Cardinal Rigali and LGBT rights

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Cardinal Justin Rigali and I had an opportunity to chat at the swearing-in of new District Attorney Seth Williams. Rigali and his lobbying group, if you remember, almost single-handedly blocked hate-crimes and nondiscrimination legislation in Harrisburg. Our conversation was polite and direct.

The archbishop of Philadelphia was not aware of the statement of the Vatican to the United Nations Human Rights conference on Human Rights Day, Dec. 10. As I was explaining it to him, it finally registered and, after some prodding, he said, “If the Holy See has that position, then we have that position.”

Statement of the Holy See

Mr. Moderator,

Thank you for convening this panel discussion and for providing the opportunity to hear some very serious concerns raised this afternoon. My comments are more in the form of a statement rather than a question.

As stated during the debate of the General Assembly last year, the Holy See continues to oppose all grave violations of human rights against homosexual persons, such as the use of the death penalty, torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. The Holy See also opposes all forms of violence and unjust discrimination against homosexual persons, including discriminatory penal legislation which undermines the inherent dignity of the human person.

As raised by some of the panelists today, the murder and abuse of homosexual persons are to be confronted on all levels, especially when such violence is perpetrated by the State. While the Holy See’s position on the concepts of sexual orientation and gender identity remains well known, we continue to call on all States and individuals to respect the rights of all persons and to work to promote their inherent dignity and worth.

Thank you, Mr. Moderator.

The Rev. Philip J. Bené, J.C.D. Legal Attaché Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations

Rigali agreed to put me in touch with those he works with to start a dialogue. Communication is where all change begins. And to my knowledge, this is the first time the archbishop of Philadelphia has given his word to start that process. I commend him on that and look forward to working with him on, as the Vatican says, the “dignity and worth” of all people.

This will be the first test of these new words from the Vatican. Are they real or just double-talk? Personally, I hope they are real. After all, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has already taken the position supporting nondiscrimination. And they did so in its home city of Salt Lake, Utah.

The cardinal told me the number of Catholics in the region who are under his jurisdiction. Your Eminence, some of those individuals happen to be LGBT members of your church, and they deserve your support against discrimination and hate.

Mark Segal is PGN publisher. He can be reached at [email protected].