What Does Boris Johnson’s Latest Wedding Have to Do With LGBTQ Catholics?

Prime Minister Boris Johnson

What does Boris Johnson’s latest marriage have to do with LGBTQ Catholics? A bit more than appears at first glance, wrote one journalist and educator.

Anger and confusion erupted last month when the British prime minister celebrated his third marriage at the Roman Catholic Westminster Cathedral in London (distinct from the more well-known Westminster Abbey, which is Anglican). Questions were raised about how someone who was divorced, and twice at that, could secure a Catholic wedding. Was this special treatment for the prime minister? A cunning use of canonical loopholes to make it possible when so many other Catholics have been and would be denied?

Johnson’s case does get into the weeds of canon law, though it seems valid, if unseemly, that he did marry (for more information on that, click here and here). The larger point in all this, according to Diarmuid Pepper at The Tablet, is that the church acknowledged with Johnson “life is complex and not always straight forward,” and therefore it responded by showing “compassion and understanding to the newly-weds.”

But this pastorally-oriented approach has left Pepper (and many other Catholics) wondering where such treatment is when it comes to LGBTQ Catholics. Pepper writes:

“However, even though there was no bar to Johnson being married in a Catholic ceremony, [ the Scottish Catholic Tribunal’s Canon Paul] Gargaro says Johnson’s ‘treatment of women and fidelity does seem to leave a lot to be desired’ and he hoped the priest who presided over the wedding had ‘proper marriage preparation for them’ in light of this. 

“Canon Paul Gargaro says Johnson’s “treatment of women” leaves a lot to be desired, yet his marriage goes off without a hitch.

“How hurtful this must be to LGBTQ Catholics, who are told that their relationship is so sinful that it cannot be blessed, even in private.”

Pepper, referencing the Vatican’s ban issued in March on blessing same-gender couples, continues:

“Gay members of the Catholic Church exist and they want to be a part of the faithful. The Church must find a way to make room for their love and blessing same-sex civil-unions is a common-sense way to afford the dignity they deserve as members of the faith. . .

“Change is needed to treat the Church’s gay members with dignity, but also to keep abreast with changing times. . .

“If the Church can accommodate the wedding of Boris Johnson, whose ‘treatment of women and fidelity’ leaves a lot to be desired, then it must find a way to accommodate committed relationships between its gay members.”

The scandal here is not that church officials were able to be channels of God’s mercy to Boris Johnson, but that such care is not afforded to every Catholic who seeks the church’s witness to and blessing of their love.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, June 8, 2021

2 replies
  1. Thomas Ellison
    Thomas Ellison says:

    You are correct, Bob Shine. The scandal is indeed that the same accomodation and concern is not offered to all Catholics – just the well connected. I knew a priest once who was ordained late in life. He had been married and divorced, twice ! He told me that he knew his second divorce and subsequent annulment would be a “slam dunk” as part and parcel of his joining the long line of Melchizadek. I don’t have a poker face and my astonishment was not lost on him. Again…the scandal is accomodation.

  2. Tom Bower
    Tom Bower says:

    If one can presume that neither of Boris’ first two marriages were inside the Church or to Catholics, that his newest wife has not been married in the Church previously, then they are free to do so this time. Indeed is he or she the Catholic party? This is not an uncommon work around when needed. Regarding his treatment of women, perhaps a trip to the confessional before the wedding would have made things right. As far as concern about the recent notation that the Church can not bless a sin, again it is the potential sinner and God who would decide if there is sin present or not. If your conscience is clear, then there is no sin to preclude going forward to marriage.

    Again, any couple marries each other. God/the Church blesses them as a witness, but otherwise isn’t part of the sacrament.


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