Oftentimes, the media and conservative critics portray the question of blessing same-gender relationships, or even just of advocating for LGBTQ equality in the church, as a concern of the Global North, opposed by or simply irrelevant to Catholics in the rest of the world. But reactions to the Vatican’s recent ban on blessing same-gender couples reveal that Catholic support for LGBTQ equality is a global phenomenon. Today’s post features reactions from a number of countries.
For all of Bondings 2.0’s coverage of the Vatican responsum ad dubium and reactions to it, as well as other resources, see the bottom of this post. To sign a statement opposing the church’s ban on blessing same-gender couples, click here.
In the home country of Pope Francis, Andrés Gioeni, a resigned priest who is in a same-gender relationship now, sent a letter to the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires, the pope’s former diocese, resigning from the Catholic Church. The Associated Press reported:
“‘I do not want to continue being an accomplice to this institution, because I realize the harm they are doing to people. I am not renouncing my faith in God but rather I am renouncing a role and a rite,” said Gioeni, 49. . .
“‘There is no mention in any book (of the Bible) of consensual love between two people of the same sex and God telling them no,’ said Gioeni, who has blessed at least four such unions.”
Benjamin Oh, co-chair of Australian Catholics for Equality’s advisory board who is in a same-gender relationship, said the Vatican’s document was “personally painful” and “dehumanizing,” if not unsurprising. He told The Associated Press:
“‘The church have (blessed) all kinds of things: animals, cars and even weapons used for the killing of another human being. For many Catholic Christians, this statement flies in the face of Jesus’ teaching to love.
“There is still a toxic culture towards LGBTI people in our church and societies and this statement will no doubt be weaponized by those who want to inflict more pain, discrimination and suffering on LGBTI folks both in our church and in civil society, especially in places and communities that discriminate, marginalize, harm, abuse and even kill LGBTI persons.'”
The Community of Christ the Liberator, an ecumenical group for LGBT Christians, sent a letter to the country’s bishops, noting that several bishops have supported the group previously. The letter reads, in part:
“At the time in which we are living, this position [of the Vatican] is an encouragement to homophobia, a stimulation to reject homosexual people from Christian families and parishes, to continue the persecutions of which they are victims in Africa and elsewhere. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith becomes an agent of our discrimination. The consequences make you shudder. Do these people of Rome have no sense of responsibility, of the societal consequences of their assertions? Do they reproduce the scenario of the condom ban when AIDS was killing en masse?”
Attached to the Community’s letter was a commentary from Jesuit Fr. José Davin. The priest writes, in part:
“Church officials seem to ignore a basic reality: gays and lesbians also fall in love, as do straight people. So what happens to this love, how can we rejoice in it and accompany them in pastoral care? And when they are Catholic believers, with what methods of prayer can they live their bond with Christ, in the Church?
“Regarding these blessings of their unions according to the current ecclesial evolution promoted by Pope Francis, this declaration comes as increasing before Easter the passion of the Lord. . .
“Despite these distressing thoughts, gays and lesbians will continue, ‘in conscience’ and with good reason, to live a conjugal and sometimes parental partnership in the certainty of belonging to the Kingdom of God. Pastors and ministers of worship will also continue ‘in conscience’, to accompany them and to ask with them to the Lord, in prayer, light and strength to engage in a true reciprocal love.
“Because to bless is to express the essence of the real life desired by God.”
CTV News reported on comments from Frank Testin, president of Dignity Canada Dignité:
“‘The institution, they base their teaching on old Greek philosophy and natural law, and that’s not how most Catholics — I think — see human sexuality,’ he told CTV News Channel.
“Testin argued that using the logic of the Vatican’s recent decree, same-sex common-law relationships and heterosexual people using birth control would also not be blessed.
“‘In a way, I think we’re in good company,’ Testin said.”
Thomas Lofaro, chair of LGBT+ Catholics Westminster Pastoral Council called the ban “very disappointing” and “a very negative statement,” concluding, “The conferring of a blessing is the smallest acknowledgement that the Church can give to our identity and to the holiness of same-sex relationships. It appears that even this is to be withheld from us.”
Elsewhere in the country, the Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research issued a statement saying it “regrets” the Vatican’s ban, continuing:
“We are appalled that the Catholic hierarchy is choosing to demonise gay people again through its repetition of such toxic theology. Gay people worldwide are still the target of discrimination that regularly results in verbal and physical abuse, employment discrimination, firing, and death. Given the global reach of the Catholic Church, this latest decision signed off by Pope Francis himself is likely to add fuel to the fire.”
The Wijngaards statement also noted “the Vatican decision rides roughshod over the Catholic understanding of marriage itself” because the ordinary ministers of the sacrament are the spouses, not clergy, and therefore the spouses establish their union. A blessing “merely recognizes such an already existing reality,” the statement concluded.
For a reaction from Quest UK covered previously, click here.
Michael Brinkschroeder, a German theologian involved with the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics (GNRC), commented on how his nation’s bishops have been open to discussion of such blessings. He suggested that simply arguing about gender and sexuality by quoting the Catechism is insufficient, “especially since there are many studies that have already demonstrated its lack of biblical and scholarly support.” German Catholics have been at the center of the church’s debate over same-gender blessings. You can learn more about German responses to the Vatican ban here.
Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson, Iceland’s Minister of the Environment and Natural Resources who is LGBTQ, sent a critical letter to Pope Francis for the second time, calling the Vatican document anti-human. Guðbrandsson added in the letter, per Iceland Review:
“‘What’s even worse in this context is stating that God can bless sinners and allow them to change. LGBT people aren’t trying to change their gender or sexuality. That’s the whole point. We want to be acknowledged by the community as ourselves.”
Daniel Mendonca, an intersex Catholic and activist in Mumbai, told Mid-Day that even if the church does not recognizes such relationships as blessed, they are. Mendonca, a catechist and pastoral council member at her parish, commented:
“‘If a family is ready to accept two individuals for what they are and who they are, I think the blessing of the Church will not matter because if they believe that God is loving and accepting, then God does not discriminate based on gender. By saying that, I mean that God does not discriminate in the matter of marriage. . .Just by saying that you don’t agree to it, it is creating haters, because God himself hasn’t come down and said it. It is because of such discrimination that people leave the Church.'”
According to Malta Today. Drachma LGBTI, a Catholic group, said through a spokesperson, “It is sad and deeply regrettable to get this kind of response from the Vatican. To us, it sounds like the Church wants to keep its head in the sand and remain completely in oblivion about the ‘new wine’ of same-sex relationships.” The group’s coordinator, Christopher Vella, and his husband, Tyrone Grima, added:
“‘As a married same-sex couple, it is deeply saddening that the Church remains blind to the sacramentality of our relationship, and continues to use terms such as “sin” and “against God’s plan”.'”
Louisa Grech, coordinator of Drachma Parents, added:
“The Pope had once said these words of hope: ‘Who am I to judge?’. But now again, our sons and daughters, our loved ones, are being harshly judged just because they wish to show their love to their soulmate. How very, very sad.”
Louisa Wall, who sponsored the law that introduced marriage equality in New Zealand back in 2013, commented to the Associated Press, “I join many gay Catholics who are disheartened by this announcement and I hope their church leaders continue to advocate for these blessings. . .The Catholic Church could role-model an ability to evolve with their membership.”
Danton Remoto, an LGBTQ activist in the highly-Catholic nation, said to The Associated Press, “I keep on telling LGBTQIs to just have their civil unions done. . .We do not need any stress anymore from this church.” Remoto asked further, “Why fight an ancient institution?” when there is recourse in civil government and courts.
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 22, 2021
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.