Interviewed by Noël Jean Fogang Néguim, Bernard Amadou Tikele and Ireneaus Chongwain Chia
Against a backdrop of a growing and an aggressive global advocacy for the acceptance and legalisation of homosexuality, the Church’s standpoint is almost being drowned even though the issue is essentially moral. To throw more light on the Church’s teaching on homosexuality, especially at this crucial moment, L’Effort Camerounais talked to Douala Emeritus Archbishop, Christian Cardinal Tumi in this exclusive interview.
Your Eminence, when asked about his views on homosexuality the Holy Father, Pope Francis, said if a homosexual seeks God in all sincerity who is he to judge him ---
The first time the Holy Father said that was when he was going to South America and was asked what was his stand on homosexuality. But I would like to know if you are quoting or interpreting what the Holy Father said. However, it is not easy for a person living in sin to serve God. The Pope simply asked who he was to judge another person. He was citing the Scriptures where God said, do not judge and you will not be judged, but people misinterpreted him. I or any other pastor could say the same thing. Christ did not come to judge but to save sinners. Homosexuality is a sin which is objectively condemnable, but Christ did not come to condemn sinners, but their sins. Christ wants the sinner to be converted and live.
But what exactly is the Catholic Church’s position on homosexuality?
The teaching of the Catholic Church on homosexuality is very clear: it is a grievous sin. A man marrying another man, and a woman a woman, is not only going against the teaching of the Church, but also against the Law of God. God created man and woman and told them to multiply. In a homosexual marriage procreation is not possible; and one of the conditions for a valid marriage is openness to procreation. Homosexuality therefore goes directly against God’s Law.
May we know your position on the on-going debate on homosexuality ---
During the last Synod on the Family in Rome some participants expressed the opinion that the Church should be more inclusive by opening up or accepting homosexuals.
These people have to be very practical. I do not understand what they mean by opening up.
One of the criticisms against the Holy Father is that he has permitted Church officials like Cardinal Kasper to make presentations that call on the Church to review her teaching on homosexuality by having a Church that includes or accepts homosexuals.
Let them define their terms. What do they mean by inclusiveness and opening up?
They are certainly working from the standpoint that homosexuals are presently excluded from the Catholic Church.
Homosexuals are not excluded from the Church. Homosexuality is just a sin among thousands of sins. We are all sinners and the Bible says anyone who says he is not a sinner is a liar. Why do they set aside homosexuality from all other sins? In imitation of Christ the Church has never condemned a sinner, but only the sin and not the person. A human being can never lose the image of God that he has no matter his sins. The Church has never at any time in history condemned a person but only the person’s acts which are not part of the person because he can be converted. A thief today can become a saint tomorrow. Stealing is not part of his nature.
What then should be a Catholic faithful’s attitude towards a homosexual?
They must love the person and pray for his conversion as the homosexual act is sinful just like adultery and fornication. We should not hate homosexuals as God does not hate them. God loves us but He does not love our sins. If God loves sins He will not be God.
Can a homosexual receive the Sacraments?
Just like a thief, can he be baptised if he does not renounce his sins? When I was in Garoua, we used to proclaim the names of those who were to be baptised on Easter. When we were about to baptise some young people on Easter Day and asked if there was any person opposed to any of them being baptised, a lady stood up and said she was against the baptism of one of the boys because he was not yet converted. She said if they count three thieves in the village, if he is not the first, he will be the second. So he was put aside for one year. Baptism means conversion. Just like we do not baptise a polygamist, we cannot baptise a homosexual. I do not mean that one has to swear that he or she will never sin, no! But, there are promises that are made. Do you deny Satan and all his false promises? If you say no, you will not be baptised. Anybody who is in state of mortal sin cannot receive any Sacrament. I do not want to single out the grievous sin of homosexuality.
If a Christian comes up to you today and tells you that he is a homosexual and wants to marry another homosexual, what will your reaction be and what will you tell him?
I will tell the person that it is impossible and that he wants to posit an act which is against God’s Law. We affirm that homosexuals cannot get married validly. There are three essential laws of God that make a marriage valid – unity of marriage, that is, a man marries one and only one woman and a woman one and only one man. Secondly, indissolubility of marriage as marriage is for life till the death of one of the partners. And thirdly, openness to procreation, which means a young couple getting married must have the intention of having children.
There is a global advocacy for homosexuality to be accepted and even legalised -----
By talking to these homosexuality advocates I have discovered that they are confusing respecting the person and condemning the evil that the person does. Our responsibility as pastors is to preach the Word of God in season and out of season. Why is their focus only on homosexuality? There are hundreds of evil acts and grievous sins like stealing, embezzlement, and divorce, for example. Why do they single out homosexuality?
So what message do you have for someone who tells you he is a homosexual?
As a pastor I will dialogue with him and make him see the evil in being a homosexual, just as I would with someone who tells me he is an adulterer. I will not condemn him, but tell him that one of the reasons for marrying is to have children, if God gives you, as having children is not a right but a gift from God. The second is to have sexual relationship with your wife according to God’s will. A sexual relationship within marriage is a holy act willed by God who made marriage. The sexual act must therefore be within marriage to be a holy act. Outside marriage it is always a grievous sin.
These days some western countries are linking economic assistance to developing countries with the legalisation of homosexuality. If ever homosexuality were to be legalised in Cameroon, what should a Catholic Mayor do if he were asked to celebrate a homosexual union?
He should not accept in conscience. A homosexual marriage is not marriage in fact; a marriage in inverted commas is not marriage. True marriage is between a man and a woman. If the state recognises or legalises homosexual marriages, we are going to go out against the state. We shall tell the state that homosexuality is evil. It is sexual immorality that led to the fall of the Roman Empire, the unconquerable that had taken the world captive. A state that legalises homosexuality weakens itself. In our tradition we do not accept homosexuality because it destroys the family. Marriage should be promoted and never homosexuality. Homosexuality is a crime against humanity because if it is promoted, we will end up not having children. A family where there are no more young children is on its way to extinction.
Do you therefore see the global advocacy for the acceptance of homosexuality as a plot to destroy the family?
Of course it is! I hold that affirmation. Homosexuality is not only a plot against the family but also against the existence of the human race. A German journalist visited me recently; and rightly citing me, told me that I once mentioned that homosexuality is a crime against humanity and asked me if I still hold that view. I told him I still hold firmly to this view and he left. The President of Senegal, Macky Sall, told President Barack Obama that we respect homosexuals but we cannot approve homosexuality. You have to respect a human being whatever his or her crimes. I admire him for that. We respect homosexuals, but we cannot approve the legalisation of homosexual marriages.
This is a moral issue. Can the Church’s position on homosexuality ever change?
No, it is impossible! It is not the Law of the Church, but the Law of God and the Church has no power to change God’s Law. The Pope can only modify the law of which he is the law giver, not God’s Law. A homosexual marriage is an act which is diametrically opposed to the Law of God.
You are therefore saying that moral laws are immutable.
Truly moral laws cannot be changed because they are the laws of God, who is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. But any moral law made by Man that is in agreement with God’s law is an interpretation of the Law of God. There is a fundamental principle in moral action which is that good must be done and evil avoided. God has created three groups of living things: plants, animals and humans. Animals and plants obey their laws automatically and instinctively, but Man is a problem for himself and to God because of his liberty. God has created Man as a free being and He respects Man’s freedom. There is no culture that accepts that evil is good, or that what is good is evil. Man may know the good to be done and not do it and the evil to be avoided, and not avoid it. That is why we have prisons for humans, not for animals, because a human being is judged on the fundamental moral principle that he knew the good that was supposed to be done and did not do it. This is why humans are punished. If Man were not free, he would not be punished or rewarded.
But some of those who advocate homosexual marriages say people are free to choose who to love?
That is why I have said Man is a problem for himself and to God. No animal that knows what is good does the contrary, only Man. God has given us the freedom and we are even free not to choose Him. We are free to go to hell with Satan or to heaven with the angels. But there is joy in heaven over one sinner repenting. Man is free and this has become a danger for him, but we are talking about responsible freedom as Man’s freedom is not absolute. He is conditioned by the other person’s freedom. Otherwise anyone can say he has the right to slaughter another. To choose evil for Man is an abuse of his freedom. Man is free to choose between two things that are morally good. You cannot sin without freedom. To sin you must know that what you are doing is sinful and you want to do it.
So freedom goes with responsibility; choose and face the consequences?
Yes, responsible freedom. If God were to oblige us to go to heaven, we would be like animals because heaven is a place of reward. You cannot be rewarded where you had no choice.
Proponents of homosexuality say the Church discriminates against homosexuals.
Why do they not say the Church discriminates against those who commit adultery, fornication, and murder, for example? Why do they single out homosexuality? As I said earlier, the Church does not discriminate against a sinner. The Church teaches that a man does not lose his dignity whatever his crime. The Church has never publicly told us who is in hell; but she has told us by signs from heaven, who is in heaven. A man can change on the eve of his death, if like the Prodigal Son, he goes back to his Father who is in heaven and is willing to receive him with open arms.
Which means someone who says he is a Catholic and carries out advocacy for homosexuals is not part of the Catholic communion?
His act is devilish! But the Church does not send away somebody from the Church. The only moral fault that merits excommunication from the Church is the sin of abortion.
So the Church is in her role as Mother and Teacher.
That is right. Often children who are difficult in a family are more loved by their parents than those who are obedient. That is why the senior son in the Parable of the Prodigal Son is annoyed when the younger son who has squandered the family’s wealth returns and his father kills the fattest calf. That is why the father tells his senior brother that his younger brother was lost and has been found. Parents often go for the child who is difficult, not necessarily because they agree with what the child is doing, but with the intention of putting him back on the right path. And God loves us more than our parents love us. During Lent the Gospel tells us that God does not want the death of a sinner, but prefers that the sinner be converted and live. He is not the God of the dead but of the living.
There is great pressure on Cameroon and other African nations to legalise homosexuality. During his last official visit to France the Head of State, Paul Biya, though affirming he is against homosexuality, seems to have opened a window by saying that the mentality towards homosexuals in Cameroon could some day evolve towards acceptance.
What is evil can never become good. What is essentially morally evil will not change with time. In the Bible homosexuality is condemned. The Bible is more than 2000 years old. It will never change! However, sympathy for the sinner is important. Therefore, homosexuality will never, never, be accepted in the Church as a good act.
What message do you have for civil and political leaders, especially lawmakers; and many of them are Catholics, who are under enormous pressure to follow the tide by legalising homosexual marriages?
Following the tide is being sheepish. We are rational beings. Their stand should be that of the Church and the President of Senegal, Macky Sall. We do not condemn homosexuals, but homosexuality which is intrinsically evil. We respect homosexuals, but we cannot accept that homosexuality is a good moral act. Even our culture is against it. I know some parents who are very sad when they learnt that their daughter is married to another girl in America. This is terrible as it means they will never live to see their grand children. If our lawmakers take decisions because they are under pressure that is weakness. If they give money as a condition, the lawmakers should tell them to keep their money. I know a bishop who refused millions because he refused that abortions were not going to be committed in clinics in his diocese. Any people who put God aside cannot develop properly. Europe is what it is today thanks to Christianity. The first universities and formal institutions of learning as we know them today were started by the Church. The Sorbonne in France, the University of Oxford in England and Bologne in Italy, which are 13th Century universities, were started by the Church. The Barbarians overran Europe and it is the Church that rebuilt the culture of Europe, even though today Europe is turning its back on Christianity. God created Man and asked Man to develop the world. You cannot develop the things that God has created without God. And the first thing to be developed is Man. You cannot develop Man without God and there is nothing you can do without God, for He has said without me you can do nothing.