A top U.S. cardinal, Elton John, and LGBTQ Catholics worldwide are all weighing in on the Vatican’s recent ban on blessings for same-gender unions, often with negative appraisals about an action they see as causing much harm.
Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago released a statement on Monday stating that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s responsum ad dubium on the question of such blessings “needs to be read in the context of the teachings in the Catechism and the encouraging statements of Pope Francis to LGBTQ persons.” This interpretation includes acknowledging the Congregation’s recognition that same-gender couples exhibit positive elements. Cupich continued:
“Yet, the understandable reaction among many to this response will be disappointment. This should prompt us in the Church and in the archdiocese to redouble our efforts to be creative and resilient in finding ways to welcome and encourage all LGBTQ people in our family of faith.”
More critical of the Vatican document was a tweet from musician Elton John, who is gay and married. He tweeted:
“How can the Vatican refuse to bless gay marriages because they ‘are sin’, yet happily make a profit from investing millions in ‘Rocketman’ – a film which celebrates my finding happiness from my marriage to David?? #hypocrisy”
(Note: If and how the Vatican funded Rocketman is disputed. BBC News reported on the complications. Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, told the BBC that even if true, “I’m not sure that Pope Francis would even have been aware of the investment in the film” because “decisions of that type are usually handled at lower levels.”)
Asked whether President Joe Biden, a Catholic, had a comment on the Vatican’s ban, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the president had no “personal response,” but added that Biden stands by his belief and support of marriage equality.
Fr. Bryan Massingale, a gay priest and theologian, acknowledged the harm caused by the Vatican’s ban, but said pastoral outreach would continue, even if “more under the table…than it was before.” He told America:
“‘Every human being is born with this innate desire to love. . .For those who are oriented toward members of the same sex…to have it being described as inherently or innately sinful without any qualification, that is crushing.'”
The Global Network of Rainbow Catholics (GNRC) issued a statement, saying:
“This document is indeed a a reactionary cry in response to the fresh air that is filling the Church from those parishes and lay communities around the world where blessings for same-gender couples are already a factual reality.”
Christopher Vella, co-chair of GNRC who is in a same-gender marriage, called the Vatican’s response “sad,” adding:
“To us, it sounds like the Church wants to keep its head in the sand and remain completely oblivious about the ‘new wine’ of same-sex relationships and their sacramentality with terms such as ‘sin’ and ‘against God’s plan’.”
Jamie Manson, a lesbian Catholic who heads Catholics for Choice, told NPR that the Vatican’s ban “gives the sense that our love is inferior, that our love is not blessed by God.” She called the ban “profoundly painful.” Manson has been critical of Pope Francis, and suggested this latest action is “a moment of institutional honesty.”
The National Network of Catholic LGBT Groups in Brazil commented, per The Tablet:
“‘We are outraged, but we are not surprised, because in this document we see that face of the Church that Christ himself criticised so harshly in the doctors of the law of His time. . .This is the face of part of the Church, which falls, once again, into the empty legalism so often denounced by Christ.'”
Gerard Swan, the chair of Quest, an LGBTQ Catholic group in the U.K., rejected the idea that this document changes Pope Francis’ support for civil unions, explaining that he still found hope in the pope:
“He was talking about civil rights and not hierarchically determined church rights and he rightly separates the two. For too long they have been conflated and this deliberate confusion has been led by some in the hierarchical church. What might be seen as Francis’ dichotomy might therefore [be] both informative and progressive. . .
“So would we expect the CEO of this multi-national organisation to have to sign off on a statement which is built on current organisational policy: yes. However we are left hopeful (and smiling) when the same person, Francis, goes to the very margins of the Church (‘smelling of the sheep’ to say it in his own words) and makes statements which are less simplistic, less binary, more cognisant of the incredible diversity of humans on the planet, and which are rooted in significant Church teachings around Social Justice and the common dignity that comes from recognition that we are all made in God’s image.”
Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, released a statement, saying, in part:
“The Vatican’s denial of blessings to same-sex couples will exacerbate the pain and anger of LGBTQI Catholics and our families. This statement is hurtful to same-sex couples, and dismissive of the grace demonstrated by same-sex couples who live deeply loving and committed relationships. . .DignityUSA has been blessing and marrying same-sex couples for 50 years and is committed to gaining equal access to the sacraments for LGBTQ+ people.”
Aurelio Mancuso of Italy’s Arcigay group told the The Washington Post that “it’s intolerable that the hierarchy — not the church — stubbornly keeps justifying a discrimination,” and that it was “a document that nobody needed.” Mancuso shared that when he entered a same-gender marriage, a priest blessed the wedding bans, and he is confident such actions will continue.
The Associated Press reported on reactions from LGBTQ advocates in Argentina, the home country of Pope Francis, and in the Philippines, which is heavily Catholic:
“Esteban Paulon, president of the Argentine Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transsexuals, said the document was proof that for all of Francis’ words and gestures expressing outreach to gays, the institutional church wouldn’t change.
“‘Saying that homosexual practice — openly living sexuality — is a sin takes us back 200 years and promotes hate speech that unfortunately in Latin America and Europe is on the rise,’ Paulon said. ‘That transforms into injuries and even deaths, or policies which promote discrimination.’
“A similar note of exasperation was echoed in the Philippines, Asia’s largest Roman Catholic nation, where gay rights leader Danton Remoto said it simply wasn’t worth it to fight an old institution. ‘I keep on telling LGBTQIs to just have their civil unions done,’ Remoto said. ‘We do not need any stress anymore from this church.'”
Jason Steidl, a gay Catholic theologian, told The New York Times, “The Vatican does what the Vatican does, and sometimes the Vatican really hurts people whose lives they are unfamiliar with. . .Pastorally, it’s a devastating pronouncement for L.G.B.T.Q. people.”
America also had comments from two queer Catholics studying theology:
“Flora Tang, a doctoral student in theology at the University of Notre Dame who identifies as queer, said, ‘Something that we all have to acknowledge is the sense of disappointment and pain that any queer Catholic would feel while reading a document like this.’
“Julia Erdlen, a queer Catholic studying systematic theology at Boston College, agreed with Ms. Tang, saying, ‘It just hurts.’ . . .
“‘I want to say that we shouldn’t settle, but to be a queer Catholic is to make compromises and to decide how much you’re willing to bear,’ Ms. Erdlen said.”
Bondings 2.0 will provide more reactions to the Vatican’s ban in tomorrow’s post. For our full coverage of this story, see the links at the bottom of this post.
For a listing of Catholic leaders who have spoken positively about same-gender relationships and unions, click here.
–Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, March 17, 2021
March 16, 2021: “A Catholic Blessing for Same-Gender Couples”