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Shouldn’t Catholics be protesting loudly against anti-gay persecution?

Nigeria’s new laws contravene Catholic teaching – and we should say so

By on Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Indians protest against last month's court ruling, which the Church opposed (AP)

Indians protest against last month's court ruling, which the Church opposed (AP)

Nigeria has become the latest country to impose extremely harsh measures on people in same-sex relationships. This is part of a trend towards a world morality gap and follows developments in Russia, Uganda and India.

The Catholic Church’s position on such laws are clear: they are are unjust. And it sometimes seems that the Catholic Church is standing atop two boats heading in opposite directions, with radical, illiberal anti-discrimination laws in the West and ultra-conservative morality laws in the developing world. Barbarism in one direction; decadence in the other.

Yet even educated people in Britain are hardly aware of the Church’s opposition to such laws (few noticed when the Church spoke out in India last month). They lump in the Catholic view on sexuality with that of the rabidly intolerant governments of Nigeria and Uganda. And Catholics don’t seem to be making much effort to dissuade them.

As one Catholic, Niall Gooch, wrote on Twitter: “Christians should be more vocal about laws & governments that encourage anti-gay hostility.” He has a point. Instead, it’s left overwhelmingly to secular, often anti-religious, campaigners.

Gooch points to Articles 2357 and 2358 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which say that gay people “must be accepted w/ respect, compassion, & sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”

Catholics should see this as a matter of social justice. As Gooch has argued, as much as Catholics oppose discrimination laws that affect adoption agencies and B&Bs, and various other radical secularist measures, what’s happening in Nigeria is surely far, far worse than schools using the charity Stonewall’s material.

One curiosity about this area is that there is quite a close match between countries intolerant about homosexuality and former colonies of Britain. It was under the British Empire that many of the laws relating to same-sex relationships were imposed. France, in contrast, did not seem to mind what people got up to. Was that due to the country’s Catholic heritage or was it just a more specifically French casualness about sex? It’s not my area of expertise, but I’d be interested to know.

Ed West’s ebook, The Silence of Our Friends, can be downloaded on the Kindle for 99p.