Beyond the Carolinas: Pope to discuss gay marriage, contraception

U.S./World News Notes

Pope Francis. Photo Credit: Tânia Rêgo/Agência Brasil.

Pope Francis.
Photo Credit: Tânia Rêgo/Agência Brasil.

Pope to discuss gay marriage, contraception

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican will convene a meeting of senior clerics this fall to re-examine church teachings on its most controversial issues: same-sex relations, divorce and contraception.

Billed as an “extraordinary” assembly of bishops, the meeting — or synod — will take place in October at the direction of Pope Francis’ orders, reports the Los Angeles Times.

The gathering could herald a new approach by the church on the sensitive topics.

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Observers say even the run-up to the synod has been a departure from usual Vatican practice and say the pope has shown a radical new leadership style.

Last year, soon after his election, Francis directed bishops across the globe to survey local attitudes on families and relationships. It’s a sign, the Los Angeles newspaper reports, that Francis values a “less centralized and more responsive decision-making.”

“Nobody at the Vatican will be surprised to learn that vast numbers of Catholics disobey its ban on premarital sex and birth control, or that some are in gay partnerships,” the paper writes.

The “extraordinary” synod in October is the first of a two-phase process.

Bishops will discuss the findings of the survey and air proposals to deal with them. They will then settle on new guidelines at an “ordinary” synod next year.

The two-step process should give prelates time to reflect and adjust to reforms proposed by Francis, according to author and Vatican expert John Thavis.

— LGBTQ Nation

Asian nation moves forward with harsh new laws

BANDAR SERI BEGWAN, Brunei — The Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, has announced that harsh Islamic punishments that call for the death penalty for numerous offenses, including same-sex sexual activity, will come into effect despite international condemnation.

Authorities in the predominately Muslim state in Southeast Asia, announced the launch of the first phase of the new penal code at a sharia “declaration ceremony” on April 30, reports AFP.

“I place my faith in and am grateful to Allah the almighty to announce that tomorrow, Thursday May 1, 2014, will see the enforcement of sharia law phase one, to be followed by the other phases,” the monarch said in a royal decree.

The sharia penalties, implemented in three phases over the next three years, will eventually include flogging, severing of limbs and death by stoning. The law was to come into effect in late April, but was postponed amid condemnation from the United Nations and rare criticism at home.

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The Brunei Times reports that the three phases include:

• Phase 1: Fines and prison sentences for various crimes;

• Phase 2: Severing of limbs for crimes of theft;

• Phase 3: Death by stoning for sexual crimes, including adultery, rape and same-sex sexual activity

The law also states that “the order shall apply to both Muslims and non-Muslims, except where expressly provided.”

The United Nations Human Rights office has condemned the revised penal code, saying that “application of the death penalty for such a broad range of offenses contravenes international law.”

Hassanal Bolkiah, the 67-year-old sultan — one of the world’s wealthiest men — said the move was “a must” under Islam, dismissing “never-ending theories” that sharia punishments were cruel.

News of the Sultan’s assets, includes the Dorchester Collection, a group of luxury hotels that includes the famed Beverly Hills Hotel and the Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles.

Earlier in April, a group of high-dollar LGBT donors cancelled plans to hold a conference at the Beverly Hills Hotel, and celebrities Ellen DeGeneres and Sharon Osborne have spoken out to call attention to the hotels’ owner.

— LGBTQ Nation

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Posted by LGBTQ Nation

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