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L’archevêque croate demande pardon aux homosexuels

  • May 2021

Mate Uzinić, the Archbishop Coadjutor of Rijeka (and Bishop of Dubrovnik from 2011 to 2020), issued a statement on his personal Facebook page on 17 May 2021, the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, in which he quoted the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia . Starting from the initial sentence of paragraph 250, which says that “the Church makes her own the attitude of the Lord Jesus, who offers his boundless love each person without exception”, he underlined that Amoris Laetitia asks that “every person, regardless of sexual orientation, ought to be respected in his or her dignity and treated with consideration, while ‘every sign of unjust discrimination’ is to be carefully avoided, particularly any form of aggression and violence“. He also stressed that, according to Amoris Laetitia, these people and their families „should be given respectful pastoral guidance, so that those who manifest a homosexual orientation can receive the assistance they need to understand and fully carry out God’s will in their lives“. After quoting the main messages of this Apostolic Exhortation, Archbishop Uzinić concluded that he regrets that many Catholics disagree with that, particularly those who think that they serve Christ and the Church through discrimination, aggression, violence, insults and derogatory comments on gay people. He concluded by asking a pardon from gays who may still feel rejected by the Church and who, together with their families, do not get the respectful pastoral care, which Amoris Laetitia guarantees them.

Considering some of his earlier statements on gays, child abuse, or refugees, it was not particularly strange that Archbishop Uzinić issued such a message. Still, this can be considered an outbreaking voice among Croatian Catholic bishops who share a much more conservative view on LGBTQI people and oppose attempts to grant them equal rights, e.g. in the field of family rights. The defence of the traditional family and the fight against the so-called gender ideology constitute a core of official Church teachings which side effect is the insensitivity for various discriminatory words and actions.

Reactions have been mixed so far. Many commentators on the Facebook page accused the Archbishop of spreading unclarity about the Church teachings on gays. Some expressed fear that the “respectful pastoral guidance” may end up praising homosexuality, and with the full integration of homosexuals in the Church life, as is happening in some Western countries. Among the clergy, the most vocal accusation came from Ratko Perić, the retired Catholic bishop from Bosnia and Herzegovina. On the other hand, media and civil society actors from the liberal side welcomed his statement. From a social science point of view, this should be analysed in the context of rising ideological cleavages in a country of high religious belonging but declining religious participation. According to the European Value Survey data, the share of self-identified religious persons is very stable (79.9% in 1999 and 78.3% in 2017), but the share of regular (at least monthly) Church participation declined from 52.5% (1999) to 34.9% (2017). As in other post-communist countries, the acceptance of gays is lower in Croatia than in Western Europe but is higher than in most Eastern European countries with the Orthodox majority. In general, the social acceptance of the LGBTQI community is on a slow rise but is counteracted by the ideological debates which equalise their rights with the rising threats of “gender ideology”.

See Nikodem, K., Zrinščak, S. (2019) Between Distanced Church Religiosity and Intensive Personal Religiosity : Religious Changes in Croatian Society from 1999 to 2018. Društvena istraživanja 28(3):371-390 (in Croatian).

D 27 mai 2021    ASiniša Zrinščak

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