Homosexuality is not a sin Pope Francis

Jorge Mario Bergoglio Could Listen To Dattatreya Hosabele
Voices LGBTQ Saturday, March 19, 2016 - 17:47

What the Joint Secretary of India’s Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) said about homosexuality and same sex relations will not make for international headlines. It doesn’t quite fit the narrative currently ploughed within the country and echoing back from outside seeking to frame all Indians as backward and uncouth.

“Sexual preferences are private and personal. Why should the RSS express its view in a public forum? RSS has no view on it. It is for people to have their way. Personal preference of sex is not discussed in the RSS and we don’t even want to discuss it,” RSS leader Dattatreya Hosabele said at the recent India Today conclave in Delhi. “Why should RSS have an opinion on homosexuality? It is not a crime as long as it does not affect lives of others. Sexual preferences are personal issues,” he added.

We live in Gregorian (introduced by Pope Gregory X111 in 1582) times according to the dominant English calendar. Argentina’s Jorge Mario Bergiglio who became the 266th pope of the Roman Catholic Church taking the name of Pope Francis in 2013 created a stir with his views on homosexuality. “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?” he said. It was confusing then, but clear three years later. For Rome, homosexual acts are sinful, but homosexual orientation is not. In many recent statements, the Pontiff has reinforced this. “There can be no confusion between the family God wants and any other type of union”, he has said on many occasions.

Comparisons by definition are illuminating and this one sparkles. Turmoil is in the air, as much as in the Sangh Parivar as in the Pope’s Parivar.

Sin or what gods deem ‘unnatural’ is at the heart of this global debate. Commentary in India has rightfully asked what the RSS’ extended family, the Sangh Parivar, will do next. The straight talk from Hossabele, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) ideological mentor holds hope that the government may rescind Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) that makes homosexuality a crime. It calls such relationships “unnatural sex” with a maximum punishment of up to 10 years in jail even if it is between two consenting adults. Striking a blow for personal freedoms the Delhi High Court had in 2009 called Section 377 discriminatory and struck it down.  However, the Supreme Court in December 2013 upheld the 158-year-old law, angering many Indians especially in the LGBT community.  In a relief to them last month, the Supreme Court referred a curative petition to review its 2013 order to a constitution bench.

Just like the reformers in the church who are trying to find logic in the Pope’s reasoning and spinning it as a move towards open debates on homosexuality, there are people within the Sangh Parivar who share Hossabele’s view, at least partially.  Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has publicly stated that the Supreme Court had taken a conservative view on this. Prior to Jaitley’s statements, RSS Member Ram Madhav who is currently a BJP General Secretary has also said that irrespective of one’s views of homosexuality, it was highly debatable where this constituted crime.

There is however, a significant difference between the Pope’s views and that of Hossabele.  It has to do with judgement about right and wrong.  It has to do with one man – in this case the Pope – taking a call on behalf of God for the entire Roman Catholic flock. The Pope has stretched out a hand to gay people, but with the overarching message to return to the fold as ordained by God.

Where Hindu texts accommodate and accept all human interactions without judgement, the Abrahamic texts judge and humiliate. This is a fact. Hinduism doesn’t need middlemen – politicians do. Hossabele’s statement will most likely be brushed under the carpet because it dares to care not in the name of god but in the name of humanity. In the name of letting people lead their lives whichever way they deem best without fear of misery here and now and in an after life.

Rome’s views on homosexuality are navigating in troubled waters as well. In the UK, Australia and North America surveys show that people do not consider it a crime. According to the Pew Research Centre, most Catholics in the US don’t even see homosexuality as a sin. But Pope Francis continues to issue timely reminders of the Catholic Church’s opposition to gay marriage most recently in Italy where a fierce debate rages on the subject.

Hosssabele has upped the ante for the BJP and for the Congress, but also hedged his own position. The seesaw will continue. Congress lawmaker Shashi Tharoor’s attempts to introduce a bill on the subject in parliament found little favour. Where the decision will fall will clearly indicate where the real opposition is to overturning the draconian Article 377 which punishes people severely for loving differently. It is based on an archaic law, of a time when India was a colony. Where is the pride for a country like India in this remarkably out dated and irrelevant prejudice?


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