International News

    Vatican criticizes nun’s book on sexuality

    The Vatican on June 4 sharply criticized a book on sexuality written by a prominent American nun, saying it contradicted church teaching on issues like masturbation, homosexuality and marriage and that its author had a “defective understanding” of Catholic theology.

    The Vatican’s orthodoxy office said the book, “Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics” by Sister Margaret Farley, a member of the Sisters of Mercy religious order and emeritus professor of Christian ethics at Yale Divinity School, posed “grave harm” to the faithful.

    The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said that in the 2006 book, Farley either ignored church teaching on core issues of human sexuality or treated it as merely one opinion among many.

    Farley said June 4 she never intended the book to reflect current official Catholic teaching. Rather, she said, she wrote it to explore sexuality via various religious traditions, theological resources and human experience.

    The Farley critique, signed by the American head of the congregation, Cardinal William Levada, comes amid the Vatican’s recent crackdown on the largest umbrella group of American sisters. The Vatican last month essentially imposed martial law on the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, accusing it of undermining church teaching and imposing certain “radical feminist themes” that were incompatible with Catholicism.

    It ordered a full-scale overhaul of the group and appointed three bishops to carry it out.

    The crackdown on Farley, a top American theologian, will likely fuel greater resentment in Rome among more liberal-minded American sisters.

    Alleged dismembering killer arrested in Berlin

    Luka Rocco Magnotta, the gay porn star who Canadian officials believe filmed himself murdering a former lover, dismembering him, partially eating the corpse and mailing body parts to government officials, was arrested June 4 in Berlin.

    Magnotta allegedly mailed parts of his former lover’s body to Canadian politicians and dumped other body parts in suitcases. Police say there is an 11-minute video of the gruesome crime. The murder victim is 33-year-old Jun Lin, a computer and engineering college student who was Magnotta’s onetime lover.

    While Lin’s murder likely took place near Montreal, Magnotta was arrested in Berlin at an Internet café after a barista recognized him.

    Poland, Latvia host Pride marches

    Hundreds of gay and trans men and women, together with their supporters, marched through the capitals of Poland and Latvia June 3, demanding greater acceptance and rights in their respective societies, where they still face high levels of homophobia and transphobia.

    Although several of the former-Soviet countries joined the European Union in 2004 and have moved toward more liberal policies for LGBT people, homosexuality still remains a taboo subject, with outright hostility from right-wing groups and politicians.

    The marches both in Warsaw and Riga required heavy police protection, though this year the opposition was smaller in number and force in the previous ones.

    In addition, the march in Riga included the participation of the U.S. Ambassador to Latvia, Judith Garber, under instructions from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

    “Human rights belong to everyone, regardless of sexual orientation. So we are marching in support of LGBT people here in Latvia, in the Baltics, in Europe and throughout the world,” Garber said.

    Meanwhile, Poland’s LGBT community used the occasion to mark the inclusion of Poland’s first gay and transgender MPs into the parliament last year, which marked a significant improvement in a country where politicians have repeatedly denounced gay and trans people. The party to which these MPs belonged, Palikot’s Movement, had its own float in the Warsaw march.

    A group of about 20 people from Belarus also marched in Warsaw, local media reported, ahead of a pride parade in Minsk in October. In response to President Alexander Lukashenko’s statement that it was “better to be a dictator than gay” — directed at Germany’s gay foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle — the marchers carried a banner that stated: “It’s better to be gay than a dictator.”

    Russian judge rules LGBT event bans unlawful

    A judge in St. Petersburg has ruled that bans on gay events put in place by officials under the city’s “gay propaganda” legislation were unlawful.

    The Smolninsky district court handed down a decision May 31 stating the authorities lacked the competence to determine whether the events would amount to propaganda before they took place.

    It also denied the officials’ standing to cancel events, saying they only had authority to suggest alternative times and places for rallies.

    The two planned events were for the Day of Silence on March 7 and the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia on May 17.

    The group said the reasoning for the decision would be made public on June 12.

    Dutch minister ends ex-gay therapy health insurance

    Gay “cure” therapy will no longer be available in the basic health-insurance package in the Netherlands, Dutch Health Minister Edith Schippers announced June 5.

    In a letter to Parliament, Schippers said gays and lesbians who suffer psychologically because of their sexual orientation should be offered pastoral guidance rather than medical treatment, since homosexuality is not a psychiatric disorder.

    The announcement will affect groups such as the Christian-inspired mental-health organization Different, which claims to provide therapy for homosexuals to help “repress their sinful urges.”

    Insurance companies could not refuse to pay for treatment as these groups were officially recognized as providers of psychological help, further fueling right-wing groups who saw this state backing as proof that homosexuality could be cured or changed.

    Schippers said, “There’s no question of a psychiatric diagnosis [for homosexuals], no psychiatric treatment and therefore there should be no insured care.”

    Different will still be entitled to provide pastoral counseling for anyone who is unhappy with their homosexual feelings, but this is to be paid for by the individual.

    French PM: Marriage to be introduced ‘quickly’

    The newly installed French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told a French television station June 1 a change in legislation to allow same-sex couples to marry and adopt children will be done “quickly” and that a draft is “ready.”

    It was not clear whether the prime minister meant a draft bill had been drawn up, but it has been reported that remarks made by Gilles Bon-Maury, the president of the Socialists’ Homosexualités et Socialisme faction, suggested such a bill could be presented to Parliament for discussion “before the autumn.”

    Ayrault recently became prime minister of France after Francois Hollande won the presidential election.

    Gay and straight French couples can currently enter Civil Solidarity Pacts, or PACS, but only opposite-sex couples can marry.

    Though affording many legal protections, a PACS does not give couples the right to joint adoption or artificial insemination.

    A case at the European Court of Human Rights this year determined that the system was not discriminatory to a lesbian couple as opposite-sex couples are also eligible for the union.

    In line with previous decisions, the court did not determine that there was a Europe-wide right to marriage equality for gay couples, leaving the issue to the French authorities.

    Ontario approves antibullying bill

    Ontario’s antibullying bill, also known as Bill 13 and the Accepting Schools Act, passed through the legislature June 5 by a margin of 65-36. Only the Progressive Conservatives voted against the legislation.

    Catholic educators and church leaders oppose the bill because it requires schools to allow students to call anti-homophobia clubs “gay-straight alliances” if they wish.

    The bill’s sponsor, Premier Dalton McGuinty, said the issue of protecting kids from bullying transcends all faiths and partisan politics. He added Catholics would understand the true significance of the bill is to build a stronger, more cohesive society.

    This bill could be the first passed through the Ontario legislature since the election last October.

    — compiled by Larry Nichols