The Vatican’s declaration that same-sex unions are a sin that the Roman Catholic Church cannot bless came as no surprise to LGBTQ Catholics in the United States; however, it hurt deeply.
Marianne Duddy-Burke, CEO of DignityUSA, said her organization’s membership includes same-sex couples who have been together for decades, persevering in their love for one another in the face of prejudice and family rejection.
“The fact that our church at its highest levels cannot recognize the grace in that and cannot extend any kind of blessing to these couples is just tragic,” he said.
She was responding to a formal statement Monday from the Vatican’s orthodoxy office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, saying that Roman Catholic clergy cannot bless such unions because God “cannot bless sin.” It was approved by Pope Francis.
“Having sin explicitly included in this statement brings us back to zero,” said Ross Murray, who oversees religious affairs for LGBTQ rights group GLAAD.
He expressed dismay that “the ability we have to live our lives fully and freely is still seen as an affront to the church or, worse still, an affront to God, who created us and knows us and loves us.”
Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, which advocates for greater LGBTQ acceptance in the church, said that if priests who have already been blessing same-sex unions stop doing so, lay Catholics could be moved to occupy its place.
“If priests and pastoral ministers no longer feel they can perform such a blessing, lay Catholics will step in and perform their own rituals,” DeBernardo said. “The toothpaste is out of the tube and cannot be put back in.”
The Rev. Bryan Massingale, an openly gay Catholic priest and professor of theology and social ethics at Fordham University, said priests who want to be involved in pastoral activities for the gay and lesbian community “will continue to do so, except that it will be even further under the table … than before. “
For Catholics in same-sex relationships, he said, the new message from the Vatican will hurt.
“Every human being is born with this innate desire to love,” he said. “For those who are oriented toward members of the same sex … to be described as inherently or innately sinful without any qualification, that’s overwhelming.”
Vatican doctrine holds that gays and lesbians should be treated with dignity and respect, but that gay sex is “inherently messy” and that same-sex unions are sinful.
Natalia Imperatori-Lee, a professor of religious studies at Manhattan College, said those teachings, together, are problematic.
“It is surprising that the hierarchy can claim that LGBTQ + people are made in the image of God, but that their unions are a sin,” he said by email. Are you made in the image of God, except your heart? Except for your skills and penchant for love? “
Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of the US-based NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice and an advocate for greater LGBTQ inclusion in the church, said she was relieved that the Vatican statement was not harsher.
She interpreted it as saying, “You can bless people (in a same-sex union), you just can’t bless the contract.”
“So it is possible that you can have a ritual where people are blessed for being engaged themselves.”
However, the Vatican’s pronouncement was welcomed by some church conservatives, such as Bill Donohue, president of the New York-based Catholic League.
“There will be no recognition of homosexual unions or marriage by the Catholic Church. It is not negotiable. End of story, ”he said.
“Pope Francis has been under considerable pressure from gay activists, inside and outside the church, to green light gay marriage,” added Donohue, calling Monday’s statement “the most decisive rejection of those efforts. never written “.
Francis has endorsed the provision of legal protections for same-sex couples, but that is in the civil sphere and not in the church.
Juan Carlos Cruz, a Chilean advocate for victims of sexual abuse who is gay, reported in 2018 that when he met Francis, the Pope had told him: “God made you that way and he loves you.”
On Monday, Cruz said that the Vatican officials who issued the new statement “are completely in a world of their own, away from the people and trying to defend the indefensible.”
He called for a change in the leadership of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, saying it was undermining Francis’s efforts to create a more inclusive church.
“If the church and the CDF do not advance with the world … Catholics will continue to flee.” he said.
In Argentina, Francisco’s homeland, LGBTQ activist Esteban Paulon said that the pontiff’s previous statements conveying empathy and understanding for gays and lesbians were mere gestures, without any official weight.
“They were not institutional pronouncements,” said Paulon, executive director of the LGBT + Public Policy Institute. “To say that homosexual practice is a sin takes us back 200 years and promotes hate speech that, unfortunately, in Latin America and Europe is increasing.
Chile’s largest LGBTQ rights group, the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation, condemned the decree as a “homophobic and anti-Christian action” by the Catholic hierarchy.
Spokesman Oscar Rementería contrasted the Vatican’s harsh rhetoric against same-sex marriage with the many documented cases of Catholic leaders covering up child sexual abuse by clergy.
Associated Press writer Eva Vergara in Santiago, Chile; Almudena Calatrava in Buenos Aires, Argentina; and Nicole Winfield in Rome and Mariam Fam in Cairo contributed to this report.
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