Rorate Caeli

Nigerian Bishops hold the line on unnatural unions and immoral pressure groups - Vatican's Propaganda Fide does the opposite

Daddy, Mommy, and Children, that's Natural!

No faithful have suffered more in the past few years than the Catholic faithful in Nigeria - just last Sunday, 22 more were killed inside a church by Muslim terrorists.

So when the Bishops of Nigeria applaud their president for signing legislation designed to protect the family, one would think that the Vatican Congregations, out of respect for Bishops who know real life better than anyone, would at least remain silent. The piece of legislation in question is the so-called "anti-gay Law" - its real name is Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act, 2013. It is not really "anti" any specific person, or class of persons, but it has two main aims: to prohibit any kind of action that can be interpreted as a "marriage" between persons of the same sex; and to outlaw organizations promoting these immoral behaviors. 

Therefore, considering that this law would be beneficial to the dignity of the human person and that of families, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) sent a congratulatory letter to the president, as described by the official conference news agency:

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) has described the recent signing of the Anti-Gay Bill into law by President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan as a right step in the right direction for the protection of the dignity of the human person and commended the president for the courageous act, in spite of pressures from some international communities.

The conference made this remark in a letter of congratulations sent to the president on behalf of the Bishops and all Catholic faithful in the country by the President of the Conference, Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos.

Archbishop Kaigama noted that the action of the Nigerian Government is in consonance with the moral and ethical values of the Nigerian and African cultures which uphold the sanctity of the institution of marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

Expressing satisfaction with the action of the President, Archbishop Kaigama stated: “Your decision and that of your administration in conjunction with the Federal Legislature, not to bow to international pressure in the promotion of unethical and immoral practices of same sex union and other related vices is indeed a courageous one and a clear indication of the ability of our great country to stand shoulders high in the protection of our Nigerian and African most valued cultures of the institution of marriage and protection of the dignity of the human person.

While assuring President Jonathan of the prayers and support of the bishops, the CBCN President added: “We commend you for this courageous and wise decision and pray that God will continue to bless, guide and protect you and your administration against the conspiracy of the developed world to make our country and continent, the dumping ground for the promotion of all immoral practices, that have continued to debase the purpose of God for man in the area of creation and morality, in their own countries.

In a nation divided in half, in which Muslim groups kill Christians every week, it would seem that this is a  very good compromise between Christians and Muslims; and, compared with historical legislation on counternatural acts when there was a Christendom in Europe, it is extremely mild. In any event, it seems like the perfect example of the "new kind" of Vatican behavior, in which prudential local matters are left to the local episcopates: and what could be wrong, in Catholic doctrine, about outlawing fake unions and preventing the spread of immoral propaganda - the same "gay culture" the mere "support" of which remains an impediment to ordination to the sacred Priesthood (cf. Instruction on Criteria for the Discernment, 2005, n. 2). Certainly such legislation could never be enacted in historically Catholic countries these days, the same countries that find no fault in the widespread killing of unborn children, funded by public revenue in most cases, or in teaching in schools to young children that those same counternatural acts are natural, acceptable and even laudable. Yet this very fact does not make such legislation wrong or condemnable; quite the contrary, when faced with the challenges of the worldwide "gay marriage tide", there are only two ways to react, either by folding and conceding defeat, or by pushing back, as the Nigerians have chosen to do.

All this to say that the several bills discussed in different African countries are not on the same level - and it is to pander to the "most powerful lobby" to simply dismiss all of them as "draconian measures". That is the unofficial policy of the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference (SACBC), that in the editorial of its periodical "Southern Cross" simply condemned the law. What is worse, though, is that one of the official Vatican news agencies, Fides (the news agency of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Propaganda Fide) took sides and, instead of at least proposing both views, published only the editorial of the SACBC:

"Recently the Ugandan and Nigerian parliaments both passed severe anti-gay legislation. Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni has vetoed it; Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan signed it into law. Other countries, such as Cameroon and Tanzania, are proposing to pass similar legislation", recalls the editorial.

"These laws are not intended to render same-sex acts illegal — they already are, and punishable, in most African countries — but to persecute people on the basis of their sexual orientation", says the columnist and highlights that "Such laws are not only unjust, but they also have the potential to tear at the fabric of society if they are misused to facilitate false denunciations for gain, advancement or vengeance, much as what Christians are exposed to in Pakistan under that country’s intolerable blasphemy law".

In the light of the Catechism of the Catholic Church which prescribes to "avoid every sign of unjust discrimination" against homosexuals and even recommends to accept them "with respect , compassion and sensitivity", the editorial asks the Church in Africa to raise its voice "against discriminatory laws and violence against homosexuals, many of whom are Catholics".

On the specific matter of the Nigerian Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act, 2013 (which should not be conflated with any other, including the vetoed Ugandan bill), as we said above, there is no question of "unjust discrimination": false marriages are outlawed, and so are the organizations promoting immoral behavior as moral. One would think that the Bishops of Southern Africa would be commending their Nigerian counterparts for supporting a measure that is both fully consistent with what the Church has always taught and that increases bonds of peace and commonality between Muslims and Christians in Nigeria. At the very least, one would expect the Vatican Congregations not to take sides in this dispute and let the Nigerian bishops apply Catholic moral doctrine in their circumstances. Propagation of the Faith does not mean bending to the secularist bien-pensance tyranny. It means acting decisively, as the Nigerian Bishops recalled in their letter to their president, "against the conspiracy of the developed world."

[Tip for the Nigerian link: Settimo Cielo]