Friday, September 27, 2013

Church leaders in Ukraine reject EU demand for new gay rights laws

Ukrainian Catholic leader Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk (CNS)Churches in Ukraine have said they oppose expanded freedoms for gay people as a precondition for closer ties with the European Union.

Fr Ihor Yatsiv, spokesman for the Ukrainian Catholic Church, told the Catholic News Service: “Although we don’t create obstacles for these people in their relations with God, our Church speaks in traditional language on issues like this.

“We haven’t received requests so far for special treatment from homosexuals, and we’ve no plans to introduce any pastoral facilities for them.”

In excerpts from an interview published on last Friday on the Eastern Catholic Church’s website, Ukrainian Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych rejected EU calls for greater homosexual rights under a planned Ukraine-EU association agreement.

“We are mistaken if we believe we have to opt for these diseases to attain European prosperity,” the archbishop said.

“Today, the EU looks like a teenager experiencing the restraints of morality, who needs a Christian education. Europe was not founded on same-sex couples, but on respect for human dignity.”

EU officials have said that new laws banning “propaganda of homosexuality” in Ukraine and Russia are incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights and have called on Ukraine to tighten its anti-discrimination rules.

A letter in mid-September to members of Parliament from Ukraine’s National Council of Churches and Religious Organizations said greater homosexual rights would “promote the advertising of homosexuality” and restrict “free speech for supporters of traditional families”.

Eastern and Latin Catholics make up a tenth of the Ukrainian population of 50 million, compared to around a third who belong to three rival Orthodox denominations.

During a visit in March to Brussels, Catholic and Protestant leaders backed accession to the EU, although closer links are opposed by Ukraine’s opposition Communist Party and the largest Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is linked to the Russian Orthodox Church.

In his interview, Archbishop Shevchuk said tolerant attitudes to homosexuality were “spreading in Ukrainian society”, adding that EU requirements were based on “pseudo-values” and “different conceptions of morality”.

Fr Yatsiv said the Ukrainian Catholic Church held the same views as Pope Francis, who said in an interview published in Jesuit publications he did not want homosexuals to feel the Catholic Church had “always condemned them”.

“There’s no tension between the standpoints of the Pope and our archbishop – they’re saying the same things, just in different words,” the spokesman told the Catholic News Service.

In August, the spokesman for Russia’s Catholic Church also ruled out pastoral facilities for gays and lesbians after international calls for a boycott of the Winter Olympics to protest Russia’s alleged mistreatment in the country.

Mgr Igor Kovalevsky, secretary-general of Russia’s bishops’ conference, said: “Homosexuality is a totally marginal issue in Russian society – there’s not great interest in it here. There are very few homosexuals in our Catholic communities, and we direct our pastoral work at individuals, not groups. But we don’t exclude homosexual people either.”