Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Is Tutu Wrong About Homophobia?

Desmond Tutu Would Prefer Hell Over Homophobic Heaven
Photo: Huffington Post

Last week Desmond Tutu, in true Desmond Tutu style, sparked debate when he, according to various news sources such as the Huffington Post, said: “I would not worship a God who is homophobic and that is how deeply I feel about this.” He is also reported to have said: “I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I would say sorry, I mean I would much rather go to the other place.

Tutu has become a master at drawing attention to both himself and his cause. This statement was clearly intended to do just that. Tutu’s statement is completely incomprehensible but I suspect that he does not care too much about that. He achieved what he set out to do, which was to attract attention to the cause that he is supporting.

I am not entirely sure what Tutu was really trying to say when he made these statements. I can only speculate.

For the sake of being charitable I must go with the assumption that Desmond Tutu is simply saying that homophobia is offensive and must be shunned by Christians. If this is true and this is indeed all that Desmond Tutu was saying, then we can of course all agree that he is correct.

It is totally unacceptable for any person to be treated with less dignity because of his or her sexuality. A person’s sexuality should, quite frankly, never be a consideration in our manner of dealing with other people. We should not ever think of people in terms of them being homosexual or heterosexual, but always only as persons!

This is exactly the point that Cardinal Napier tried to make, unfortunately unsuccessfully, in his interview with the Mail & Guardian a few months ago. I wrote about this in an earlier Blog post - “How to Use A Sound Bite Unethically”.

In that interview Cardinal Napier explained that he couldn’t be homophobic because he does not know any homosexuals. This statement was unfortunately taken to mean that Cardinal Napier literally does not know any homosexuals.

What Cardinal Napier was in fact saying, and I know this because I spoke to Cardinal Napier telephonically thereafter, was that he does not think of people in terms of their sexuality. He does not, for example, think of me as heterosexual Mark Nel, or as homosexual Mark Nel. I am a person and he knows the person, not the sexuality.

This should of course be an example to all of us. A person’s sexual orientation is not important and should make no difference to us whatsoever. The Catechism of the Church emphasises that homosexual persons “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.[1]

We cannot tolerate the homophobic behaviour that is evident in society today. Corrective rape and all the other horrendous things that homosexuals are apparently subjected to are completely unacceptable. We must join forces with those who have made it their mission to bring an end to this.

The Church teaches us quite clearly that: “Respect for the human person proceeds by way of respect for the principle that ‘everyone should look upon his neighbour (without any exception) as 'another self', above all bearing in mind his life and the means necessary for living it with dignity.’ No legislation could by itself do away with the fears, prejudices, and attitudes of pride and selfishness, which obstruct the establishment of truly fraternal societies. Such behaviour will cease only through the charity that finds in every man a ‘neighbour’, a brother.[2]

It may be a shock to some Catholics but it really is necessary for each of us to fight homophobia. Our focus must be on the person, not on what that person does in the privacy of his or her bedroom.

If however Desmond Tutu is saying that as a Christian I have to accept as moral, homosexual acts, then he is of course speaking absolute nonsense. Church teaching in this regard is equally clear: “Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.’ They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.[3]

So, depending on what Tutu meant, he is either right and we can agree and join him in fighting homophobia, or he is sadly terribly wrong and misguided, not to be taken seriously. Yet, even if the latter is true, we must nevertheless continue to fight homophobia as one of the great evils of our society! Homophobia is totally unacceptable! 


  1. He almost certainly means we should amend our morals and condone homosexuality completely, including marriage of same sex couples.

  2. Tutu has always been a blurb. He obviously is a lost cause or, a cause without a cause.

    He likes to be on stage and will say anything to get there.

    As a so-called clergyman and bishop of the Anglican tradition, one would have thought he was fully acquainted with both Sacred Scripture and Tradition for "it is an abomination for a man to sleep with another man".

    This communist has no fear of the Lord. False Prophet!

  3. Make no mistake, it is a case of the latter here. Tutu sees homosexual acts as moral, and wants everyone else to see it that way too. He is an advocate of same-sex "marriage", thinks homosexuality is inborn (rubbish!) and is just all-round, fiercely and vociferously pro-gay. The man certainly is a peculiar "Christian" with his anti-scriptural beliefs and teachings. Whether he is calling on Christians to emulate buddhists, or denying that Christianity alone possesses all truth on God (in his book, 'God Is Not A Christian') - it seems Tutu always has a scandalous soundbite ready for anyone who will listen. I'd hate to agree with Robert Mugabe of all people, but his comment on this Tutu debacle over the weekend at a rally is spot-on: "When the bishop cannot interpret the bible properly, he should resign and leave it to those who can”.

  4. He is too, too much for me. His tongue is hinged in the middle

  5. Tutu was saying both, sort of, but seeing as the second interpretation is what you find most objectionable, let me deal with that.

    1. You are free to believe whatever you like, as is Tutu. He was speaking for his own beliefs. Note his use of the personal pronoun. He wasn't telling you to do anything, so...relax.

    2. The catechisms, church doctrine and scriptures have and are used to incite and defend homophobia, as some of the comments in this article illustrate. How do you fight homophobia while believing homosexual acts (whatever those are) to be "acts of grave depravity"? Do you say no to violence against homosexuals, but yes to depriving them the same rights as everybody else? If that's the case, then you are a homophobe. Believe what you like about the morality of it, by all means. It's not about that. It's about rights. If you believe, for whatever reason, that homosexuals should not have the same rights as everybody else, then you are a homophobe.

  6. Firstly, Tutu is not speaking for only his own beliefs. I assure you that there are a great many Anglicans who share Catholic belief on homosexual acts.

    Secondly, Catholic beliefs are never used to deny homosexuals their rights. You will, I am sure use the argument of marriage rights and, if you do argue that, you are wrong. Marriage is not their right. Holy Matrimony, the Church Sacrament, not the civil ceremony, is between a man and a woman. So homosexuals acquire no such right, just as a ten old child in South Africa acquires no right to vote.

    In short, Catholics are not because of their beliefs homophobic.