Gay unions and clerical abuse | Inquirer Opinion
At Large

Gay unions and clerical abuse

They’re called “lipstick lesbians,” women who love women, or are primarily sexually attracted to other women, but who “wear lipstick” along with other forms of makeup as well as sexy attire, and appear to all the world as seeking men’s attention.

If you prefer to categorize lesbians using the “butch-femme” divide, then they will definitely fall within the “femme” side. “Butches” generally prefer men’s outfits, assume male stances, and appear to be rejecting the “feminine” side of their persons.


But maybe Isabelle Daza and Georgina Wilson are not so much “lipstick lesbians,” or even just lesbians, as, depending on which side you’re at on the public opinion fence, well-intentioned celebrities or desperate attention-seekers.

You know what I’m talking about, right? Daza and Wilson, both “it” girls of the moment, being widely-recognized models, TV hosts, actors, and first cousins at that, posed for photographer Mark Nicdao while locking lips and later posted the picture on Instagram.


The post captured much attention not just because two women kissing are still a novelty in these parts, but also because both have never “come out” as lesbians and in fact are in very public romantic relationships—with straight men.

But there seems to be a perfectly reasonable explanation for the cousins’ provocative pose. Daza captioned the image as their “take on equality for gay rights.”

This, in the wake of news that the US Supreme Court recently nullified both the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a law that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, and Proposition 8, which made same-sex marriage illegal in California.

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Then again, the photo may not have been a pitch for a local version of the landmark US decision as a publicity stunt and an attempt to shock the public—although girl-on-girl kissing lost much of its shock value after American entertainers made a habit of it in awards presentations.

Still, the question does loom large after the US “Supremes” voted to knock down legal barriers to same-sex unions. We all know Philippine law often relies on legal precedents set in the United States, and popular culture here references American events with amazing alacrity.

Engenderights, a legal NGO whose focus is self-explanatory, is leading the move to make the most of the US Supreme Court decision. For starters, says Engenderights executive director Clara Rita Padilla, she hopes the “LGBT community’s win … will also be celebrated here.”


“Enacting a law that provides equality in marriage and divorce is one step toward ending discrimination and hate crimes against LGBTs. It is an important step toward a humane and just society where people respect the rights of others,” she says.

The US ruling, says Padilla, is timely for the Philippines because an antidiscrimination bill seeking to protect LGBTs from discrimination—even gender-based violence and hate crimes—is still pending in Congress. At the same time, “women’s reproductive rights are being denied due to fundamentalist religious beliefs.”

And if a photo of two women kissing can get thousands of “likes,” while a story like the “coming out” of singer Charice gets generally favorable press, then perhaps we aren’t all that medieval, after all.

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And speaking of medieval…

One of the more persistent of the many scandals bedeviling the institutional Catholic Church is that of the sexual misconduct of priests—either violating their vows of celibacy with affairs that sometimes produce offspring, or sexually abusing or exploiting members of their flock, including children.

Now a retired Catholic bishop in Australia lays out an analysis of this history of abuse but digs deeper beyond the human stories to unmask a wider, deeper “institutional” malaise.

The book’s title says it all: “For Christ’s Sake: End Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church…for Good.” But as a reviewer says, author Bishop Geoffrey Robinson “dares something more fundamentally revolutionary… He dares to pull on the thread that unravels the cloak that has hidden the institutional disease. We all know the symptoms, of which sex abuse is the most apparent and most alarming. Robinson unwinds the thread slowly, and for the most part ignores all the horrific particulars and incomprehensible depravities of the abuse scandal. That part of the story by now is well-documented.”

Instead, writes Robinson in his introduction: “We can no longer limit our blame to the individuals, but must also look for factors within the very culture of the Church that have contributed. And when so many authorities in the Church have attempted to conceal the abuse, or treated victims of abuse as though they were the enemy of the Church, we must again look for systemic factors behind such behavior, factors that are part of the very culture of the Church.”

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Beyond his book, Bishop Robinson has launched a petition drive (on calling on Pope Francis to “convene a full council of the Church on this issue—and finally begin an open, transparent process to identify and remove the causes of this abuse.”

Almost 20 years ago, says Robinson, he helped set up “some of the Church’s first responses to this issue,” and while he “felt the disapproval of authorities when I tried speaking out,” if enough men and women of goodwill join in the call, Church authorities “will not be able to simply ignore the message any longer.”

His last appeal: “I still believe in the great beauty of the Church. It’s sustained me through the worst of this ugliness. Now I have hope that we can truly confront the horror of this abuse and ensure it never happens again.”

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TAGS: At Large, Catholic Church, gays, Gender issues, lesbians, LGBT, opinion, Rina Jimenez-David, sexual abuse
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