Vatican Ban on Same-Gender Blessings Imperils LGBTQ People, Say African Activists

Ricus Dullaert, left, with husband, Sylvester

LGBTQ Catholics worldwide continue to resist the Vatican’s ban on blessing same-gender couples. Today’s post features some of those reactions, including from activists in two African countries.

The activists told The National Catholic Reporter that the Vatican ban could make being LGBTQ more dangerous where people already face discrimination and criminalization laws:

“Paul, a 23-year-old Nigerian who asked to use a pseudonym for fear of reprisal, told NCR he has been living in fear since he came out as gay in 2018. He said the March 15 decree from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith complicates issues for him and his friends, who struggle for acceptance in ‘a society that derides and attacks us.’

“‘We believe this will put us in a difficult situation,’ said Paul. ‘The church should accept us the way we are and not make our lives miserable. This [statement] has dashed our hopes that one day we will come forward to receive a priest’s blessing at the altar as couples.'”

NCR reported on comments by Ricus Dullaert, a gay Catholic in South Africa who founded an LGBTQ ministry at a Johannesburg church. Dullaert called the ban “a step back” and said “it surprises me,” especially given Pope Francis’ more welcoming style. The report continued:

“Dullaert and his Nigerian spouse, Sylvester, held a 2014 ceremony at the Chapel of Our Lady in Amsterdam to celebrate their union. Among the featured moments was a blessing by a Catholic priest.

“‘Saying that gay people should live a celibate life is a beautiful statement but doesn’t work because they are humans and if people love each other and live together, you can’t say that they should not have sex,’ said the activist.

“Dullaert said he is concerned the Vatican’s decree may prevent LGBT Catholics in South Africa from coming forward, or may lead to criticism of parish groups like his that organize workshops on issues such as homophobia or discrimination.

“‘We have a number of vocal people who see it as a scandal that we have an LGBTQI group and they try to push the clergy and the parish council to say this is against the teaching of God and should be stopped,’ said Dullaert.”

Fr. Jim McDermott, S.J.

In a separate article, NCR featured reactions from a number of LGBTQ Catholic perspectives. These include comments from Fr. Jim McDermott, a gay Jesuit, who acknowledged that statements like the Vatican’s ban have a wider impact than just the question of blessings:

“‘When an official religious or spiritual organization, an organization that wants to be the voice and the hands of God, says things like this, it has serious, ongoing implications for people’s lives beyond their ability to get married.'”

McDermott, who called the ban “painful and confusing,” spoke positively about attending same-gender weddings, saying, “The people that I know that are queer and married are incredibly inspiring people who have helped me on my journey as a priest and as a gay man.”

Yunuen Trujillo

Yunuen Trujillo, a queer Catholic involved with LGBTQ ministry, told NCR, “To know that an inanimate object could be perceived as having more value than a committed loving relationship between two adults. … It just sounds really wrong to me.”

Santiago Botero and his husband, Sebastián Pascuas, of Colombia are Catholic and had a priest bless their unions during their 2020 wedding, which also included a celebration of the Eucharist. Of this latest ban, Botero commented:

“‘It’s sad because now we can see that the church hasn’t given itself a chance to get to know these people, these couples. . .To see that they are forming homes, that they are striving, that they also fall but they get up and keep trying to persevere in their faith. … The church hasn’t taken the opportunity to go to their homes and bear witness to their love.'”

Elsewhere, Greg Bourke, whose legal case helped make marriage equality in the U.S. a reality, wrote in the Lexington Herald-Leader that as a gay Catholic he often feels “like I’m on an amusement park roller coaster, not know[ing] when the next drop or jarring sharp turn is going to arrive.”

More than 3,000 Catholics have signed New Ways Ministry’s statement affirming they will bless same-gender couples in protest of the Vatican’s ban on such blessings. You can add your name here

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, March 31, 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.

3 replies
  1. Rev Richard McKay
    Rev Richard McKay says:

    The Statement of Clifton Diocese LGBTQ+ Ministry Group ref CDF decision

    The ‘signature’ hymns of the Parish of St Nicholas of Tolentino here in Bristol are ‘All are welcome in this place’ and the Taizé Chant ‘Ubi Caritas’ (Where there is Charity and Love, there is God). Three years ago the Holy Spirit challenged our Parish Pastoral Council – who are we are not welcoming? After a year of prayer and discernment Bishop Declan Lang of Clifton Diocese missioned our parish to establish a monthly Mass and develop a ministry among our LGBTQ+ community in the diocese.

    So it is with sorrow and pain that we learnt of the CDF statement not only prohibiting the blessing of same sex unions but going further: continuing to deny LGBTQ+ people’s identity and their God-given right to grow in love, to give and receive love. We rejoice in the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the genuine Christ-given love and generosity that are clearly present in our same-sex couples. Their love for one another, flowing from them into the wider community in service and care is truly the work of the Holy Spirit. Why are so many in the Church blind to the work of God among us? Is it the ‘sin against the Holy Spirit’ that Jesus speaks of?

    Others more competent than we can present the theological case for rejecting the poor and outdated theology expressed by the CDF. We welcome the statements of bishops and theologians who have challenged the CDF ‘responsio’, and hope for more voices to be raised in protest. Furthermore it is clear that those faithful Christians and Catholics most affected by this harsh condemnation reject this as in any way authentic Christ-centred teaching, as we also reject. Sadly that rejection is inevitably accompanied by many deciding to leave the Church. We pray that, despite the hurt and pain, they will stay and fulfil their prophetic calling in the Body of Christ and bring healing to their wounded Church.

    Furthermore, the CDF statement fuels the harsh and too-often vitriolic attitudes and words coming from too many bishops and people – and in some parts of the world serves only to justify discrimination and violent persecution of the LGBTQ+ community. Pope Francis is clearly a shepherd on the side of the marginalised and excluded.

    He must speak unequivocally and soon to heal the wounds of his LGBTQ+ flock by correcting this statement of the CDF conspicuously not inspired by the Holy Spirit.

    The CDF have caused not only pain and sorrow, but also much justifiable anger – the kind of anger Jesus expressed in the Temple when the true face of God was hidden behind ritual, law and abuse of religious power. We share that anger but like Jesus seek
    ways to channel it into prophetic and sacrificial love, with on-going support of our beloved and loving LBGTQ+ community.

    We, the Clifton Diocesan Ministry among the LBGTQ+ community, pledge to continue singing ‘All are welcome here’ and ‘Where there is Charity and love there is God’, sharing sacraments and blessings with this community as with all the ‘scattered People of God’.

    signed: Rev Richard McKay, Margaret Ulloa, Mary Hopper, Dr John Flannery,

      DON SIEGAL says:

      The Statement of Clifton Diocese LGBTQ+ Ministry Group

      Thank you, thank you for this comprehensive inclusive essay. I was particularly drawn to the paragraph, “The CDF have caused not only pain and sorrow, but also much justifiable anger—the kind of anger Jesus expressed in the Temple when the true face of God was hidden behind ritual, law and abuse of religious power…”

      I believe doing things like signing the New Ways Ministry’s response statement to the CDF is an appropriate way to channel our anger. And, I would add writing a letter to the Holy Father concerning the CDFs total disregard for the LGBTQ+ community.

  2. Steven Stencil
    Steven Stencil says:

    Sadly, so many LGBTQ Catholics have had to turn to the Independent Catholic Movement or other welcoming mainline faith communities for inclusion and acceptance even though many sympathetic and gay RCC priests wish the ignorant arrogance of the RCC would come to greater conversion and willingness to embrace ALL of God’s people. So sad! Rome and the RCC deserves all the criticism and denouncing it once again receives!


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