Antigua St John’s – The newly appointed Roman Catholic bishop’s call for the decriminalization of buggery is not finding favour with other church leaders.
Since Bishop Kenneth Richards’ statement on radio last Friday, at least one church leader, Rev Carlwin Greenaway, superintendent of the Methodist Church, has distanced himself from the suggestion.
Now, chairman of the Provincial Elders Conference of the Eastern West Indies Province of the Moravian Church, Rev Dr Cortroy Jarvis, also wants to disagree.
“I am surprised that we seem to be re-introducing things that I thought we had settled long ago,” he said. “I totally disagree with the call to decriminalize buggery, for I feel that once that happens, it would open up the door to a lot of other things.”
Rev Jarvis added that should buggery be removed as a criminal act, this would open the door for homosexuality to “raise its head” in the open with boldness.
“You cannot control what happens in a person’s bedroom, but there has to be a moral compass for our society,” he said. “People should know what acceptable behaviour is and what is not.”
The PEC chairman noted that the Bible is very clear on the issue of homosexuality. “In Leviticus 20 verse 13 it states: ‘If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall be put to death: their blood shall be upon them.’ While I think the second part of the passage is harsh in today’s context, it shows the seriousness with which the subject is treated from a biblical perspective,” Rev Jarvis explained.
He added that the “real picture,” as stated in the Bible, is for a man and a woman, and not man and man. He does not see any justification for repealing the laws.
“I don’t see any open discrimination against homosexuals in the society,” the reverend said. “We have been living with them amongst us for a long time. Because adultery was illegal at one time and now it is not, is not a strong enough justification in my view.”
According to Rev Jarvis, if the laws against buggery were lifted, this would strike a “serious blow” against morality. “We have enough serious problems to contend with in the country than to consider things such as lifting the laws against buggery,” he said.
The newly installed Roman Catholic bishop for St John’s-Basseterre, Kenneth Richards, said he would support any effort that will de-criminalise buggery.
Speaking on Observer Radio on Friday, Bishop Richards said while de-criminalization does not make the act right, it should be used as a tool for non-discrimination.
“The argument to de-criminalise can be justified to the extent that adultery and this is the argument that I use in time past was on the books as a criminal offense, and it has been decriminalized,” the bishop explained. “It is on this basis that buggery can also be de-criminalised. However, this does not make adultery right, nor does it make buggery right.”
Richards added that de-criminalising the act would allow anyone to feel welcome to attend his church. He said he does not place labels on anyone, as the doors are open to all.
His stance is likely to be at odds with other church leaders who have maintained a hardline stance against buggery and homosexuality.
Superintendent of the Methodist Church Rev Carlwin Greenaway said while the clergy has not issued a specific statement on the matter, the church operates on the principle that any act of sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman is against the teachings of God.
“However, we recognise that there are other sexual sins. Who is to say that one is greater than the other?” he asked.
He agreed that the fact that buggery is still a criminal offense, yet other sins are not, has to be considered. “Should we make extra-marital sex a crime?” he asked. “We know that that is unrealistic to expect.”
The debate(s) continue across the Caribbean
Peace and tolerance