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Open Letter from the Interfaith Diversity Network of West Africa to the Most Rev. Philip Naameh, Chair of the Ghana Catholic Bishops Conference

                                                                                                            Accra, March 01, 2021

Dear Most Rev. Philip Naameh,

We would like to thank you for your response to the statement that Interfaith Diversity Network of West Africa (IDNOWA) published on February 20, 2021. We really appreciate that you no longer speak of a crusade against LGBTQI people (and their organisations) who have established an office from which they can work for the recognition of human rights for LGBTQI people in Ghana. You made an important contribution to calm down the heated atmosphere.

We welcome that you have emphasized in radio interviews, that lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer and intersex people must be treated with respect and must not be discriminated against in the spheres of work and housing. This means a lot to us as our LGBTQI community is often confronted with exactly these problems.

However, we think that the Roman Catholic Church could do more, especially when it comes to providing health care and education. We face time and time again, pupils or those that are ill being refused help when he or she is identified or labelled as a gay, lesbian or trans person. You said that “[p]eople with homosexual inclinations are subjects of the Church’s pastoral care as anybody else is in the Church and outside of it.” We strongly welcome this. It would be a major improvement for our community members if Catholic hospitals and schools declared explicitly not to exclude LGBTQI people from their services.

Please, allow us to quote in addition the “Postsynodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia” (Nr. 250) to strengthen this point and to expand it to families: “The Church makes her own the attitude of the Lord Jesus, who offers his boundless love to each person without exception. During the Synod, we discussed the situation of families whose members include persons who experience same-sex attraction, a situation not easy either for parents or for children. We would like before all else to reaffirm that every person, regardless of sexual orientation, ought to be respected in his or her dignity and treated with consideration, while ‘every sign of unjust discrimination’ is to be carefully avoided, particularly any form of aggression and violence. Such families should be given respectful pastoral guidance.”

We would like to highlight the many words and deeds of Pope Francis by which he personally has given pastoral support to families with lesbian and gay children as well as to gay, lesbian and trans persons themselves. We think that his approach to meet personally with members of our community, to listen to our stories and to comfort us should be considered as a role model for every pastor of the Catholic Church, including in Ghana.

Having said this, we must admit that we do hold some dissenting views on the morality or immorality of the sexual expression of love between people of the same gender.

  • We believe that our sexual orientations and gender identities belong to God’s creation and are part of his plan for the salvation of humankind. They are not against nature; not a lifestyle that is learned somehow, but part of our very nature as humans created in the image of God. Our sexual and gender identity is formed during our upbringing from a combination of nature and nurture. The balance between the two is impossible to disentangle and varies between persons.
  • Our homosexual attraction is not a choice, but an integral part of the person we are. Of course, it is possible for us to control our sexual behaviour willingly, but if this expectation is stretched to our whole lives, as the Catholic norm for gays and lesbians does, we can only reject this norm as destructive to our psycho-social health and well-being. By saying that we must not express our identity sexually one is rendering it impossible for us to be fully human and is depriving us of the opportunity to grow in love and meaningful partnerships.
  • Based on the exegetical research, that has been published globally, we doubt that Biblical verses can be used to condemn all kinds of homosexual acts. The Bible does not condemn same-sex sexuality in stable, faithful, and loving relationships. Only those cases are rejected in which violence or exploitation destroy the ethical quality of such relationships. What has been presented in the doctrine of the Catholic Church as Biblical evidence for the condemnation of homosexuality succumbs to exegetical scrutiny, especially if the different times and cultural circumstances are considered carefully.
  • If we look at the Gospel, we find that Jesus’ message is welcoming to everybody. Jesus Christ has not made procreation a condition for becoming his disciple but has welcomed every believer and those who do the will of God as being a part of his family. This is our vision for the Church, too.
  • In the past decades, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) has claimed the authority to decide about the morality or immorality of homosexual acts. However, more and more reports, such as those from an insider of the CDF, Krzysztof Charamsa, or from journalists, like Frédéric Martel, have given evidence that the staff of the CDF are strongly biased when it comes to the issue of homosexuality. Forgive us, if we say publicly that we do not consider this curial body as a binding authority in matters of homosexuality as long as this bias prevails and prevents the CDF from taking scientific and academic research into account appropriately.

Our goal is to live our lives as LGBTQI persons in moral integrity without being threatened by criminal law or by the blackmailing that results from it; without being forced to hide our true selves and our love from our families and neighbours; without being driven into heterosexual marriages to conceal our sexual identity; without being excluded from education and from health services, without being condemned in sermons; without being excluded from the parishes we belong to.

It would mean everything to us, if the Catholic Church in Ghana could become a partner who accompanies and support us on this path towards true moral integrity. Therefore, we would be delighted for the opportunity to meet with you in person and to share with you, in the spirit of dialogue, our experiences as LGBTQI people in Ghana. To start a conversation on how pastoral care for families with LGBTQI members could be put into place and become meaningful.

With kind regards,

Davis Mac Iyalla,

Executive Director of Interfaith Diversity Network of West Africa