Fr. James Alison Writes Vatican Threw “Tantrum” with Blessings Ban

Fr. James Alison

Fr. James Alison, a gay priest and theologian, has written that the Vatican’s responsum that banned blessings for same-gender couples was a “tantrum.” Elsewhere, Fr. Frank Brennan, S.J., writes that, ultimately, it is God, not the church, who decides about blessing love.

Alison, writing in The Tablet, described the Vatican’s communication style as a “tantrum,” a move “meant to interrupt whatever you were doing, play on your emotions and try to exercise power over you.” He notes that such actions are associated with “angry infants,” and points out that the communication was likely directed to the pro-blessing movement in Germany:

“I say this not to insult the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, whose senior members surely know the communication games they are playing with the German Synod. I say it to offer protection to people who are hurt and scandalised by their responsum to a dubium regarding the blessing of the unions of persons of the same sex. For when you perceive that something is a tantrum, you are less likely to be hurt by anything said by the tantrum thrower. Less likely to think it has anything to do with you. More aware that a self-fuelling delusion is at work.”

Alison calls the Vatican’s move “an act of power, not an act of dialogue” based on “circular” logic regarding the church’s teachings on homosexuality. He calls for the church to reconsider its theological anthropology that incorporates all that has been learned about creation, being LGBTQ, and accompaniment. Then, Alison writes:

“And so to the matter of blessings given to, received and shared by, same-sex couples: Our Lord teaches us to know a tree by its fruit. He provokes our learning process. And it leads us to find things to bless, forms of blessedness old and new. The power and the glory of the Creator do tend to show themselves through our becoming, as we discern what we are for and who we are. It is a learning which is especially blessed when we find ourselves being forgiven for having categorised groups of people in false ways, and discovering that life is richer and better for all of us when they are encouraged to be who they are. . .

“I’m very glad that so many Catholics are dodging the tantrum and hewing to Our Lord. The responsum is unlikely to dissuade us from blessing God as we find God blessing us.”

For more about Fr. Alison’s writings and work on LGBTQ issues, click here.

Fr. Frank Brennan, SJ

From Australia, Jesuit Fr. Frank Brennan also commented on the Vatican’s ban in a homily for the fifth Sunday of Lent. Reported by Catholic Outlook, Brennan spoke about his own struggles with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith over his support for civil marriage equality. Asked to retract his comments, Brennan refused respectfully. He said in the homily about blessings:

“The CDF has answered one question couched in terms of Church ‘power’, the giving of a blessing, and the bestowal of a blessing on a union of two persons. But there is another question: May a priest or any other member of the faithful fervently ask God’s blessing on any couple who are committed to loving each other for life, professing fidelity and mutual support for each other? In particular, may a priest or any other member of the faithful fervently ask God’s blessing on such a couple who are precluded from the sacrament of marriage, and may a priest or member of the faithful pray for such a couple that they will be happy and fulfilled in their lives together, avoiding injury to others? I answer unreservedly, ‘Yes’. This question is not couched in terms of ‘power’ and the bestowal of a blessing on a union but in terms of asking God to bless two people who are seeking to live a life faithful to each other in love. . .

“If such a couple, precluded from the sacrament of marriage, were to present, asking God’s blessing, having committed themselves to loving each other for life, professing fidelity and mutual support, I would happily pray with them and join with them in asking God’s blessing upon them. I would seek advice about an appropriate liturgical formula and celebration. I would not rule out all prospect of a blessing. But being a Catholic priest, I will continue to reserve my witnessing of the sacrament of marriage to those who are eligible for marriage in our Church’s canon law.”

Brennan concludes by saying the CDF has not ended the discussion over whether the church should bless same-gender couples because, “It’s ultimately not a question of the Church’s power to give a blessing but of the couple’s openness to receiving God’s grace.” In other words, the priest stated, the church cannot restrict God’s blessing.

For more on Fr. Brennan’s work on LGBTQ issues, click here.

The stories of Fr. James Alison and Fr. Frank Brennan are themselves pointed reminders of the limits of church power against God’s grace. Both have faced Vatican censure and pressures, but in the era of Pope Francis, both have continued to minister and preach about God’s inclusive love. Their stories show us that even when church leaders say a conversation is over, it is not.

Thousands of Catholics worldwide are pledging to bless same-gender couples. If you have not already added your name to New Ways Ministry’s pledge, you can do so here

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, March 24, 2021

Other Resources

For all the previous posts concerning the Vatican’s ban on blessing same-gender couples, click here.

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.

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