Archbishop: Suicide Bombers Are Better Than Married Gays
As in the rest of the United States, same-sex relationships are a hot topic on the island of Guam. The controversy has been especially intense since July, when Bill 185, which would make same-sex couples able to enter into legal domestic partnerships, was introduced in the legislature. Guam has a population that is 85% Catholic (source: CIA World Factbook), so of course the Church's opposition—and the extent to which rank-and-file Catholics are willing to publicly support same-sex couples—has been an important factor in the debate. Having become almost as much a referendum on what it means to be Catholic as on the legal status of relationships, the controversy over Bill 185 may seem to have already been dialed right up to eleven, but last week, the local Archdiocese took it up another notch when they distributed a three-page statement titled "On High Stakes of Bill 185" to the press. The most controversial part of the letter condemned homosexuality as part of what Pope John Paul II called "the culture of death," and implicitly praised the moral standards of Islamic fundamentalist suicide bombers:
The culture of homosexuality is a culture of self-absorption because it does not value self-sacrifice. It is a glaring example of what John Paul II has called the culture of death. Islamic fundamentalists clearly understand the damage that homosexual behavior inflicts on a culture. That is why they repress such behavior by death. Their culture is anything but one of self-absorption. It may be brutal at times, but any culture that is able to produce wave after wave of suicide bombers (women as well as men) is a culture that at least knows how to value self-sacrifice. Terrorism as a way to oppose the degeneration of the culture is to be rejected completely since such violence is itself another form of degeneracy. One, however, does not have to agree with the gruesome ways that the fundamentalists use to curb the forces that undermine their culture to admit that the Islamic fundamentalist charge that Western Civilization in general and the U.S.A, in particular is the "Great Satan" is not without an element of truth. It makes no sense for the U. S. Government to send our boys to fight Al Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan, while at the same time it embraces the social policies embodied in Bill 185 (as President Obama has done). Such policies only furnish further arguments for the fundamentalists in their efforts to gain more recruits for the war against the "Great Satan." (Emphasis added.)
The letter immediately gained international attention, and drove local passions even higher. Legislative Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz, an openly gay man, condemned the Church's statement as "hypocrisy," given recent scandals about the Church's role in covering up sexual abuse by priests. Cruz alleged that he himself had been molested by a priest when he was thirteen years old, although he conceded that he didn't have enough evidence of the abuse for a court case.
Gerhard Schwab, a professor at the University of Guam has begun organizing other Catholics to speak up against the stance expressed in the letter by circulating a petition. "I'm Catholic, but I want to think," Schwab told the Pacific Daily News. "I think if my leadership is wrong, I have a responsibility to share my opinions. ... I personally would have wished the archbishop comes out in favor of giving recognition to same-gender partnerships." And specifically, Schwab wants the archbishop to apologize for the letter. "It's outrageous to say that we should learn from the Taliban on how to oppress minorities," he said. "And that's basically what [Archbishop Anthony Apuron] said.
Criticisms like those of Cruz and Schwab are being felt by the hierarchy. On Thursday, Apuron issued a letter emphasizing that the Catholic Church was committed to combating sexual abuse with the same fervor that it fights homosexuality. "In response to my pastoral letter that was released last Sunday, I want to make it clear that persons with same-sex attraction were not the target of my pastoral letter, nor was it meant to condemn anyone in any way. If I have hurt anyone, please forgive me," the archbishop wrote.