A lot has been said about Pope Francis' recent of the cuff comments on gays ("Who am I to judge?") and hundreds of religious leaders world wide have been asked to share their thoughts but I was still surprised to see this interview with Saltillo Bishop Raúl Vera posted by Terra Mexico yesterday ("Homophobia is a mental illness: Saltillo bishop").
The Bishop has some funky theories on what determines whether someone is born gay (he chalks it up to hormonal differences) but speaks forcefully against religious based homophobia and calls homophobes the perverse ones.
Here is Bishop Vera on a mother who worried her son was hanging out with a bunch of "degenerate gays':
One mother came to me and said that she was being watchful of her son because he was hanging out with "those degenerate gays" and I said "so blame yourself for it because that's the way your son developed in your womb and he didn't develop into a degenerate or a perverse person. He was born with a certain constitution you are trying to ignore. Calm down, you are the mother of that child and he began to be who he now is inside your womb. So the first one I'd kick out would be you because you are the perverse one who is first in line." That's what I said.And on homophobes:
Why would I immediately think a gay or lesbian person is perverse or depraved the moment they approach me? That's how people who are homophobic react. It's a mental illness in which you see gays as depraved and promiscuous. You have to be sick in the head for that.He also tells the reporter people have to stop bashing gays with the words of the Bible and that they should read the passages they use to condemn gays within a historical context to realize the Bible does not condemn homosexuality.
In December, the Associated Press profiled Bishop Vera and described his human rights work in a Mexican region known for the high rates of violence ("Mexico bishop inspires, infuriates with activism").
Yesterday's interview is not the first time Bishop has supported LGBT issues. The AP says that he backed a same-sex civil unions law in the region and was called to the Vatican two years ago to explain an outreach program he organized for gay youth.
He has also received death threats for his outspokenness.
UPDATES: Over at Reddit, there has been some back and forth on whether Bishop Vera was insensitive in calling homophobia a "mental illness" from people who feel it unfairly groups people diagnosed with mental illness with people who hate gays. I do not think the Bishop meant to disparage people diagnosed with mental illness but it did bring to mind a comment made by Mexican human rights advocate Ricardo Hernandez Forcada on Twitter:
Si fuera enfermedad, requeriría terapia y la homofobia no sería responsabilidad del sujeto http://t.co/f21maTG4ri"If it were an illness," Ricardo said, "it would require therapy and the subject would not be held responsible for his homophobia."
— Ricardo Hndz Forcada (@richforcada) August 20, 2013
He later added "Homophobia is not an illness, it's a prejudice."
In the meantime, the influential and ultra-homophobic U.S.-based ACI Prensa who had a role in questioning the Bishop in year's past for his advocacy on behalf of the LGBT community is at it again in light of these new comments wondering whether the Vatican should even leave him in his post. This time they take issue with the Bishop's comments that homosexuality might develop in a woman's womb.
- Mexican Bishop calls homophobia a "mental illness" (New Ways Ministry)