ROME— A bishop in the Dominican Republic is accusing the U.S. Ambassador to the country of abusing his position to advance “the LGBT agenda,” pressuring the local government to change the constitution.
Bishop Victor Masalles, auxiliary bishop of Santo Domingo, believes that Ambassador James Brewster is engaging in a vintage example of what Pope Francis has called “ideological colonization,” meaning Western nations using their money and power to try to force developing societies to abandon their traditional values.
Brewster, an openly gay man who, in 2013, married his partner of 25 years, Bob Satawake, has reportedly threatened Dominicans who don’t agree with amending the constitution to enshrine LGBT rights, a position which he claims comes from the Obama administration, with having their U.S. visas revoked.
Such was the case of a president of a local electoral committee, who claims to have received pressures from Brewster regarding the upcoming national elections, which will take place in mid-May.
Early in March, the electoral committee warned political parties in the Dominican Republic that receiving help from other countries to support a presidential candidacy is illegal, something prompted by comments of Alexandria L. Panehal, a representative of the U.S. Agency for International Development, USAID.
While visiting the country on March 2 to open an LGBT Chamber of Commerce, Panehal detailed the initiatives in favor of the local LGBT community promoted by USAID, speaking of “candidates who represent the Dominican citizenship.”
Local newspapers took this to mean the United States was funding campaigns of pro-LGBT Dominican candidates, something the ambassador had to deny.
Masalles, one of the most outspoken detractors of Brewster, spoke to Crux on Friday, as he was in Rome participating in a seminar.
“The problem is not with Brewster,” he said, “nor with the fact that he’s gay, but with the fact that he’s going beyond his responsibilities to promote a personal agenda.”
“He’s abusing power,” the bishop said.
But not everyone in the Church is as diplomatic as Masalles.
Brewer’s appointment became effective in November 2013, but was announced a year before. During a news conference in June 2013, Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez, Archbishop of Santo Domingo, said he was appalled that Washington would be represented by a “maricón,” a slur term for gay men.
The term prompted the U.S. State Department to file a discrimination complaint with the Vatican.
Massalles said he knew the term used by his superior was off-key, yet justified it by saying that the cardinal is an 80-year old man who was expressing himself as most of the population his age would.
“If you don’t allow an old man to express himself like an old man would, then you’re undercutting his rights too,” he said.
According to a profile of Brewster in the New York Times, soon after arriving in the country the ambassador, “who had been active in the gay rights movement in the United States, hosted a small group of Dominican activists at their residence.”
Since then, the embassy began giving gay rights groups money as part of the State Department’s initiative to advance gay and transgender rights abroad.
Although recognizing it’s mostly “suspicions,” Massalles also said he believes that the United States and some international organizations not only support LGBT groups, but also pressure the government.
He used the example of the legalization of abortion in Dominican Republic in 2014.
At the time, the Dominican congress had approved a new penal code that would replace one dating back to the 19th century. The text, in continuity with the national constitution, defended the life of the unborn.
Yet instead of signing it, President Danilo Medina decided to legalize therapeutic abortion, something Massalle said went against the will of the people. Eventually, a tribunal ruled Medina’s code unconstitutional, rendering it invalid.
According to the bishop, the president has since admitted that he acted under international pressure.
“It is a government imposing on another what its norms, laws, and cultures have to be,” Masalle said. “This is called imposition, cultural imperialism, and as the Holy Father says, ideological colonization.”
During his interview with Crux, the bishop quoted point 251 of Pope Francis’ latest apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, in which the pontiff says that it’s “unacceptable” that “international bodies should make financial aid to poor countries dependent on the introduction of laws to establish ‘marriage’ between persons of the same sex.”
The American ambassador and the United States, Massalle said, “have a problem,” which is an “inability to understand that the Dominican Republic has a different scale of priorities on its agenda, beginning with fighting poverty.”
According to the World Bank, 40 percent of the total population of 10 million lives under poverty line.
“He’s not an ambassador, he’s a gay activist and we’re suffering [from] him as a nation, as a culture, as a country that has its own uses and customs, and its own laws,” the bishop said. “He’s trying to take [away] our right to national self-determination.”
Massalle also said that there’s a “reigning silence” in the Dominican political class, because no one dares to confront the ambassador. Yet privately, he claims, there’s a generalized uneasiness with the “prepotency” of Brewster who, at the end of the day, represents a key country for the local economy.
The Dominican Republic’s economy is highly dependent on tourism, and in recent years has promoted “family tourism,” something which Brewster attacked, saying it discriminates against “LGBT tourism” and threatened to pull the US support to the local tourism industry if it doesn’t open to gay and lesbian tourism.
The bishop insists that there’s no discrimination against the LGBT community, including in the tourism industry.
“On the contrary, unfortunately, the service package includes everything one might want, including a very diverse sexual tourism.”
Massalle also accused Brewster of even using the embassy’s official social media accounts to advance his position, showing “an inability to distinguish his activism with his role as an ambassador.”
On April 25 the Twitter handle @EmbajadaUSAenRD published a series of tweets regarding the murder of two gay activists in India by Al-Qaeda.
“For any person who believes that it’s fine to condemn and hate others, these are the kind of atrocities you have perpetuated in your country and others,” two tweets read.
“For those in the Dominican Republic or the United States who want to continue talking from the political or religious pulpit, promoting hatred towards the LGBT or any other marginalized group, [you] should be ashamed.”