Jay Lugo completely trust each other with their lives.

But other than that, Michael and Jay believe that another key ingredient to their lasting relationship is God whom they had made the ‘center of everything’.

Every Tuesday, the couple hears Mass and lights candles at the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño in Cebu City. They pray together.

Last June — on the occasion of gay Pride Month, the two held a symbolic union officiated by a close friend.

It was their version of a wedding ceremony that, though devoid of legalities, came complete with traditional vows, an entourage and a full reception at a beach resort in Balamban town, Cebu.

The Philippines does not recognize same sex unions and neither does the Catholic Church of which Michael and Jay are active members.

As practicing Catholics, the couple respects the Church stand not to recognize their symbolic union; but expects things to change in the future.

“Tinuod gyud nga dili kadawat ang simbahan (It’s true that the Church can’t accept), but we are positive that the Church will eventually accept,” Michael said.

The Catholic dilemma

The Archdiocese of Cebu says otherwise.

“Bisan unsa pa ang isulti sa gobyerno, bisan unsa pa na ang ilang policy ug mga balaod nga ilang ipasar, basta ang simbahan niini, para nako hangtod sa hangtod di gyud ni musugot nga kining mga same sex union nga tawagon nga kasal (No matter what government says, no matter what policies or laws are passed, the Church will always remain steadfast in its stand not to recognize same sex unions),” said Archbishop Jose Palma, who leads close to five million baptized Catholics in what is the largest Catholic archdiocese in the Philippines and Asia having the most number of Catholics, seminarians and priests.

Based on a 2010 survey of the National Statistics Office (NSO), more than 72 million Filipinos are Catholics.

Last February 2018, Palma led a two- kilometer procession called “Walk for Life with Mary” from Fuente Osmeña, along Osmena Boulevard, to the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral in downtown Cebu City.

The solemn walk was organized to pray for an end to the spate of drug-related killings in the country as well as proposed government policies believed to threaten human life, the sanctity of marriage, and family.

At present, same-sex marriage advocates are awaiting the resolution of a petition filed before the Supreme Court (SC) seeking to legalize same-sex unions.

A Civil Partnership Bill intended for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning and intersex (LGBTQI) community is also pending in Congress.

“Kung gusto sa duha ka lalaki, duha ka babaye nga magtipon, bahala na kamo, basta ayaw lang ang kasal kay sa kamatuoran dili mi muingon nga dawaton na kini sa Simbahan nga usa ka tinuod nga kasal (If two men or two women would like to live together, that’s up to them. But the Church, in truth, cannot accept marriage between them),” Palma explained in an interview after officiating a Mass at Simala Shrine in Sibonga town, southern Cebu.

“Kung motugot kita nga ang lalaki ug lalaki na lang magtipon ug babaye ug babaye, ano na lang mahitabo sa kalibutan? Kinsa manganak? (If we allow man and man, woman and woman to cohabitate, what is going to happen to the world? Who will give birth?)” asked the prelate.

Monsignor Joseph Tan, spokesman of the Cebu Archdiocese, for his part, said that while he respects Michael and Jay’s private ceremony to exchange vows, he would not call their union a “marriage”.

“From the Catholic perspective, we honor only those marriages between opposite sex. Although same-sex couples have a place in Church, we cannot just solemnize it,” Tan said.

Tan explained that while the Catholic Church acknowledges the presence of LGBTQI individuals in her fold, she cannot support same-sex unions because the theology of the Church does not support it.

“We will welcome them. If they have problems with their sexual orientation, we can even guide them. The Catholic Church does not condemn the person itself, but it is more of the action or lifestyle,” Tan said.

Tan further explained that in the eyes of the Church, marriage includes the element of procreation which is naturally absent in same-sex unions.

“Although we admit that there are heterosexual couples who cannot produce a child, there is no procreative element in same-sex couples. That’s why we cannot allow such marriage,” Tan added.

Equal protection

Jesus Nicardo Falcis III, main proponent of the SC petition to legalize same-sex marriage in the country, banks on the Constitution’s equal protection clause.

“The equal protection clause requires that LGBT couples be included in the definition of marriage if the purpose is conjugal and family life – which is not necessarily procreation,” said Falcis.

But Kina Escano, a lesbian who is living with a female partner and her child, has little hope of winning the fight for equality.

“Most religious Filipinos refuse to understand that marriage is a human institution, culturally universal and was established for all, religious or not. I fail to see same sex marriage or union happening in the Philippines, Escano told Cebu Daily News.

Meanwhile, Carlos Conde, Philippine researcher for the Asia division of Human Rights Watch, called for a “realistic“ Catholic Church approach especially now that a growing number of countries, including the predominantly Catholic, Spain, have legalized same-sex marriage.

In 2021, the Catholic Church in the Philippines will celebrate the 500th anniversary of Catholicism in the country which was introduced by Spanish colonizers.

“They need to be realistic. They need to get their heads out of the sun. Spain is way ahead of everybody in terms of recognizing rights,” Conde said.

“I don’t think the public is the issue. I think the issue here is the resistance by the Catholic Church and the conservatives to recognize the rights of LGBT people; and that needs to change,” Conde added.

Other views

For Cebu Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale, head of the Provincial Women’s Commission, same sex marriage isn’t something that she is ready to accept.

“Personally, I’m not yet ready. The Church will definitely not agree to that. There will be no wedding,” said Magpale.

In a text message, Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña said that he neither objects nor supports same-sex unions.

“As a mayor, I implement the law. I do not formulate the law,” Osmeña said.

In a late night television interview on July 12, 2015, then mayor and presidential aspirant, Rodrigo Duterte, expressed support for same-sex unions.
Duterte also said that he would not mind having a gay child.

“It’s good. Everyone deserves to be happy,” Duterte said in a talk with TV host, Vice Ganda.

During the presidential campaign season in February 2016, Duterte was believed to have softened his support for the LGBTQI community when a popular ally, Sen. Manny Pacquiao called same-sex relationships as “masahol pa sa hayop (worse than animals)”.

“The law now says that we have a marriage between a man and a woman and that is the present law unless it’s changed by Congress and not by a candidate for the presidency,” Duterte said then.

Duterte held on to the same view in March 2017 while addressing the Filipino community in Myanmar saying that the present law only allowed marriage to be between a man and a woman.

“I want gay marriage. The problem is we have to change the law, but we can change the law,” Duterte said in December 2017 during a year-end LGBTQI gathering in Davao City.

Months later in July, results of a Social Weather Station (SWS) survey showed that only 22 percent of Filipinos backed “civil unions” for same sex couples, 61 percent were opposed, while 16 percent remained undecided.

Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque told reporters that Duterte was against same-sex marriage and only favored same-sex civil partnerships pushed by some lawmakers.

Politics is believed to be the culprit behind the President’s flip-flopping pronouncements on matters involving the country’s gay community.
“In fairness to Duterte, he has been saying the right things on LGBT but again, there is so much politics,” said Conde.

(To be concluded…)

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