U.S. Catholics Roundly Condemn Vatican Ban on Blessing Same-Gender Couples

Natalia Imperatori-Lee

Catholic reactions to the Vatican’s responsum released last Monday, which banned blessings for same-gender couples, have continued to pour in. Today’s post largely focuses on U.S. reactions, while Monday’s post will offer international perspectives.

The National Catholic Reporter included reactions from two theologians in its report:

“Natalia Imperatori-Lee, a professor of religious studies at Manhattan College who specializes in sexuality and theology, said that Francis ‘has done a lot to move us away from the “inherently disordered’ language’ that Catholic theology has traditionally used to describe homosexual persons. But the new decree equates same-sex marriage with sin, she said.

“‘That runs counter to the idea that LGBTQ persons are made in the image of God,’ she told NCR. ‘So which one is it?’ . . .

“‘Most LGBTQ people don’t follow the Vatican that closely,’ said [theologian Patrick] Hornbeck, noting that ‘there’s a sense that Pope Francis has in fact moved the needle’ and that those who just happen to see the headlines may be surprised by this new decree.

“Yet there should be no surprise, he said, as Francis has ‘always stopped short of blessing a union or let alone a marriage.'”

Patrick Hornbeck, right, with his husband

Hornbeck, who is in a same-gender marriage, called the Vatican’s statement “an unnecessary condemnation of relationships that many people find to be profoundly life-giving,” adding to The Washington Post that the ban “shows that [Francis’] hospitality has limits.”

(To read New Ways Ministry’s full statement, click here.)

FutureChurch, a church reform organization, was “deeply dismayed” by the Vatican ban, calling on liberal U.S. bishops to speak out against “the destructive aspects of this Vatican action.” Co-director Russ Petrus commented in a press statement:

“No directive from the Vatican will stop Her holy movement toward equality and wholeness for all members of the Body of Christ. . .I share the pain of my LGBTQ siblings today. But I encourage us to find comfort in knowing that God’s blessing pours out on us regardless of whether the institution recognizes it or not. My own marriage is blessed and is a blessing and no statement can take that away from me.”

Linda Karle-Nelson, left, and her husband, Tom Nelson.

Families With Dignity (formerly Fortunate Families Detroit) said its members were “deeply saddened,” and called for the Vatican to rescind the responsum. Founder Linda Karle-Nelson commented in a statement:

“The fact that the institutional Catholic Church will not share its blessing with faithful queer families and, in fact calls them sinful, shows its moral blindness. We are disappointed and — truth be told — angry that the Church rejects our children. . .This untenable mixed message has led to crisis, broken families and suicide for countless Catholic families. It has led to persecution and violence against gay and gender nonconforming people across the world.”

Catholic LGBT Ministry Lexington, a diocesan program, issued a statement saying the Vatican’s text “requires a nuanced reading,” adding:

“Catholic LGBT Ministry Lexington commits to supporting theologians who are working for a fuller Christian anthropology based in contemporary understandings.”

Juan Carlos Cruz

The Los Angeles Blade reported on comments by Juan Carlos Cruz, a Chilean gay man who had an audience with the pope in 2018 (Cruz now lives in Philadelphia):

“Cruz on Monday referenced Tomás de Torquemada, who spearheaded the Spanish Inquisition, in his response to the the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s decree.

“The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and especially its prefects are completely in a world of their own, away from people and trying to defend the indefensible’ . . .

“Cruz added if ‘the church and the CDF (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) do not advance with the world and in addition to living constantly rejecting and speaking negatively and not putting priorities where they should be, Catholics will continue to flee and we will become a rigid church, of norms, pointing the finger at many and that will only make people run and walk away.'”

Mary Hunt

Mary Hunt, a theologian with the Women’s Alliance for Theology Ethics and Ritual, wrote in Religion Dispatches, “In the time it took Brutus to plunge his sword, what today one would call a New York minute, the statement has been rejected widely.”

But Hunt is slightly optimistic, both in that Catholics have already begun such blessings and in the way change in the church happens. She explained:

“In Catholicism, practice always comes first, then often a heavy-handed condemnation, then documents trickle out that confirm what is already the case. Of course this can take decades, even centuries, but that is the usual order of things. This little theological tidbit might actually foreshadow something.”

Sr. Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK, told ABC News that the Vatican’s statement could have been worse, explaining, “You can bless the individuals (in a same-sex union), you just can’t bless the contract. . .So it’s possible you could have a ritual where the individuals get blessed to be their committed selves.”

A number of Catholic parishes have issued statements of pastoral support in response to the Vatican. These include St. Francis Xavier, New York City; The Catholic Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Atlanta; St. Cecilia Parish, Boston; and Historic Saint Paul Church, Lexington, KY.

To sign a statement opposing the Vatican’s ban, click here.

For Bondings 2.0’s ongoing coverage about Vatican’s ban on blessing same-gender unions and responses to it, click here.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, March 20, 2021

Other Resources

For a listing of Catholic leaders who have spoken positively about same-gender relationships and unions, click here.

For information about a Catholic blessing for a same-gender couple, click here.

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

2 replies
  1. Patty M
    Patty M says:

    I was happy to use the New Ways Ministry email reference to send a message directly to Pope Francis last night. This responsum statement is morally indefensible, hurtful and should be rescinded immediately – with an apology. Young people see this kind of unenlightened, unscientific homophobia and just walk away. I’m so grateful that you have arranged a way for us to email the Pope: https://www.newwaysministry.org/advocate/contact-pope-francis/

    Reply
  2. DON SIEGAL
    DON SIEGAL says:

    To Russ Petrus and FutureChurch

    Russ, you said it all, “…I encourage us to find comfort in knowing that God’s blessing pours out on us regardless of whether the institution recognizes it or not. My own marriage is blessed and is a blessing and no statement can take that away from me.”

    The sacramentality of any sacrament (including marriage) is in the faith of the participants. Without faith, there is no grace in any of the sacraments.

    Reply

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