A Spanish diocese has rejected a request by the city government to have Bishop Juan Antonio Reig Pla transferred due to a controversial Good Friday sermon that critics have labeled as “homophobic.”
“Our father and pastor, Juan Antonio Reig Pla, the Bishop of Alcala de Henares, has always taught Catholic doctrine with charity and truth, and he will continue to do so with the grace of God,” the diocese said in a statement.
The motion to transfer the bishop was presented by the group Union, Progress and Democracy and was backed by other left-leaning organizations as well as the Spanish Socialist Party. The ruling People’s Party, however, has opposed the motion, which demands that the bishop be transferred to another diocese and that he not be invited to any official event in the city.
Bishop Reig Pla has faced intense criticism after remarks given in a Good Friday sermon in which he condemned sexual practices he believes to be harmful.
As part of a larger cultural critique of sexual behavior in modern society, he lamented how some with same-sex attraction “corrupt and prostitute themselves or go to gay night clubs” in order to “validate” their struggle.
“I assure you what they encounter is pure hell,” he said on April 6.
In response to the bishop, Socialist Party spokesman Javier Rodriguez said his comments have put him as well as the diocese “on the homophobic map.”
In its statement, however, the Diocese of Alcala de Henares underscored its respect for all persons, regardless of their condition, and for legitimately constituted authorities.
But it also stressed the need for the right to religious freedom and that “no human institution has the authority to judge, and much less, prevent the teaching of Catholic doctrine.”
When such an effort is made formally by a political institution, the diocese said, “The result is a sad and intolerable violation of human rights and of the principle of the separation of Church and state.”
Bishop Reig Pla has gained the support of the Bishops’ Conference of Spain, whose secretary general, Auxiliary Bishop Juan Antonio Martinez Camino of Madrid called the controversy caused by his sermon “unjust.”
The International Federation of Associations of Catholic Doctors has also voiced support for Bishop Reig Pla as well as more than 20 locals struggling with same-sex attraction who personally wrote the bishop to thank him for his remarks.