The largest single protest by Catholics against the Vatican’s ban on blessing same-gender unions has been published online with over 3,000 people participating, including over 100 theologians.
The statement, “We Will Bless Same-Gender Unions,” was produced by New Ways Ministry in response to a March 15, 2021 statement from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) which said that Catholics could not perform blessings for couples in same-gender unions. The Vatican’s announcement has been met with widespread opposition from Catholics around the globe, including a large number of bishops who have publicly opposed the CDF, which is especially surprising because clerics rarely criticize any document from this important Vatican office.
Among those who have publicly signed the statement are 102 theologians (including Mary McAleese, former president of Ireland who holds a doctorate in canon law), 261 people employed by Catholic institutions, 1,770 Catholics who are active in the life of their church on a voluntary basis, five U.S. communities of nuns, and more than 50 Catholic organizations and communities. 1,822 signatures by individuals come from the U.S., with the rest coming from 41 nations around the globe. Of the 3,064 signatures, 2,152 provided their names, while 912 chose to be anonymous. (To view the full list of signatories, click here.)
The statement says, in part:
- We call on Pope Francis and Vatican leaders to rescind this statement which has caused so much pain and will continue to do so if it is left to stand.
- We pledge to continue to find new ways to affirm and bless all LGBTQ people, whether they are single or in a committed relationship.
- We ask all Catholics and people of good will to pray that the Catholic Church will continue to accompany LGBTQ people in their faith journeys, to welcome them into their communities, to learn from their experience, and to grow as a church.
“Catholics around the globe are rejecting the blessings ban because their lived Catholic faith and tradition inspires them to affirm love wherever they see it,” said Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry’s executive director. “The CDF decision was based on bad theology and is extremely pastorally damaging to LGBTQ people. Catholics want to heal that painful hurt by showing they recognize same-gender relationships as divinely inspired and divinely supported–and they are willing to bless these couples who are, in fact, blessings to the world and to the church.”
Sister Jeannine Gramick, SL, New Ways Ministry’s co-founder who has been in ministry with the LGBTQ community for 50 years, said, “The CDF’s attempt to ban blessings for same-gender couples has backfired. Instead of ending the discussion about blessings, the Vatican has actually enlarged and enhanced the movement in the Catholic Church to affirm and welcome LGBTQ people, with more and more bishops and other church leaders speaking up and criticizing a decision which should never have been made.”
Among the theologians’ signatures are some of the most prominent Catholic scholars writing today. Included among the Catholic organizations are five religious communities of vowed women. Included in those five are the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, the largest community of nuns in the U.S. Those that signed anonymously include church workers–priests, nuns, brothers, lay pastoral ministers, educator, theologians, and, deacons–whose jobs would be in jeopardy if they were public in expressing their views. Also among the anonymous are volunteers including catechists, music directors, eucharistic ministers, lectors, spiritual directors, parish committee chairs, St. Vincent de Paul Society members, directors of religious education, pastoral visitors, directors of adult faith formation, pastoral visitors, and a host of other roles, all of which are critical to the complete functioning of the church.
The fact that about 1/3rd of the people signing the statement chose to be anonymous speaks of the fear that grips the Catholic Church, said Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry’s associate director. “Many people employed by church institutions fear losing their jobs or volunteer positions if they criticize the Vatican,” he observed. “We respect and sympathize with their fear. At the same time, we decry the terror with which some church officials run their institutions that forces people to be afraid to speak and live freely according to their consciences. This oppressive atmosphere is neither healthy nor holy, and the Catholic Church is greatly diminished by it.” Shine added, “Pope Francis has been encouraging the church to be more open about LGBTQ issues. He has also emphasized that the church must form, but not replace our consciences, which, as the church has long taught, are the ultimate authority. Church leaders should follow his lead in both regards.”
This latest protest follows several others including a similar statement signed by 2,000 German pastoral workers, and a more scholarly critique endorsed by 230 German theologians. News reports indicate that Pope Francis himself is displeased with the CDF’s statement, and that a public sermon he gave on the Sunday after the statement was released included not-so-veiled references criticizing the CDF’s decision.
If you want to add your name and/or your organization’s name to the statement, additional signatures will be added periodically. You can find the statement and signature form in either English (here) or Spanish (here).
—Francis DeBernardo and Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, March 30, 2021
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.