Sex and Religion

Finding Religion and Spirituality in Population, Gender, Sexuality, and Reproductive Health Advocacy in the Philippines.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Pope Benedict ‘wrong’—health official

Agence France-Presse
First Posted 11:20:00 03/22/2009

GEORGETOWN – World Health Assembly President, Guyana's Health Minister Leslie Ramsammy, on Saturday condemned Pope Benedict's call for ending condom use in the fights against AIDS, saying he was trying to sow confusion.

"The statement by the Pope is inconsistent with science, it's inconsistent with our experiences and it is not in sync with what Catholics have experienced and believe," Ramsammy told a news conference.

The Health Minister, who is regarded by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) as a leading advocate in the fight against HIV and AIDS, accused the leader of the Roman Catholic Church of attempting to "create confusion" and "impede" proven strategies in the battle against the disease.

Declaring the position by the Pope on condom use as "absolutely and unequivocally wrong," Ramsammy recommended the continued use of condoms as part of an overall strategy that included education, fidelity and monogamy.

The Health Minister said he planned to rally support among colleague health ministers of the 15-nation Caribbean Community (Caricom), which is predominantly Roman Catholic.

"Whilst I would hope that Catholics would continue to be extremely supportive of their church and the pope ... on this issue, they (should) rely on the evidence, and we need at this time to come out forcefully with the evidence to demonstrate that condoms and lifestyle matter," said Ramsammy.

Pope Benedict XVI said Tuesday on his way to Africa that condoms were not the answer in the continent's battle against HIV-AIDS, his first such public pronouncement on the delicate issue of condom use.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Gays, lesbians hear Mass at Baguio City bar

BAGUIO CITY—It was a Sunday Mass no different from what mainstream churches hold, except that the faithful, including the officiating minister, are gays and lesbians.

About 20 people gathered at a bar here one Sunday afternoon in February to attend the landmark religious service dedicated to gays and lesbians, many of whom had complained of discrimination in their churches.

“Our concern is our relationship with God. When you die, God will not ask you if you are gay; He will ask you if you did good things. Salvation does not come from anyone but from God, and we accept Christ as the head of the Church,” said Rev. Crescencio Agbayani, an openly gay pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC).

The MCC, a Quezon City-based Christian denomination, has a special ministry for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and “transgenders,” or homosexuals who cross-dress.

Its church in Baguio is the third in the country that ministers to the gay community. The first two churches are in Makati City and Quezon City.

“As long as traditional Christian churches continue to reject gays in their ministry and close the door on us, our church will keep on expanding,” said Agbayani.

Catholic Church stand

But Baguio Bishop Carlito Cenzon said the Catholic Church had never discriminated gays but it was against same-sex relationships.

“The Catholic Church does not reject gays or lesbians; they are God’s children, too. What we reject is their campaign to engage in same-sex relations and same-sex marriage. Sex is only for the married, and marriage is between a man and a woman,” Cenzon said in a text message.

William Villacampa, one of the founders of the MCC Metro Baguio, said the “gay pride Mass” at Ayuyang Bar on Gov. Pack Road in the downtown area was meant to tear down the walls of the Christian faith.

“The MCC receives flak from others every now and then, but we are not worried about these criticisms. Our church is not even an underground church; everybody is welcome. We are not afraid of rejections because in the end, only God can judge us,” Villacampa said.

Mass ceremony

At the start of the Mass, Agbayani asked the churchgoers to give the greetings of peace by kissing and hugging each other.

Just like any regular Mass held in Catholic and Protestant churches, the gay pride Mass involved opening prayers, praise songs, reading of the gospel, homily and communion.

The Mass, which took more than two hours, added testimonials from those who attended as part of the ceremony. A Bible study followed the Mass.

Julie Palaganas, spokesperson of the Baguio-based Lesbians for National Democracy, said the Mass was a breakthrough.

“We know how the Bible was used to condemn homosexuality, but I am willing to study it more to liberate myself,” she said.

The participants said they hoped the activity would lead to the establishment of a church that would regularly hold services for homosexuals.


Men and women who regularly attend religious services in their communities would find themselves subjects of discrimination when their fellow church members find out that they are gays and lesbians, according to Agbayani.

“There were those who experienced doors being literally shut in their faces. Others are being [accepted in these services] but are told not to engage in ‘gay practices,’” he said.

“But what is the point of being gay if you are not practicing a gay lifestyle? It is abnormal for us to court the opposite sex,” he added.

Myke Sotero, chair of the Progressive Organization of Gays in the Philippines-Baguio, said members of his group expected criticisms from the Baguio community.

God not judgmental

“I know we will be condemned, but the Bible says, ‘If one is condemned in the name of the Lord, he or she is blessed.’ We are opening our doors to … discussion [so] people will know the love of God. Our God is not judgmental. We are willing to be stoned, pero iyong dapat ang mambato sa amin ay iyong hindi nagkasala (But those who would cast the stone should be without sin),” Sotero said.

But he said they are hopeful that they would be accepted and expand their ministry even to those outside their community.

“What really hurts is that when you are gay, the traditional Christian church would tell you that you are going to hell because it is a sin to be a homosexual. They would cite the story of Sodom and Gomorrah,” Agbayani said.

“Why are these churches afraid of gays?” he asked.