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February 1997

Cardinal Hume's affinity for AIDS education, his inability to overtly oppose the lowering of the age of consent for homosexuals, and the fact that the British gay and lesbian community on the whole see this Church prelate as one who is marching to the beat of their drum, give credence to the high pedestal on which Cardinal Hume is placed by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.


Excerpts from the British Press 1992-1995

Cardinal pleads for AIDS teaching

(Ruth Gledhill, The Times, 14 July 1992)

THE subject of sexual development, including teaching about AIDS and HIV, should be included in religious education as well as in science lessons, Cardinal Basil Hume, the Archbishop of Westminster, said yesterday.

While the physiological aspects of AIDS belong to science, the moral question and the manner of handling the problems AIDS and HIV give rise to belong to the religious education department, Cardinal Hume told the first national conference to discuss Roman Catholic education.

Speaking at Bradford University, Cardinal Hume said that sexual education should not be confined to any particular course. "Rather, (it) would also be seen as relative and important in other aspects of the curriculum, and with other teachers, so that the whole range of the curriculum could contribute to moral development."

Cardinal Hume was addressing more than 900 Catholics involved in education from the dioceses of England and Wales. The conference, taking place more than a year after the reorganization of Catholic education services, is expected to be the first of what will become an annual event.

Cardinal Hume referred to the document HIV and AIDS: A Guide for the Education Service. He said it had given rise to anxiety in some parents. "They fear that children might be taught about a variety of unacceptable sexual practices."

He said the teacher's guide was solely a source of factual information and must not be seen as guidance for sexual education, nor as a licence for teachers to advocate unacceptable practices.

* * * * *

Catholic Church gives gays 'hope': Hume is 'open' to lower homosexual age of consent

(Andrew Brown, The Independent, 21 July 1993)

CARDINAL Basil Hume, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, has indicated that the Church will probably not oppose a lowering of the homosexual age of consent.

In a statement prepared with the help of prominent Roman Catholic homosexuals, the Cardinal reiterates the Vatican condemnation of homosexual acts as "objectively wrong" and of homosexual inclinations as "objectively disordered."

However, he says that "people who know themselves to be homosexual must not for that reason develop a sense of guilt or think of themselves as unpleasing to God. On the contrary, they are precious to God.

"None the less, God expects homosexual people, as indeed he does heterosexual people, to keep His law and to work towards achieving a difficult ideal, even if this will only be achieved gradually.

"The Church is aware that people may fail to live consistently what She teaches. Pastoral understanding is brought to bear on such failure: the Church does not reject such people but wishes to walk with them in order to guide them to a fuller understanding and realization of the teaching She holds to be God-given."'

Dr. Elizabeth Stuart, the editor of a gay and lesbian prayer book, said: "The Cardinal could not have gone further to meet us."

She greeted the statement as a sign of hope for Catholic homosexuals. "The Bishops of England and Wales are some of the most well-informed and educated on this issue in the Catholic Church. A lot of people will be very grateful and relieved that they have not bowed to Vatican pressure.".

* * * * *

Hume's fears on gay consent age

(Ruth Gledhill, The Times, 4 February 1994)

THE Archbishop,of Westminster yesterday urged Parliament to be cautious over the issue of the homosexual age of consent.

Cardinal Basil Hume said MPs should "make a prudential judgement as to whether or not the common good of society will best be served by a further decriminalization of homosexual genital acts."

Such acts were, he said, morally unacceptable. "The law should always seek to protect young people and promote moral values that society recognizes as wholesome."

MPs are due this month to take a free vote on an amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill by Edwina Currie proposing that the age of consent for homosexuals be reduced from 21 to 16, the same age as for heterosexuals. The Labour leadership supports the amendment but a recent BBC survey of MPs suggested a majority opposed it.

[Cardinal Hume] said the Church condemned any violence in speech or action towards homosexuals and conceded there was an argument in favour of a further decriminalization of homosexual acts.

* * * * *

Catholic move on gays welcomed

(Mary Braid, The Independent, 8 March 1995)

Gay rights activist Peter Tatchell yesterday hailed a note by Cardinal Basil Hume, leader of Britain's Roman Catholics, as support for anti-discrimination legislation, a "softening" of the Catholic position and a distancing of British Catholics from the Pope and the Vatican.

For two years Outrage, the homosexual pressure group headed by Mr. Tatchell, has embarrassed British Catholics with demonstrations outside churches in protest at anti-gay pronouncements by the Pope and Vatican.

Cardinal Hume said: "Love between two persons, whether of the same or of a different sex, is to be treasured and respected. . . To love another, whether of the same or a different sex, is to have entered the area of the richest human experience."

But like most of the mainstream churches he drew a distinction between homosexual inclination and practice: the latter remained unacceptable. The note goes on to say that any systematic failure to respect the dignity of homosexuals should be tackled if necessary by legislation and "homophobia should have no place among Catholics."

But gay and lesbian Christians' pleasure at the Cardinal's move - was tempered by the restating of his support for a 1992 Vatican statement - to which his note is a response - which condemns homosexual genital acts as "objectively disordered" and "morally wrong."

Rev. Richard Kirker, general secretary of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, said that the statement effectively offered anti-discrimination support only to celibate or non-practising homosexuals. "The Catholic Church's position is not one that any self-respecting lesbian or gay Christian should put their faith in," Mr. Kirker said.

He said that the Roman Catholic Church still had the least flexible attitude to gays while "ironically it probably attracts the largest number of homosexual clergy into its priesthood." Homosexuals were making an impact on all churches by being honest about their lives and the Catholic Church should be encouraged to be honest about the number of gay priests.

* * * * *

Cardinal 'risked Papal fury to give gays subtle support'

(Cole Moreton, 7he Independent, 10 March 1995)

Cardinal Basil Hume may have surprised many people by praising homosexual love last week, but he and other bishops have privately been offering support to lesbian and gay Catholics for years.

They have had to be silent in public because their compassionate personal attitudes fly in the face of increasingly harsh Vatican policy, according to Dr. Elizabeth Stuart, one of Britain's leading Catholic gay rights campaigners. "Cardinal Hume's attitude is not new. What is new is that he is articulating it publicly," she says.

In 1993, Cardinal Hume sent a message of support to Quest, a support group for lesbian and gay Catholics which was then celebrating its 20th year. Dr. Stuart, a member of Quest, says the Cardinal has also kept up correspondence with the Catholic caucus of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, of which she is convener. "Cardinal Hume has been listening to lesbian and gay experience. He has shown enormous sensitivity to how they feel when they hear the Vatican describe them as disordered and intrinsically evil."

Other bishops have been willing to talk and offer pastoral care to lesbian and gay members of their flock, and lay people with positions of authority within the Church have even been willing to meet the radical protest group OutRage. "That would not have been allowed to happen unless there had been a supportive attitude from those at the top," says Dr. Stuart.

The bishops of England and Wales were known in the Seventies as among the most tolerant to homosexuality in the Roman Catholic world, she says. But their self-enforced silence began when the present Pope was elected in 1978.

"When he began to make his mark, homosexuality became, in a very odd way, the defining issue to test whether anybody from a priest to a bishop was orthodox. So the bishops here had to shut up for over 10 years. In other countries, bishops who wouldn't toe the line were removed from their posts. During those dark years, the bishops of England and Wales never said anything negative about homosexuality. They never publicly supported the hardening Papal line. Not to say anything was a very supportive thing to do," says Dr. Stuart. Cardinal Hume said this week that love between two people of the same sex was among "the richest human experience." But he stuck to Vatican policy in repeating that "genital acts" were morally wrong.


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