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‘Democracy alive and well’

Archbishop Gordon distributes communion on July 28 to Cluny Sisters at a Mass to celebrate four jubilarians. Photo: Gerard-Paul Wanliss

Archbishop on pride march

The fact that a gay pride march could take place in Trinidad and Tobago is testimony this country’s democracy “is alive and well” said Archbishop Jason Gordon.

Members of the LGBT+ community staged the first pride parade in the country July 28, culminating six weeks of activities. The pride parade and events are held worldwide to celebrate members of the LGBT+ community and advocate for rights.

Archbishop Gordon told the Catholic News July 30 that T&T is a democracy and as such members of society “have a right to protest whenever they believe their rights are not being upheld or violated”. He said the LGBT+ community has several areas where there is legitimate concern and these have “to be taken seriously by the country, and by the government and people of T&T”. For example the existing sodomy laws and societal discrimination.

In April High Court Judge Devindra Rampersad ruled that Sections 13 and 16 of the Sexual Offences Act are “unconstitutional, illegal, null, void, invalid and are of no effect to the extent that these laws criminalise any acts constituting consensual sexual conduct between adults”.

Archbishop Gordon reminded the public of his statement in response to the decriminalising of sodomy in the country.  The laws, he reiterated, were “no longer consistent with who we are as a young democracy”. Although the Church’s position is that sodomy is a “moral wrong” it does not believe persons should be punished by being jailed for 25 years.

He added, “There are some human rights questions that need to be addressed. In maturing as a modern democracy we have to listen to all the groups who believe that their rights are not being upheld or there are violations of their rights. We have to work with everyone to ensure the rights of all in our country are being upheld and that everyone has the freedom to express themselves about their rights.” Hence the rights of religious persons must also be taken seriously. There must also be the capacity for open dialogue to ensure T&T becomes a society that cares for all citizens.

Dealing with the misconception that the Catholic Church dislikes homosexuals, Archbishop Gordon referred to a foreign news report which suggested conflicting views with Vicar General Fr Martin Sirju speaking on behalf of the gay community while the Archbishop is totally against.

He responded, “Anyone who says that has not been following what I was saying. Every deep truth is paradoxical and this one is no different.  Every person must be loved and given dignity and no action of any person takes away from their dignity and we have a command from Jesus to love everyone, there is no if, and or otherwise there. That includes everyone—a member of the LGBT+ community; on the other hand we believe in a moral law and we have to hold what is right is right and what is wrong is wrong, in service of the common good.”

Archbishop Gordon cited the Church’s stance on common-law unions, which is also not living within the moral law. However persons in these relationships should receive love and care.

He clarified, “The same way we will also say homosexual sex is not within the moral law but that does not mean that we must victimise or do anything less than absolutely love each person.”

Archbishop Gordon referred to his statements on the sodomy laws carried in the Catholic News April 15, p.24 and same-sex marriage, Catholic News April 22, p. 24.