MANILA, Philippines--Parishes that allow cross-dressing homosexuals to play female saints in religious festivals are insulting the Virgin Mary, the nation?s top Catholic cleric said Monday.
?We should keep sacred what is sacred,? Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales said as he admonished parishes for allowing male homosexuals to play Saint Helena and other female roles traditionally given to local beauty queens.
But leaders of the gay community maintained that ?Marian devotees? among them deserved a place in the Maytime tradition.
Also known as Santacruzan (Feast of the Holy Cross), the colorful processions are a major tourist draw in this predominantly Catholic country.
?The procession is religious. [But] what the [parishes] do is organize a parade,? Rosales said over Church-run Radio Veritas. ?That?s an insult to the Blessed Mother.?
?Instead of pious young women, gay men are paraded, which makes [the procession] ridiculous,? Rosales said in Filipino.
Rosales said he had taken the leaders of one parish to task for having gay cross-dressers participate in these processions. ?I told them that?s not right because that?s a procession. You are destroying the purity of the devotion.?
He recalled issuing a circular, then a warning that he would not celebrate Mass in chapels or parishes allowing such practices.
Rosales stressed he was not discriminating against homosexuals but only wanted to preserve the solemnity of the processions.
Reached for comment, Jonas Bagas, secretary general of Lagablab (Lesbian and Gay Legislative Advocacy Network), doubted Rosales? remarks would stop the participation of homosexual men who count themselves as ?Marian devotees.?
?There is nothing new about that position. It is expected and we have known that all along, yet these processions continue because we are also Marian devotees,? Bagas told the Inquirer.
?The Church should be liberal about this,? Bagas said, warning that the cardinal?s remarks might further alienate the gay community from the Catholic Church.
?The tradition persists because our Catholic faith has not been diminished,? Bagas said.
Speaking for another gay advocacy group, Ang Ladlad chair Danton Remoto said: ?I don?t think they intend to make a mockery of the procession but they are there because they are true devotees of the Virgin Mary.?
Remoto, a professor at Ateneo de Manila University, also noted that most gay participants were low-income types who had spent for expensive gowns they would wear in the procession ?out of the goodness and love in their hearts for the Virgin Mary.?
?There is really no intention to malign the Catholic Church,? Remoto stressed.
Rosales also discouraged the holding of ?dances? at town plazas to cap Marian processions and prayers.
?We should not set aside the fact that our beloved Blessed Virgin Mother Mary is the center of these activities and celebrations. We should give importance to Mary and reflect on her life. Everything we do in this time is for our devotion to her, he said.
?There are new practices in the different barangays, but if these do not conform with the lessons we learned from the Virgin Mary, let us not give them importance,? the cardinal said. With an AFP report