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Bishops asked to affirm gay worth

The Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference has been challenged to include the International Day Against Homophobia in their church calendars.

Tony Robertson, a Gay Catholic activist, wrote to the Catholic Bishops of Australia on May 17, which marked the first International Day Against Homophobia as well as the 15th anniversary of the day the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders.

The event is the brainchild of French gay activist Louis-Georges Tin, and it has the support of the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA), the European Association of Human Rights, and the International Federation of Human Rights.

Mr Robertson, who is a social justice advocate and church worker in Brisbane, and a former Capuchin, also invited the Catholic Bishops to join an online campaign www.petitiononline.com/idaho/ to the United Nations Organisation, States, Governments and Parliaments to recognize this Day in official calendars, following the example of the International Women's Day or World Aids Day.

Mr Robertson challenged the bishops to confront "the culture of homophobia" in the Catholic Church.

He said: "The culture of homophobia offends against the teachings of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and Catholic Social Teachings, particularly the principle of the dignity of human life."

"The culture of homophobia has become a culture of death for too many young people in our Church and Australian community," Mr Robertson said. A 2003 report from LaTrobe University, "Don't Ask Don't Tell - Hidden in the Crowd: Documenting the links between sexuality and suicidal behaviours among young people" found that those identified as gay are six times more likely to attempt suicide than the general population. 2213 Australians committed suicide in that year. Lifeline estimates that six people kill themselves every day in this country.

Melbourne based theologian Michael B Kelly agrees that the Church needs to take action. "The Catholic hierarchy needs to throw its weight behind addressing the ongoing discrimination and violence against gay and lesbian people, and especially gay and lesbian youth," he told Online Catholics.

"Enormous advances in justice and understanding have been made over the past 30 years, but too many gay people - even in Catholic environments, continue to face prejudice and entrenched homophobia. It is high time the hierarchy addressed this area of justice and made good the words of the Catechism about respect, understanding and compassion," Mr Kelly said.

Read Tony Robertson's Letter to Bishops

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