The Catholic Diocese of Liberia has reiterated its position on the institution of marriage and opposed in the strongest of terms the idea of same sex marriage.
The Diocese’s position buttresses a recent pastoral message delivered by the Catholic Holy Father, Pope Francis, calling for humane treatment of gays and lesbians.
In a position statement, a copy of which is in possession of the Daily Observer, the Catholic Diocese of Liberia upholds its belief that marriage is a sacred union between a man and a woman, and was ordained by God from the beginning of creation.
“We reaffirm the traditional teaching of the Church on the family. We believe that marriage is a sacred union between a man and woman as ordained by the Creator (Genesis 1 & 2; Matthew 19:1-6). When in the society, marriage and family life are not guaranteed their proper development in peace, that society is condemned to sociopolitical, cultural and moral instability,” the local Diocese said.
“We denounce any attempt by anyone or any institution to promote same sex marriage, abortion and contraceptives. Thus we call upon all, especially our government, to reject the acceptance of this incipient culture of death as a prerequisite for developmental and financial aid.”
Call for compassion
In a recent groundbreaking document, “Amoris Laetitia” (in Latin: ‘The Joy of Love’) Catholic Holy Father Pope Francis said that, although the church does not condone same sex marriage, there is a need for believers to treat gays and lesbians with compassion. The 264 page document is a reflection on family life and calls on the church to avoid judging people without considering their struggles. Therein, the Pope also effectively conceded inclusion of homosexuals in the body and life of the church, just short of giving them the full rights of marriage.
“Every person, regardless of sexual orientation,” the Pope said, “ought to be respected in his or her dignity and treated with consideration. There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.”
However, the Pope appears to lend a degree of discretion to diocesan groupings – each according to its respective cultural and geographical orientation – as to the interpretation of pressing issues concerning sexual relationships. According to him, “Each country or region… can seek solutions better suited to its culture and sensitive to its traditions and local needs. For… ‘every general principle… needs to be inculturated if it is to be respected and applied’,” he said. He precedes this thought, saying that, “Unity of teaching and practice is certainly necessary in the Church, but this does not preclude various ways of interpreting some aspects of that teaching or drawing certain consequences from it. This will always be the case as the Spirit guides us toward the entire truth (John 16:13)…”
In response, the Catholic Diocese of Liberia, under the signatures of Archbishop Lewis Zeigler, Most Reverend Andrew Karnley of Maryland County and Most Reverend Anthony Borwah of Bong County, acknowledged: “We are very much aware of the difficulties and challenges faced by families today. In line with the Holy Father’s recent Post Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on the Family (Amoris Laetitia), we recall that Jesus ‘never failed to show compassion and closeness to the frailty of individuals like the Samaritan woman or the woman caught in adultery’ (AL 38).
Thus, we appeal to pastors to ‘reach out to everyone, to help each person, find his or her proper way of participating in the ecclesial community and thus to experience being touched by an unmerited, unconditional and gratuitous mercy (AL 297).’”
The Pope’s remarks are not entirely new. Fully aware of the sensitivity of the subject, he wisely encouraged the use of cultural discretion to promote ‘gay rights’ – that whoever can accept it, should. Former US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, used a more aggressive approach in 2012 when she urged African countries and others around the world to not only expand the concept of ‘human rights’ to include gay rights, but required acceptance of gay rights as a prerequisite for international aid.
Some African countries including Ghana, Zimbabwe, and Uganda amongst others flatly rejected the idea, saying it was not in conformity with their African culture. Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, however, said she “will not comment on the matter” at any point during her administration.
On another issue of concern, the Diocese indicated that it is cognizant of its tax obligation to the government because it is through tax payment development in the country is carried out.
“We recognize our duties as citizens and institutions to pay taxes in order to promote our national and developmental agenda. In doing this, we complement our government as dutiful citizens. Unfortunately, in recent times, the Church and ordinary citizens continue to experience undue hardships, which undermine our capacity to assist our government in service to our people. Donated items to our institutions are taxed exorbitantly; procedures are cumbersome leading to unnecessary delays in clearing goods from the ports. Policies are inconsistent and cost unpredictable, thus leaving room for extortion. These conditions make it difficult, if not almost impossible, to perform our humanitarian duty to our people. We therefore call on our government to review its policies and procedures to ensure that our services to the Liberian people remain uninterrupted.”