New Ways Ministry Calls Vatican’s Ban on Blessing Same-Gender Couples An Impotent Decision

The following is a statement from Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry’s Executive Director, in response to the Vatican’s ban on the blessing of same-gender unions.

It is not surprising, but still disappointing, that the Vatican has responded “no” to the dubium about whether the church can bless same-sex unions.

This decision though is an impotent one because it won’t stop the movement to bless such couples, and, in fact, it will actually encourage Catholics in the pews and the many Catholic leaders who are eager for such blessings to happen to work harder in their support—and blessing—of same-sex couples.

Though Rome has now spoken on this issue, what the Vatican doesn’t realize is that the Catholic faithful are not satisfied with the answer that they gave.  Catholic people recognize the holiness of the love between committed same-sex couples and recognize this love as divinely inspired and divinely supported and thus meets the standard to be blessed.  They recognize that God has already blessed these unions, and that a ritual is simply a recognition of God’s blessing. New Ways Ministry has been promoting many creative ways that Catholic parishes have been supporting and celebrating same-sex couples.

A number of bishops have already raised the question of blessing lesbian and gay couples, and many priests in parishes are already celebrating such blessings. Catholics will continue to find creative ways to bless the couples they love and support.  If priests and pastoral ministers no longer feel they can perform such a blessing, the Catholic laity will step in and perform their own rituals, gestures, and words of support. The fact that this discussion is well underway ensures that it will continue. The toothpaste is out of the tube and it can’t be put back inside.

The Vatican issued a dubium in 1995 that the ordination of women was not allowed and that no discussion of it could happen.  That strategy did not work, and the discussion of ordaining women in the Catholic Church is as alive as ever.

In 1968, the Vatican affirmed its opposition to artificial birth control.  Today, according to the U.S. bishops’ own statistics, 96% of Catholic couples ignore this teaching.

People think that church teaching evolves at the top and filters down. That is not how it works. The sense of the faithful is important and how the faithful receive a teaching affects the validity of such teaching.  The Catholic faithful have already expressed their support of same-sex couples, and they will continue to do so.  This decision changes nothing other than motivating more Catholics to support same-gender couples.

For more information on how to be welcoming to married same-gender couples, click here.

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, March 15, 2021

33 replies
  1. diane mckinley
    diane mckinley says:

    Sensus fidelium – the Spirit guides each and every baptized Catholic. I will always bless and affirm the love between two people. The institutional church cannot stop us from following the Spirit. I doubt this decree is infallible anyway.

    Reply
    • Kris
      Kris says:

      A decree is infallible only if it is truthful.

      Infallibility is not conferred by office or rank, even if the office is called ‘Magisterium’ and the rank ‘Pope’.

      Remember both Magisterium and Pope taught, for hundreds of years, moral acceptability of capital punishment. That particular teaching was revoked three years ago, without apology and without a humble admission that both Magisterium and Pope do sometimes teach fallibly.

      Reply
  2. Tom Bower
    Tom Bower says:

    As noted the toothpaste is our of the tube. Marriage or blessings over a committed couple same sex or any combination is what the couple espouse as a public blessing of them on themselves. The Church may be present or not, but the act is among the couple and God. Everyone else is part of the wedding party. It was a mistake to make marriage a Sacrament because it brought the Church into a situation which was none of its business. Indeed the words of marriage are a property contract. It is love among the two participants that bring and keep them together. Let the Pope say no, but a couple in love will make commitment so.

    Reply
  3. Alfred Pang
    Alfred Pang says:

    Thank you New Ways for your hope-filled response. The language in Vatican’s statement – that God “does not and cannot bless sin: he blesses sinful man” – is offensive to the many life-giving same-sex relationships and unions I’ve witnessed. The Vatican once again displays the theological doublespeak about God’s welcome – that is conditionally unconditional when it comes to LGBT persons.

    Reply
    • Jorge Reyes
      Jorge Reyes says:

      It is heartbreaking. My husband and I married shortly after the SCOTUS ruling and mainly for medical legal reasons. His family rejects him even if he is HIV+. Less than 1 year after being married, my husband had a near fatal heart attack due to “HIV Associated Atherosclerosis”, a long term complication from HIV few know exists. If we had not been married, he would have died. I rushed him to the Emergency Room, I signed all of the legal papers, gave directives, consulted with physicians who then performed an emergency cardiac catheterization with stent placed, and was in ICU for a week. No one from his family visited, sent flowers, cards and only 1 phone call which I forced. Ironically he had become Catholic that same year at Easter Vigil. Thankfully our pastor took him Eucharist to the hospital without my knowing. Now that is mercy!

      As for this scandalous “ruling”, it is heartbreaking. Many married and divorced heterosexuals at our parish have told us they wished they had had a marriage such as ours. We pray the Liturgy of the Hours / Office at home, say prayers before meals, at bedtime, read the Lectionary together daily and listen to Catholic podcasts. So yes, we are sinners. But frankly, Pope Francis, ¡tremendo disgusto contigo!.

      If we married gays did not show up for our spouses, knowing our blood family never have, will the Catholic Church sign our papers at the hospital, and care for us when we are sick? We know the answer to that, hence we have no choice. We marry because no one else will show up for us, and if that makes us sinners, so be it.

      Shame on them for ignoring Scriptural teachings on community.

      Reply
      • Kris
        Kris says:

        God has truly blessed your love and your relationship.

        You have a blessing from someone who matters above all, since such love and loyalty could have come from no source other than God himself.

        Reply
    • Richard Allegra
      Richard Allegra says:

      Yes, Alfred. That quote is the biggest slap in the face in regards to this. I wasn’t surprised with the decision, but that statement is more than discouraging.

      Reply
  4. Martin Pendergast
    Martin Pendergast says:

    Images of CDF headless chickens, running round try to hatch something credible come to mind, just as horses have already bolted from this particular farm-stable! Who asked the question – the CDF itself, perhaps, to try to block the Austrian, German, Swiss and other local Churches from formalising such rituals? Or is it an attempt from the CDF to rein in Pope Francis ahead of the coming Year of Amoris Laetitia, being launched at a Press conference on Thursday?

    Reply
  5. Laura Bregar
    Laura Bregar says:

    The church blesses animals in the spirit of St. Francis. The church blesses sacramentals and buildings because we have the sense that they lead us to the divine good. We bless sinners and saints alike each time we celebrate the Eucharist. Why can we not find a creative way to bless love, even when it looks different from what we have acknowledged in the past? It strikes me as perhaps trying to limit the Spirit instead of being open to the divine manifestation which may be doing something new and life giving.

    Reply
  6. Denise Waytes
    Denise Waytes says:

    Hello,
    I am the Mom of a gay man who married about 2 years ago. At the time I worked for a Catholic Church as liturgist. At the wedding, I blessed my son and his husband, adjusting the prayer for married couples from the Rite of Marriage. God hears my prayers – my son and son-in-law are blessed.

    Reply
  7. Joe
    Joe says:

    I was a little sad to see the news this morning that the Vatican announced that blessings of same sex unions are not to be allowed. Pope Francis has done so many good things and no one is perfect. This is one of a number of church things that we just take in stride and keep on going.

    I remind myself that God blesses us and that precedes and supersedes blessings from the hierarchy. We are already blessed and our lives show it.

    I need to keep a loose attachment to the hierarchy and a close attachment to Jesus and his preaching about the Reign of God. When Jesus was condemned by the leaders of the religious hierarchy of his time he replied, the Sabbath was made for people, people were not made for the Sabbath.

    Let us be strong in faith, hope and love.

    Reply
  8. John Calhoun
    John Calhoun says:

    The ministers of a “Married Life in Christ” is the couple blessing and saying “yes” to each other “in Christ”. This occurs well before any “official” ceremony and is ratified through living “in Christ” day by day. Do what’s possible in this “in-between” time.

    Reply
  9. Bob Hare
    Bob Hare says:

    Several people have already commented that the two people getting married are the ministers of the sacrament. The priest or deacon is only there as a witness. I even remember that from the days of the Baltimore Catechism. I have participated in one same sex wedding. It was a honor. I signed the marriage license as a witness for the state where the men were married. Love is love. Can you bless that?

    Reply
  10. Barry Blackburn
    Barry Blackburn says:

    A good summary Francis of an important reality that the teaching must be received by the Faithful. I believe you are correct that it hasn’t! There is no toothpaste, no tube just us and Daddy in Rome, but as the Brazilian expression goes “my Father has died”. That means we all must grow up and live our lives in Conscience with or without hierarchical permission. We love the Church and are Faithful but our own person in Conscience and Faith.

    Reply
  11. JoEllen Travis
    JoEllen Travis says:

    I am very saddened to hear this news from the Vatican. Terribly disappointed. I am what is called a DES Daughter. My Mom was told by her physician to take a drug, DES (Diethylstilbestrol) so as to not miscarry me. She miscarried the pregnancy just before me and hoped she could carry me to full term. DES is known to be the first endocrine disruptor and I have had (and continue to have!) medical problems as do my children. I have a lesbian daughter and a gay son and I feel their sexual orientation is attributable to the effects of the DES. While in utero, my eggs were exposed to DES, and now my children (DES Grandchildren), myself and who knows how many generations yet to come, must deal with the aftereffects! A small pill, first synthesized in1938, caused cancer in lab animals early on, was cheap to produce-how it could affect the mothers who took the pill at their doctor’s urging, the DES Daughters and Sons exposed in utero, and now the DES Grandchildren and who knows how far-reaching it will be? We must look to the science of all of this for further understanding.

    Reply
  12. Loras Michel
    Loras Michel says:

    In matters of the heart, what really matters in the end is ones alignment with Jesus. Jesus is love and truth and anything else about the person is invisible in the face of love. We are called to live an authentic life and that is our spirituality. The church hierarchy is composed of ordinary men just like the rest of us many of which live solely in the head and completely alienated from matters of the heart. The head is also a safe but lonely place to hide.

    Those of us in the pews or those who have long left the pews deal with real human issues, relationships, and struggles that evolve daily and allow wholeness to blossom. We eventually find that truth about ourselves, desire to become our authentic self, and want to share that with the community whom we love and who loves us. Why would anyone bury their genuine self because of any temporary man made decrees which will change again over time anyway. Jesus who is timeless invites all of us to love whoever is true for us as it is God who puts these desires in our hearts, and anything else is totally irrelevant. God is Love. Love does not know about those distinctions. Eventually church teachings will evolve and in the meantime, none of us can wait for that to happen as love demands a response right now as we only have this moment on earth. So let us dare to love who we love, bless that special person that God has brought into our lives by our love, and support those who do. That goodness, truth and authenticity will shine bringing more light and hope to our immediate community and eventually to the world community. Let us rejoice that consciousness if shifting with a force that no longer can be held back.

    Reply
  13. Carol Nesbit
    Carol Nesbit says:

    The Vatican says it cannot bless these people! No one in the Vatican blesses people. Only God does. We may ask for blessings just as Jesus did!!! And who are these hate-filled men to judge!!!

    Reply
  14. Duane Sherry
    Duane Sherry says:

    The Magisterium gets a lot of things right, but when it get things wrong…

    Galileo was put under house arrest by the Church for heresy–for having the audacity to to accurately insist the universe does not revolve around the earth.

    Centuries later, the Magisterium insists same-sex unions are sinful–ignoring both science and psychology.

    It’s as if it needs to learn that love does not revolve around the Magisterium.

    Reply
  15. Scott Jessup
    Scott Jessup says:

    So many great comments here, and it’s inspiring to see that. Odd timing of this announcement for me personally though. As an Episcopalian, I have been attracted to catholic spirituality for years now, but just could not bring myself to convert to a church that excluded so many loving, creative, spiritual brothers and sisters in Christ who happen to love a same-sex partner. So I put it off and looked elsewhere, even to the Lutheran church, which within the ELCA is openly accepting and loving toward LGBTQs. Still, the draw of catholic spirituality keeps me coming back. My mom, who had converted to Catholicism several years ago, passed away in January, so I prayed and prayed this weekend to her and to Jesus to give me guidance on converting myself. I felt like it was clear as the weekend came to an end, it was okay for me to convert as soon as possible, and I was excited about pursuing that. Then, I open my phone this morning and there was this news. It hit me like a hammer in the head and a kick in the gut. But you know what? I realized that the only matter I should be concerned with is my relationship with God/Jesus/Holy Spirit. As others have said, this will change over time anyway and is an ignorant and hurtful statement. I care not one whit about what some mortals in church robes convening in a windowless room thousands of miles away from me do or say or think about my lifestyle or my faith. It’s none of their business and they are wrong. Why must they continue to march backward so intently into the past? I pray that as Francis Bernardo said, the change will filter up to the top, not the other way round. These pronouncements only affirm that some within the church are clueless about what is happening now, in the real world. I prefer to focus on how I can live Christ’s love in my own life, here in my town, in my parish, with my partner, and live it for all. Some people will ask how I can possibly convert to Catholicism, and I will say because there are thousands of years of mistakes within it, yes. But more importantly, there are thousands of years of love and compassion and miracles and hope and forgiveness and humanity which will always, always overcome the ignorance and fear of some shortsighted men in Rome.

    Reply
  16. Jay
    Jay says:

    I’m sure I will hit a verve here but the only future for us LGBTQ Catholics will be by way of a schism. Break from the right wing political power that breathes this hate.

    Reply
  17. Bill Freeman
    Bill Freeman says:

    ”There is no heresy or no philosophy which is so abhorrent to the church as a human being.” — James Joyce

    Reply
  18. B Raddick
    B Raddick says:

    I don’t understand how New Ways can accept the Vatican’s version of Jim Crow vis-à-vis gays. Aren’t we exhausted yet by “hate the sin/love the sinner.” Enough. I’m done with the Catholic church and its patronizing, insulting attitude toward gays. Why would anyone from the LGBTQ community continue to lend support to a church that has institutionalized prejudice?

    Reply
    • Jorge Reyes
      Jorge Reyes says:

      We are Catholic in spite of its leaders .

      Our faith in Catholicism has nothing to do with the leadership. Pity anyone who adheres to a Faith precisely because of the leadership.

      8. Better to take refuge in the LORD
      than to put one’s trust in mortals.
      9. Better to take refuge in the LORD
      than to put one’s trust in princes.

      – Psalm 118

      Reply
  19. Deborah
    Deborah says:

    I am a parent of an LGBTQ child and I have seen first-hand the impact of church teaching on the mental and spiritual health of our youth. I am deeply saddened and disappointed in the Holy Father’s statement that same sex marriage is ‘sinful’ and a ‘choice’. God created all of us, that includes those who are LGBTQ. All individuals are who they were created by God to be and not what they choose to be. The Holy Father should bless their unions. Two consenting adults who love each other, should be blessed. There is such hypocrisy in the Catholic Church, homosexuality among priests and priests that are pedophiles. Two adults who love each other regardless of their gender, should have their union blessed.
    This position has given some individuals a greater justification to abuse and marginalize LGBTQ individuals. Furthermore, as you know, church teaching on sexuality has been fluid and ever changing. We have witnessed the very verbiage of the bible changed to include the condemnation of same-sex couples. For example, the story of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19) was explicitly about pedophilia and sexually taking advantage another person. Additionally, “each time the New Testament addresses the topic in a list of vices (1 Corinthians 6:9, 1 Timothy 1:10), the argument being made is more than likely about the sexual exploitation of young men by older men, a practice called pederasty, and what we read in the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans is a part of a broader indictment against idolatry and excessive, self-centered lust that is driven by desire to ‘consume’ rather than to love and to serve as outlined for Christian partnership elsewhere in the Bible” (https://www.hrc.org/resources/what-does-the-bible-say-about-homosexuality) The Church deliberately changed this understanding to better control the narrative and demonize the LGBT community.
    The Church continues to protect the clergy members who have exploited children but will vehemently deny the partnership between two consenting adults regardless of biblical context. This is another thinly veiled attempt to condemn my child and people of the like. You have seen the way the church is being left in droves as a direct result of the Vatican’s bigoted statements. However, the church will not be the one to suffer. It will be the youth as they are shunned and turned away from the community meant to love them. I pray that the Holy Father reconsiders the Church’s position to include the LGBTQ community and not to exclude any of God’s children.

    Reply
  20. Fr. Scott Hill
    Fr. Scott Hill says:

    It continues to astound me at what lengths the CDF will go to burden the Queer Community with the label “sin.” The CDF continues to bury its head in the sands of ancient ignorance! If it be true that love is divine in origin, intrinsic to the human condition, how dare someone or some institution label Queer love as sinful! It is a slap at the face of God. I agree with Mr. DeBernardo, matters of faith will be made from the grassroots, up. It’s been done before. “Eclesia Suplet!”

    Reply
  21. Joseph Gentilini
    Joseph Gentilini says:

    To the editor:

    The Vatican has banned the hierarchy to bless a same-sex couple because the church ‘cannot bless sin.’ I have been in my faithful 40-year old relationship with my gay husband and it has brought me closer to him and to our God. God has blessed my same-sex union, even if the Vatican will not.

    In my religious/spiritual life, most priests, church ministers, and many in the laity do bless our union and that of others. That is good enough for me. I do not look to the Vatican or Church teaching on the morality of homosexuality or our relationship.

    Years ago, a Trappist monk told me that the pain that the LGBTQ community suffers is like the blood of the early martyrs and is bringing about the change in the Church. Someday I believe the church will change its teaching, although not in my lifetime.

    My sexual morality is between God, my husband, and myself.

    Reply

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