Leo Egashira's remarks at St. James Cathedral, December 10, 2008
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Leo Egashira's remarks at St. James Cathedral, December 10, 2008
Leo Egashira's remarks at St. James Cathedral, December 10, 2008 Good evening, and welcome. Thank you for being here on such short notice on a cold, dark evening.

Today, December 10, is International Human Rights Day, the 60th Anniversary of the United Nation's Universal Declaration on Human Rights.

Today at the United Nations, France was scheduled to introduce a resolution, backed by all 27 members of the European Union, to end the criminalization of homosexuality across the globe. I just recently learned that it has been postponed to next week. However, the Vatican has already announced its opposition to this resolution.

The reasons we are here today are two-fold:

First, we wish to dispel the notion of a monolithic Catholic Church. In fact, the Catholic Church hierarchy does not speak for most Catholics on many important social issues. There is a huge dissonance between what the Vatican says and what the laity thinks. A large majority of Catholics, especially here in Seattle, support full Gay and Lesbian civil rights, and a significant percentage of Catholics support Marriage Equality for Gays and Lesbians.

For far too long, there has been a terrible conflict between the official Catholic Church's policies and pastoral practices as they relate to Gay people. Despite the good work being done in so many parishes, Vatican policies lead to our entire church being associated with discrimination and anti-Gay violence. It has sad, even tragic consequences for Lesbian and Gay people and our families.

Even on internal Catholic Church issues, most Catholics support the inclusion of women priests and married priests to serve as their spiritual leaders. I daresay that if women and married people were exercising pastoral leadership in the Vatican, we would not have gone through the painful scandal of pedophilia, nor the irrational and unrealistic proscription of birth control, nor the current war on people of differing sexual orientations.

And the second reason we are here is that the Catholic Church needs to be challenged and taken to task [by] all people of good will, especially Catholics who are caught between following their conscience and following their Church when the Church makes outrageous statements that lead to intolerance, bigotry, violence, and even death.

Being Gay is currently outlawed in nearly 70 countries across the globe. In a dozen of those countries, Gay and Lesbian people can face the death penalty. In others, those being held often face torture and state-sanctioned violence.

The Vatican is a political entity as well as a religious body. It has permanent observer status at the UN, which gives it unparalleled influence to promote its values to government leaders worldwide. The Vatican's opposition to decriminalizing homosexuality is dangerous, and is not consistent with Catholic values.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church in section 2358 acknowledges that, for some "not negligible" number of people, homosexuality is "deep-seated." (Previous versions have used the term "innate.") That same section says "Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided."

In opposing the proposed UN resolution, the Vatican has exposed its own hypocrisy once again. That hypocrisy gives license to unenlightened people to commit spiritual, psychological and physical violence against Gay and Transgender people and justify it in religious terms.

The Vatican action against God's Gay and Lesbian children is evil and sinful. It is as evil and sinful as racism, slavery and apartheid. It is as evil and sinful as sexism, which the Church still practices. It is an evil and sinful act that must be denounced loudly and unequivocally and as long as the Church mistakenly holds on to it.

Eventually, racism, sexism and homophobia will be consigned to the dustbin of history. That is what we are working for. That is why we are people of faith. That is why we are here. And I thank you again for being here, for doing your part to hasten the realization of justice for all people.

Leo Egashira is the publications chair and board member of DignityUSA (www.dignityusa.org).