Two Voices

This week’s two voices addresses the question of what reaction we should have to the Catholic Church’s attitude towards gay people.

Rabbi Rene Pfertzel says… Screen shot 2014-11-03 at 10.56.16

Pope Francis made a huge and surprising move at the recent Roman Catholic synod, adding to the agenda a resolution recognising the “gifts and qualities” gay people can offer and recognition of the “precious support” same-sex partners give to each other.

The Church’s answer – rejection of this draft – is less surprising, as religions have always been bastions of conservatism. And yet, by rejecting LGBT people, religions betray their duty of compassion. LGBT people of faith find themselves in a deadlock. They want to express their faith and spirituality in churches, synagogues, mosques and so on, but most of the time need to hide who they are.

We could argue being gay, lesbian, transgender, is not a choice, and that countries where same-sex marriage has been legalised have not collapsed. We could remind the bishops of their scriptures: “The Shabbat was made for man, and not man for the Shabbat” (Mark 2:27), which I understand as a plea to value human nature.

Lastly, we could list all the Torah laws which are unenforceable, such as selling one’s daughter as a slave or killing a rebellious son. Progressive Judaism values loving relationships based on respect and trust. It embraces human diversity through positive values. Our sages said: “Do not judge your fellow until you have stood in his place” (Pirqe Avot 2:5).

• Rene Pfertzel is assistant rabbi at Finchley Progressive Synagogue

Surat Rathgeber Knan. Photo: Ajamu

Surat Rathgeber Knan. Photo: Ajamu

Surat Shaan Knan says…

Pope Francis famously said: ”If someone is gay and looking for the Lord, who am I to judge?” Perhaps looking at the term “judgement” is a first step to finding an answer to this question.

Having just gone through a High Holy Days period of self-reflection, one of Hillel’s most quoted ideas comes to my mind: “Don’t judge your fellow human being until you have reached that person’s place.” As much as I feel outraged from my Liberal Jewish viewpoint that the Catholic Church has shunned gay people, I wonder if we should not first take a hard look at our own religious community.

Have we really welcomed everyone? In the Rainbow Jews project, I have come across many stories of British Jews who feel living both identities – Jewish and LGBT – poses a conflict. In a clip featuring both progressive and conservative voices on LGBT issues, Rabbi Mirvis stressed gay Jews should feel welcome in synagogues, but same-sex marriage in Orthodox synagogues was a clear no-go.

Our Progressive congregations have celebrated same-sex unions for a while now. It is getting better for LGBT Jews in the UK, but work still needs to be done in our own faith communities.

Pope Francis has suffered a setback, but we also have to see that many Catholics voted for his proposed reforms. Having such discussions at the synod is a huge achievement in itself.

• Surat Shaan Knan is project manager for the oral history project Rainbow Jews