There has been an interesting public split emerging among Catholic bishops over the attitude the church should take towards gays. Some bishops have taken a hard line, especially among those in Africa where they have supported vicious anti-gay legislation that has been passed in nations like Nigeria and others have been proposed in Uganda, Cameroon, and Tanzania.
In Nigeria the leader of the hierarchy fully supported that country’s new law, which prompted a wave of violence against gays when it passed.
In a January letter on behalf of the Catholic hierarchy of Nigeria, Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos praised Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan for his “courageous and wise decision” in signing the legislation. Kaigama said it would protect Nigeria “against the conspiracy of the developed world to make our country and continent, the dumping ground for the promotion of all immoral practices.”
But this has prompted criticism from other bishops on the continent in South Africa, Botswana, and Swaziland saying that such actions should be opposed and that the church should “sound the alarm at the advance throughout Africa of draconian legislation aimed at criminalizing homosexuals.”
The above linked article goes on to describe other parts of the world where bishops have been pitted against bishops on the proper approach to take. We should be clear that the split is not about whether homosexuality is considered a sin (it still is) nor about whether the bishops approve of anything that could be considered as accepting of same-sex marriage (they still do not) but only about whether the hostility towards the LGBT community should be open and vicious or discreet and passive.
I hope this split will force pope Francis to become more concrete about what he actually wants the church to do. It is all well and good to preach in vague terms about peace, love, and understanding of gays but at some point he will have to actually take a stand and transform his feel-good words into specific policies that the church adopts. Otheriwse this internal squabbling will escalate.