U.S. Catholics, Including Sisters of Mercy, Express Pain About Vatican Blessings Ban

Sisters of Mercy Institute Leadership Team

Despite the Vatican’s attempt to end the conversation on blessing same-gender couples, negative reactions to the ban continue to pour in from all parts of the Catholic world. Some of that conversation is about the difficult navigation of LGBTQ Catholics choosing to remain in the church or leave, and the losses that such leaving cause to the church.

Expressing their “disappointment” with the Vatican ban, the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas Institute Leadership Team issued a statement (as well as signing New Ways Ministry’s pledge to continue blessing same-gender couples). The Mercy statement reads, in part:

“Out of our deep and communal commitment to serve and stand in solidarity with marginalized people, we are disheartened to read the recent declaration from the Vatican refusing to allow the blessing of same-sex loving people in committed relationships. We know and love many of these couples as family, friends, and companions in ministry. As Christians, we share one another’s joys, and in this case, sorrows.

“The witness of these couples’ love blesses our community and church. It calls us to continue to expand our understanding of the infinite wideness and radical inclusivity of God’s Love.”

Speaking to NBC News, Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, highlighted what a loss it is to the church when LGBTQ people are excluded. He commented:

“LGBTQ people have many spiritual gifts which can renew religious institutions, if these groups would just perform the simple and holy acts of welcoming and listening. . .

“The reason there has been such tension between LGBTQ people and institutional religious groups has not been because LGBTQ people are not religious. . .I have seen an enormous number of LGBTQ people whose faith and religious identity are so strong that they continue to push for acceptance even against mammoth walls of opposition.”

Xorje Olivares

Xorje Olivares, a queer Catholic and host of the “Queer I Am Lord” podcast, called Vatican condemnations of LGBTQ people “an absolute disappointment each and every time,” saying further, “this week was no different.” He told The Daily Beast:

“‘I was angry, frustrated, aggravated, and yet unsurprised by the regurgitation of talking points that the church has used to disparage LGBTQ existence over the years, once again using the ‘sinful’ rhetoric that has attributed to countless trauma suffered amongst queer folks simply looking for acknowledgment. . .

“Additionally, it’s incredibly difficult to remove myself from Catholicism considering how much it’s ingrained in my Mexican-American culture to the point where they’re almost synonymous. But I will be among the first to admit that it’s been grueling staying, knowing just how spiritually violent it’s been to other LGBTQ people with no signs of improving.”

Fr. Alexander Santora, pastor of Our Lady of Grace in New Jersey, told News12 that while the responsum is not new in terms of its teaching, it is still “discouraging.” But, he added, “Out of tension, change comes. . .I think this tension will get people talking.” Santora said his parish is still planning to hold its fourth annual Pride Mass this June, as well continuing an LGBTQ ministry.

John Gehring

John Gehring of Faith in Public Life wrote an op-ed for Religion News Service that, “It’s a strange and un-Christian form of love that tells people they are equal in God’s eyes but then acts in ways that deem their committed relationships and parenting as inferior.” He continued:

“LGBTQ Catholics and allies will continue to remind our church that until there is real discernment about how a disordered theology that excludes and wounds is never holy, welcoming rhetoric rings hollow. Catholic leaders can begin by showing more humility. The hierarchy does not have a monopoly on truth when it comes to the complexities of gender and human sexuality. Reform and renewal first begin by listening — and acknowledging you have something to learn.”

The Franciscan Action Network issued a statement of solidarity with LGBTQ people, saying it understands “the pain, grief, and confusion sown among the world’s LGBTQ community” by the Vatican. The statement added, “In the spirit of St. Francis, we are called to open our hearts to cherish every person, particularly those marginalized, oppressed, or otherwise thrown away by those claiming power and authority – by those who presume to judge the worthiness of others.”

Other responses included a statement from the staff of Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Washington, D.C.

To add your name to the thousands of Catholics and other supporters who have signed a pledge to bless same-gender couples, click here

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, April 10, 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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