EDITORIAL - Dufour's humanity
Archbishop of Kingston, the Most Rev Charles Dufour, is no raging liberal about to turn the theology of the Roman Catholic Church on its head and embark on a pro-gay campaign.
But his recent statement calling for Jamaicans to be tolerant of homosexuals in their communities underlines not only the archbishop's intrinsic humanity, but sets down a marker for others of influence to follow, and from which they may, and should, advance.
Undoubtedly, the environment has improved in recent years. Yet, Jamaica is not an easy place to be gay, especially a male homosexual.
First, the law against buggery casts the State as voyeur and sexual commissar, impinging on the right of consulting adults - both gay and heterosexual couples - to engage in sexual conduct of their choice in the privacy of their homes.
Further, this intrusive behaviour by the State has helped to reinforce homophobic attitudes and, in some cases, encouraged violence against gays. Except for a few brave souls who have defied these attitudes, archaic laws and anachronistic attitudes have push many gays underground, with well-documented consequences, for health care and spin-off social ills.
It is against this backdrop that Archbishop Dufour's call for a new approach to the engagement of gays is important.
He told this newspaper: "We do not regard homosexuality as natural behaviour, but we say you are to respect the person. Respect, do not kill the person. You must show respect to that person."
There are those who might wish to debate Archbishop Dufour over the physical and socio-psychological basis of homosexuality.
For this newspaper, however, what is the most critical element of the archbishop's statement is his call for respect; it is a declaration that humans are inviolable and, therefore, worthy of esteem and regard for themselves.
Tolerance gives rein to debate
In this regard, the archbishop celebrates the humanity of each individual, lifestyle notwithstanding. It is in a context of respect that tolerance is possible.
Where there is respect and tolerance, genuine debate is possible, and people's right to engage in lifestyles that do not materially affect the rights of others ought not to be short-circuited by illiberal laws.
For others, from beyond our shores, to make these points to us is not, we believe, to infringe upon our sovereignty, as Archbishop of Accra, the Most Rev Charles Palmer-Buckle, seems to believe it is.
What we think is important for Archbishop Palmer-Buckle, the broader Roman Catholic Church and whoever else pursuing a biblical case against homosexuality is to win the theological battle based on the cogency of the argument. Success may wean gays away from their lifestyle.
The maintenance of the buggery law, and the attitudes it encourages, is an Inquisition to punish the unfaithful and non-believers.
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