Two major world religious figures offer conflicting messages on LGBTQ+ people

(Photo: Adobe Stock)

Two major world religious figures spoke out on LGBTQ+ people this week, one with a message of inclusion and the other with a call to “wage war” on LGBTQ+ people.

Pope says Church open to everyone, including LGBTQ+ people

At the close of his Aug. 6 World Youth Day Mass in Portugal, which was attended by 1.5 million celebrants, Pope Francis told the crowd that the Catholic Church was for everyone. He asked the crowd to affirm this with him, saying “todos, todos, todos” — everyone, everyone, everyone.

“The Lord is clear,” the Pope asserted. “The sick, the elderly, the young, old, ugly, beautiful, good and bad.” 

He also affirmed that the “everyone” he cited includes the gay community. Francis said that the Church has a duty to accompany all Catholics, including LGBTQ+ Catholics on a personal path of spirituality, but within the framework of Catholic Church rules.

As he often does, Pope Francis spoke with reporters on his flight back to Rome after the five-day trip to Portugal. One reporter asked the Pope to explain his “todos” message with the fact that some people, such as women and gay people, did not have the same rights as other Catholics and could not receive some sacraments.

The question was a clear reference to women not being allowed to become priests through the sacrament of Holy Orders and same-sex couples not allowed to marry in the Church, as marriage is also a sacrament.

Pope Francis said, “The Church is open to everyone, but there are laws that regulate life inside the church.” 

He explained, “According to the legislation, they cannot partake in (some) sacraments. This does not mean that it is closed. Each person encounters God in their own way inside the Church.” 

Pope Francis also said ministers in the Church had to support all Catholics, including those not conforming to the rules, with “the patience and love of a mother.”

Church dogma states that women cannot become priests because Jesus chose only men as his apostles. The Church does not allow same-sex marriage or even blessings for same-sex couples, but Francis supports civil legislation that gives same-sex couples rights in areas such as pensions, health insurance and inheritance. Church teachings now stipulate that same-sex attraction and relationships are not sinful but same-sex sex acts are.

Throughout his tenure as Pope, Francis has worked toward making the Church more open and inclusive, including to members of the LGBTQ+ community. As PGN reported, Pope Francis said during an exclusive interview Jan. 24 with The Associated Press, “Being homosexual isn’t a crime.” It was a declaration that, like many statements from Francis, sparked immediate controversy among his conservative detractors, but was welcomed by his supporters — including a majority of Catholics in the U.S.

In recent years, Pope Francis has expanded his commentary on how discrimination against members of the LGBTQ+ community is wrong. Yet he still reinforced that Catholic Church teaching remains that homosexual activity is a sin. “It’s not a crime. Yes, but it’s a sin. Fine, but first let’s distinguish between a sin and a crime.”

Catholic Church teaching states that homosexual acts are sinful, or “intrinsically disordered.” Francis said that gay people must be treated with dignity and respect. 

“It’s also a sin to lack charity with one another,” he added.

(Photo: Adobe Stock)

Rabbi calls on followers to ‘wage war’ on Israel’s LGBTQ+ community

New statements from Rabbi Zvi Thau, the head of Yeshiva Har Hamor, in Israel are the antithesis of inclusion or charity. In a new book, Thau called homosexuality a “crime against humanity.” LGBTQ+ advocates say the statements in the book are incitements of violence against their community, who are already experiencing a huge increase in hate crimes.

Thau is a pivotal figure in Israel, and is a co-founder of the right-wing religious Hazon movement. That movement founded the Noam Party led by Avi Maoz, who currently serves as a deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Office. Maoz has expressed strong opposition to LGBTQ+ people.

In 2019, the Hazon movement entered politics with a large banner at the entrance to Jerusalem reading, “A father and a mother = a family. The courage to be normal.”

According to the Jerusalem Post, two advocacy groups representing the religious Jewish LGBTQ+ community, Havruta and Bat Kol, have filed a police complaint against Thau. The yeshiva leader has called on his followers to “wage war” against LGBTQ+ people.

The 90-page book, titled “On Dealing with Postmodernism and Breaking Free from its Shackles,” does not use the term LGBTQ+, per se, but  refers to the LGBTQ+ community as a “new culture of eliminating the family,” according to Israeli news sources.

The book complains about efforts to place “parent 1” and “parent 2” in lieu of “father” and “mother” on government forms, among other issues. According to the Jerusalem post, Thau’s book focuses on family structure, noting that “when a child does not have a father and a mother, all the normal relation to his origin, his past, and his future is blurred.” Thau’s book refers to this as a “crime against humanity.”

Thau writes, “The blurring of the sexual identity of the child until he does not know whether he is a boy or a girl undermines his more elementary confidence in his identity, and hence the path to eliminating his Jewish identity is short, and since he is not sure of his national identity, he loses the power to stand against the national narrative, the power to protect the people, the faith in fulfilling the promises of the prophets, and desires a state that is nothing more than a mixed multitude.”

Bat Kol and Havruta stated on Wednesday that Thau’s comments in the book “serve as incitement to murder and violence and to legitimize harm against the LGBTQ community.”

Left-wing activist Yair (“Yaya”) Fink, who also filed a police complaint against Thau on Aug. 7, stated, “Exactly eight years after Shira Banki’s murder, there are important and dark rabbis who have forgotten what it is to be Jewish and continue to incite against hundreds of thousands of members of the LGBT community. When a leading rabbi in the community calls on his followers to take action, the action may be taken. The police must act a moment before the next murder.”

The Agudah, The Association for LGBTQ Equality in Israel, condemned Thau’s comments, also filing a police complaint against Thau, saying the rabbi was inciting violence with his comments.

“It is impossible to ignore wild and extreme incitement written in black and white with the aim of harming the members of the LGBTQ community and erasing us,” said the Agudah. “The masks have been removed, this is the vision of the extremist parties in the Knesset, written in black and white: to wipe us out.”

Agudah said, “This is the spiritual father of Avi Maoz who serves in the Israeli government as a deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, with budgets of hundreds of millions of shekels. This is the face of the hatred in the Yeshiva that is budgeted from our tax money in excess of five million shekels each year. The harm to the gay community is already present on the ground in an unprecedented increase in the cases of violence and hatred against LGBT people, we cannot allow this to continue and we will use all the legal tools at our disposal against bloodshed.”

The Jerusalem Post reports, “LGBT-phobia has been on the rise in recent years and has spiked since the government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took office” and notes that “3,309 cases of LGBT-phobia were reported in 2022, an 11% increase compared to the previous year. There was a seven-fold increase in the number of LGBT-phobic incidents involving public figures and the media, a five-fold increase in the number of LGBT-phobic incidents in public places and an eight-fold increase in cases of discrimination at businesses.”

A survey by the Israeli Institute for Gender and LGBT Studies in May found that a vast majority (86%) of LGBT+ Israelis across the country report that their sense of security had deteriorated in the prior three months. 77% of the respondents stated that they do not trust the police to protect them.

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