Bishop Francis Alleyne OSB of Georgetown has called for laws in his country that criminalise homosexuality to be made “null and void”.
Bishop Alleyne made his comments as the keynote speaker at ‘Intimate Conviction 2: Continuing the Decriminalisation Conference’, a gathering that focused on the relationship between religious groups and anti-LGBTQ+ laws in the Global South. The conference occurred via Zoom November 25–27, 2020.
According to an article from New Ways Ministry (newwaysministry.org)—a coalition that educates and advocates for justice and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) Catholics, and reconciliation within the larger Church and civil communities—Bishop Alleyne spoke about his experiences in Guyana, as well as those of his brother bishops in the 19 dioceses in the Caribbean.
The bishop said that in Guyana, criminalisation laws are rarely enforced, but when they are, the enforcement is usually done cruelly. He then stated, “There is no doubt in my mind that these laws in Guyana should be made null and void.”
The bishop added that in speaking with other Caribbean bishops, 11 of whom serve dioceses where homosexuality is criminalised, the question is “not a front burner issue for them”, but “generally they would have no objection having these laws removed from the books”.
Bishop Alleyne described his aim in addressing the conference as offering “something to an important discussion, something that can be freeing, life-giving, and hopefully add to the vocabulary.”
Much of his address, was therefore dedicated to possible pastoral initiatives. Citing a 2013 study on attitudes surrounding homosexuality in the Caribbean, the bishop said even people who condemned lesbian and gay people in the abstract were far more accepting when it came to a loved one or co-worker.
The bishop told the story of a woman estranged from her gay nephew. Yet, when he was dying of AIDS, she overcame the “struggle between her loyalty to Church teachings and loyalty to family” and visited him.
This act, Bishop Alleyne said, “would be an example of a person’s vocabulary increasing while putting fears to rest.” That is precisely what Christians should be doing, he observed.
The article said that the bishop also spoke about using scripture responsibly, comparing the conversation on criminalising homosexuality to a different conversation held in Guyana about corporal punishment.
Bishop Alleyne commented on how quickly proponents of physical abuse turned to the Bible. He said, “So often the default response to the topic is to find a scriptural reference and to quote it authoritatively…in doing so, we hide behind texts. We sidestep our responsibility to real people, in real circumstances, in real time. . .If we are going to draw from the texts of Scripture in Christianity, particularly the gospels, they are there to push back boundaries [and to open the possibility of flourishing to all people].”
Bishop Alleyne concluded his talk by noting, “The way of love asks much more of us. It asks us to accompany people, be available to them, and be patient, affirming, and encouraging throughout.”