Gay Pastors in Netherlands Vow to Ignore Vatican Ban on Same-Gender Blessings

By Jan Haen

A collective of gay pastoral workers in the Netherlands has vowed to ignore the Vatican’s ban on blessing same-gender couples, encouraging other church workers to do likewise.

The Association of Catholic Gay Pastors released its strongly-worded statement shortly after the Vatican’s responsum was issued in March. The pastoral workers write, in part:

“We. . .declare that we will ignore the prohibition on speaking out about non-heterosexual relationships. We declare that prohibition ungospel. And when two people (two men, two women, woman and man) want to bless each other and their families, we are ready at their request — and after the usual careful preparation — to offer that blessing also on their relationship.”

The Dutch pastors criticized the Vatican, asking, “What kind of ecclesiastical government is this?” Their answer:

“A hardened heart, a blind seeing, a plastered grave, esteeming the law more than man. Does the gospel still ring here somewhere? And then you dare to claim that you do not discriminate, but only explain the ecclesiastical doctrine. Yes, a doctrine that is completely detached from reality. If the shepherd does not take his sheep seriously, the shepherd himself can no longer be taken seriously!”

The pastors said the Vatican’s ban “ignores the lived blessing that LGBT + people living in relationship are for each other, for their family members, for their environment and (regularly) for their parish,” as well as contemporary developments in theology and science. They end their statement with a call for the bishops and pastors to whom it is written to likewise join them in defying the ban.

Around the globe, opposition to the Vatican ban continues to grow.

Members of the 3VolteGenitori network, a group of Italian Christian parents with LGBT children, released an open letter to Pope Francis regarding the ban. The group previously had an audience with the pope where he was presented with a copy of the group’s book about their stories. The parents wrote, in part:

“Yes, for us blessing means ‘to say good things’ and we can only say positive things about our children who are full of sensitivity and attention, at times even capable of bearing witness to faith and hope against all hope. . .

“Through their loving relationship, we see them flourish and fulfill the first and fundamental vocation of everyone: to be loved for who we are, to love oneself in order to be able to love others. This is the reality our eyes were able to see and witness in the lives of so many couples. This is the happiness of our hearts as parents! . . .

“If Mother Church does not have the ‘power’ to bless this love, we as parents, who are called to listen and support our children, can bless them today and always and we are ready to find a ‘sacramental’ to do so.”

(For information about an English version of the parents’ book, click here.)

The Tablet published an editorial saying same-gender couples had been “failed” by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Describing the responsum as a “curiously inopportune statement,” the editors join the chorus of those who say the Congregation’s move to stop discussion on the question of such blessings backfired. They continued:

“With circular logic and brutal insensitivity, this brushes aside all the psychological, emotional and pastoral situations in which gay people may find themselves, and defines them solely by such intimate sexual relationships as they may be presumed to have engaged in. This is a stark reversal of the direction of travel under Pope Francis, who has, for the first time, made gay and lesbian Catholics begin to feel welcome in the Church. . .

“Fortunately the CDF does not have the power to control God’s grace. Pope Francis in his subsequent Angelus remarks sought to emphasise God’s inclusive love for everyone, which was taken to indicate that he wanted to distance himself from the tone and content of the CDF’s unhelpful intervention. Other senior figures in the Church have done the same. So there is movement. And it is not in the CDF’s direction.”

Altar at St. Johannes Church, Vienna

Theologian Mary Hunt, writing in Religion Dispatches, wrote that the Vatican responsum may be a sign of change:

“In Catholicism, practice always comes first, then often a heavy-handed condemnation, then documents trickle out that confirm what is already the case. Of course this can take decades, even centuries, but that is the usual order of things. This little theological tidbit might actually foreshadow something. . .

“My guess is that there may be some good queer people in the Vatican at work on this. They know that when the institution publishes such an egregious statement that claims that God “does not and cannot bless sin,” despite the many and varied same-sex couples who live exemplary lives, there is bound to be hearty rejection, a lack of reception as it’s called theologically. Like the ban on birth control before it, that which is not received lays the groundwork for future normative Catholic practice. So shall it be for Catholic same-sex unions, marriages, weddings, even divorces. The Vatican doth doubt too much.”

Parishioners of St. Johannes Parish in Vienna, led by Fr. Hans Bensdorp, adorned the altar at their church with rainbow flags, as well as greeted people on the sidewalk of the church where they had created a chalk rainbow.

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 15, 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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