In Belize, a former British colony in Central America, Catholic Bishop Lawrence Nicasio has dropped his church’s appeal of a judicial ruling which struck down in 2016 an anti-sodomy law. Because the local Catholic Church hierarchy was the last plaintiff calling for the reversal of the ruling, the ruling will now remain in force.

According to local 7NewsBelize.com, a leading homosexual activist was satisfied with the result. Caleb Orozco told the media, "When the Catholic Church decided to withdraw, it finally reflected the values of compassion, service, and impacting the lives of people in a way that cannot be described, only felt. One of the things I've come to realize after over a decade in advocacy is that legal victories by themselves don't bring the change, and that the hearts and minds of our people need be engaged in regards to how we treat each other as citizen." Orozco’s attorney affirmed that he is not seeking financial compensation from the Church.

Before the announcement on March 5 of the Catholic Church’s withdrawal, the bishop’s resolve to confront the issue was apparently wavering. According to 7NewsBelieze.com, ". . . [A]s early as the beginning of February this year it started to surface, that the Roman Catholics were not meeting deadlines as litigants in the case. They did not file their written submissions in time, and their attorney on record went before the Court of Appeal and asked to be removed as their legal representative."

For its part, the government of Belize is going forward with an appeal to the high court, asking if  "sex" in the nation's constitution should also include "sexual orientation."

In August 2016, the Supreme Court of Belize struck down the anti-sodomy provisions of the country’s legal code. Apart from the Catholic Church, other Christian denominations refused to take part, including the Anglican Church and the Belize Council of Churches, which represents a number of denominations. The National Evangelical Association was not allowed to participate in the case.

In an article the New Ways Ministry website, which groups together Catholics who dissent from the Catholic Church’s teachings concerning sexuality, writer Francis DeBernardo opined, “While Orozco is correct that the church's decision exhibits some positive values, it is sad that Belize's church leaders ever became involved in such a case. Catholic Church leaders should be working to eradicate laws which violate the human dignity of LGBT people by criminalizing them, not by trying to thwart the process of decriminalization.”

DeBernardo wrote that Bishop Lawrence Nicasio of Belize “made the right decision to withdraw the appeal. In the interest of transparency and clarity, it would have been better if he had also stated his reason for doing so, but no such explanation seems to exist.” DeBernardo wrote that he hopes that the bishop’s motivation was “based on a realization that Catholic social teaching, as well as particular teaching about homosexuality, does not condone the criminalization of people based on either sexual orientation or even sexual behavior. It would be nice to think that perhaps Pope Francis' more tolerant and welcoming approach to LGBT people may have had an influence, too.”

New Ways Ministry was founded in the 1970s by a Catholic priest: Rev. Robert Nugent, and Sister Jeannine Gramick of the Sisters of Notre Dame.
 

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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