IN March 2000 Pope John Paul II publicly asked God’s forgiveness for the sins of Roman Catholics through the ages. Among the crimes against humanity alluded to by the pope were the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the church’s silence in the midst of the deportation of Jews from Rome by the Nazis.
Also on the laundry list of those victimised by the Catholic Church were ethnic groups, which John Paul II admitted had endured “contempt for their cultures and religious traditions”, and women, who were “all too often humiliated and marginalised”.
There was one notable word, however, that did not pass the pope’s lips in the course of his apology: homosexuals. With this omission, the Catholic Church sent a clear signal that it intended to continue its medieval repression of gay men and lesbians for the foreseeable future.
Of course, such sweeping institutional judgments can and do have severe effects on the lives of individuals, a fact illustrated in excruciating detail in the book God Loves Bakla, published last year by Raymond Alikapa, a gay Filipino lawyer who now lives in Cambodia.
“Bakla” is a word used in the Philippines to refer to a man who behaves in an effeminate manner, and Alikapa’s autobiographical book which he refers to as his ?nti-closet”, reveals what it was like to grow up in a Catholic family and spend the first four decades of his life being led to believe that he was a sinful wretch because of his sexual preferences.
The most fascinating chapter details Alikpala’s entrance into the novitiate with the aim of becoming a Jesuit priest. Ironically, it was during this time that he had his first sexual experience, and the church’s contempt for homosexuals is driven home when a guilt-ridden Alikpala, rather than keep quiet, confesses his “sin” and hopes for mercy.
Instead, he is summarily ejected from the Jesuit order. Such is the life of a homosexual in the Catholic Church: damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
Through his decades-long ordeal, Alikpala remains relentlessly, perhaps even naively, optimistic about the power of love to over come all obstacles, and he manages to retain his fervent faith in God despite his eventual rejection of Catholicism based on its archaic views on homosexuality.
To hear the rest of Raymond Alikpala’s inspiring story, stop by Meta House (#6 Street 264) tonight at 6:30pm, where the author will speak. Copies of God Loves Bakla will also be available for purchase.