“The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”
This assertion, made in 1910 by the British journalist, author and Catholic convert GK Chesterton, is being demonstrated in 2023 by the reluctance of Catholics in Trinidad and Tobago to accept their Pope’s statement on blessing same-sex couples.
In his Christmas homily on Monday, Catholic priest Fr Martin Sirju told the congregation at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, in Port of Spain, “God’s blessings cannot be withheld from anyone once they ask for that blessing because light is not discriminatory.” Along with the homeless, the mentally and physically challenged, drug addicts and the divorced, Fr Sirju listed LGBTQ persons among those who must receive blessings.
Several of the parishioners disagreed. This is no surprise, given that multiple opinion surveys show that about three-quarters of Trinbagonians oppose equal rights for homosexuals. Yet the statement issued by the Vatican on December 18 is binding on the Catholic faithful.
The Vatican Declaration several times makes the point that “this blessing should never be imparted in concurrence with the ceremonies of a civil union, and not even in connection with them… The same applies when the blessing is requested by a same-sex couple”. The statement also emphasises that marriage is the “exclusive, stable, and indissoluble union between a man and a woman, naturally open to the generation of children”.
Pointedly, however, the Declaration goes on to say, “Those seeking a blessing should not be required to have prior moral perfection.” Thus, since no heterosexual persons can claim to be without sin and since the Church does not withhold blessings from them, the same is true of gays. As Fr Sirju put it, “Pray for people. I do not know why it is so shocking, because priests have been doing this for years. The Holy Father has just made it explicit.”
Even in secular terms, the opposition to equal rights for gay people flouts the Golden Rule, which says, “Do not do unto others that which you would not have others do unto you.” Religious believers would surely object, and rightfully so, to a law that declared their marriage rituals illegal. The same principle applies to whatever sexual practices consenting adults follow in their private lives.
This was, in fact, the judgment rendered in 2018 in the High Court in the case of Jason Jones vs the Attorney General, in which Justice Devindra Rampersad ruled sections 13 and 16 of the Sexual Offences Act unconstitutional. The State has appealed the judgment and, given that public opinion is firmly against gay rights, it is unlikely that politicians on either side of the Parliament will touch this thorny issue.
As for believers, especially Roman Catholics who comprise the largest Christian group, they might find it easier to believe Leviticus 18:22, which declares homosexual acts an “abomination”, because that is the prejudice of the majority in T&T. In acting morally, however, the most difficult challenge for the religious and non-religious alike has always been Exodus 23:2—“Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil.”