Spring 2009 Catholic Action

St. Peter's photoSPRING 2009 CATHOLIC ACTION

RECAP of our actions at the Vatican’s embassy

In December, 2008, France introduced a Declaration to Decriminalize Homosexuality at the United Nations Assembly in New York City. The Statement condemned violence, harassment, discrimination, exclusion, stigmatization, and prejudice based on sexual orientation and gender identity.  It also condemned killings, executions, torture, arbitrary arrest, and deprivation of economic, social, and cultural rights noting that in 77 member countries, homosexuality is illegal; 7 countries declaring it punishable by death.

Almost immediately following the Declaration’s introduction, the Vatican issued a statement opposing it and suggesting that it could lead to same gender marriage acceptance. 

In response, Soulforce pulled together a team to confront the Vatican. We sent a letter to the Ambassador’s office asking them, to withdraw its opposition to the Declaration and to meet with us in order to begin a dialogue on the destructive nature of heterosexism.  By late March, Soulforce had negotiated a meeting with two of our representatives with Father Bene, an assistant to Archbishop Migliori, the Ambassador.  Fr. Bene, while friendly, appeared surprised to hear that American gays and lesbians experienced any kind of discrimination.  During the meeting we pressed for a meeting directly with the Ambassador and were told they would get back to us, which they never did.

Our Soulforce team decided to vigil at the Vatican’s embassy in late April.  For two days, the Vatican’s response was to shut down the embassy.  We were told by people in the neighborhood that they had never seen the offices closed down in the middle of the week and were offered no explanation by Vatican officials. 

Several weeks later, as we persisted in trying to meet with the Ambassador we were able to persuade the Ambassador to sit down with our representatives. The meeting was again, cordial and the Ambassador indicated that he would be discussing the Statement with the UN when they meet in Switzerland this summer for their summer sessions. This meeting was significant in that after eight years of trying to negotiate with the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church this was the first time we were able to sit down with a high ranking representative of the Vatican. 

Given the years of hostile rhetoric between the Vatican and the LGBT community, we are hopeful about the improvement we have made in helping the Vatican understand the sacredness of LGBT lives.  Soulforce will continue to monitor the situation and will keep people up to date. 

See video footage of April 22, 2009 and April 23, 2009

Please join us this spring in calling on the Vatican to support the safety and well being of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. We are working to gain support from the Roman Catholic Church for the United Nations Declaration on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.

The United States, as of Wednesday March 18th, has signed on to the declaration. This is a great shift in U.S. policy, and we hope that you will work with us to continue the focus on the Vatican.

There are many ways to participate, if you are not able to join us in New York City.

Send us your story! We will be delivering the personal testimonies of those who want to share why it matters to them that the Vatican support LGBT by endorsing the UN’s declaration. We will be delivering all our stories to the office in New York City, and we would be honored to include your story. Contact Alexey Bulokhov at Alexey@Soulforce.org with your statement.

If you want to join us on the ground in New York City, next week, read details and register here.

Our introductory training will be on Tuesday, April 21 from 8 to 10pm at the Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew, www.spsanyc.org, 263 West 86th Street @ West End Avenue. Subway 86th Street on the 1, B or C line. If you have questions, contact Alexey Bulokhov at Alexey@Soulforce.org or 212-203-5774.

You can join the growing group of local leaders organizing solidarity actions where they live. We will work with you to support efforts in your hometown. All are welcome at any experience level. If you are interested in being a local leader or a participant, click here for a list of participating cities, ideas for action and contact information.

You or your organization can also join the campaign by signing onto the following statement of support. Click here for contact information, the text of the statement, and the growing list of supporters.

The background of this campaign:

For the first time ever at the United Nations in December 2008, a statement was heard on the support of equal rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

French Minister of Human Rights and Foreign Affairs Rama Yade began the effort in early 2008 to create U.N.-backed protections for LGBT people. The Netherlands signed on as a co-sponsor on behalf of the European Union, and on December 18, 2008 Ambassador Jorge Arguello of Argentina read out the first declaration on LGBT rights in the General Assembly.

Unfortunately, some countries have not yet signed on in support of safety for all. The Vatican’s permanent observer to the United Nations, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, was among the first to oppose:

"If adopted, they would create new and implacable discriminations. For example, states which do not recognize same-sex unions as ‘matrimony’ will be pilloried and made an object of pressure."

Read the official statement on the declaration from the Holy See here.

We have sent a letter to the Archbishop in New York City, calling on him to take a personal stand against defamatory language regarding LGBT people and work in open and good faith to bring the Vatican toward supporting safety for all humans.

We are inviting you to work with us this spring in solidarity actions across the country and internationally to unite our voices. Based on the idea of pilgrimage, we are looking for local leaders and participants who want to help create conversations about faith and LGBT equality and get active in their community. No experience is required – just the desire to work in solidarity with activists in a localized action with global impact to make justice the standard.

Download the text of the declaration

Read some of the actions and statements of the Roman Catholic Church

With questions or feedback about the campaign, please contact:
Haven Herrin at Haven@Soulforce.org or Kara Speltz at Kara@Soulforce.org