Ozoria Acosta Replaces Anti-LGBT Cardinal in the Dominican Republic

By Courtney Thomas

On July 4, 2016 Pope Francis appointed Monsignor Francisco Ozoria Acosta as Archbishop of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. Ozoria Acosta replaces the outspoken and controversial Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez, who held this important position for 35 years.

Lopez Rodriguez was infamous for his homophobic rhetoric. In 2013, he used an anti-LGBT slur to refer to the openly gay U.S. ambassador to the Dominican Republic, Wally Brewster. In the years since Brewster’s arrival, he has continued his attacks against the ambassador. Most recently, in late 2015, he said the ambassador “should stick to housework, since he is a man’s wife. ”

Ozoria Acosta, who will begin in September, has been bishop of San Pedro de Marcoris, a small diocese in the Dominican Republic. He studied pastoral theology at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome and taught the same subject at a seminary in Santo Domingo. Ozoria Acosta considers himself a passionate follower of the Vatican Council. A former colleague described the bishop as a pastor who is “approachable, humble, and straightforward, with a great capacity for listening and dialogue.”

What does this change mean for the conservative and primarily Catholic country? Santo Domingo, home to the first cathedral in the Americas, is a focal point of evangelization and religious influence in the Spanish-speaking world. The archdiocese is home to over five million parishioners, so Ozoria Acosta will have a tremendous platform to create change. Let’s hope he uses it to lead a more nuanced discussion on the human rights of LGBT people.

The intersection between religion and LGBT identity remains a sensitive challenge in the fight for equality. Only time can truly tell the impact that Ozoria Acosta will have, but at the very least his presence is an opportunity to change the discourse on LGBT issues from that of hate to one of tolerance and acceptance.

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Published on July 13, 2016

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