Priests’ Group in Pittsburgh Issue Statement Criticizing Vatican’s Blessings Ban

A group of U.S. priests has issued a statement critical of the Vatican’s ban on blessing same-gender couples. Today’s post includes that news, as well as several other related news updates.

Pittsburgh Priests’ Group Issues Critical Statement

The Association of Pittsburgh Priests, which represents some 300 reform-minded clergy and lay people, issued its statement against the ban this week. The group said the Vatican’s document was “pastorally unacceptable” and “insensitive to the loving, committed relationships of many members of the body of Christ.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported further:

“The association put forth a three-point plan to make LGBTQ people feel more welcome within the Catholic Church: to call on the Vatican to reconsider its opposition to same-sex unions; to ‘seek to find’ ways to bless LGBTQ people; and to encourage people to pray for the Catholic Church to embrace LGBTQ people and ‘grow as a church.’ . . .

“‘Our Catholic faith and tradition compel us to respect and honor the faith journeys of LGBTQ people,’ the association wrote. ‘We know that those who enter into committed relationships do so out of love which is divinely inspired and supported.’

“In connection with its statement, the association sent a letter to Pittsburgh Diocese Bishop David Zubik on Monday requesting his ‘blessing on the ministries to LGBTQ people and their families here in our own diocese.'”

While the Association was critical of the ban, it did not go as far as the Pfarrer Initiative in Austria which issued a “call to disobedience.”  Sr. Barbara Finch, secretary of the Pittsburgh group, said it did not formally support such a path. Whether to bless same-gender couples would be up to individuals:

“‘That [blessings] has not been going on in the Pittsburgh diocese and none of our canonically ordained presently have done that. But that would be a matter of conscience of our members,’ Sister Barbara said, noting that priests ‘would be taking a great risk’ by defying the Vatican’s ruling. . .

“‘It’s very difficult to be Catholic and gay,’ she said. ‘We want to embrace them and encourage them to continue to search out their relationship with God and also with their faith — no matter what the Vatican says.'”

The Diocese of Pittsburgh had no comment on the Association’s statement.

Gay Advisor to Vatican: Pope Wants to “Repair” Harm of Ban

Juan Carlos Cruz, who is gay and a survivor of clergy abuse, said in an interview that Pope Francis was “very hurt” and desired to “repair in some way” the harm caused by the ban. reported on comments by Cruz, who is also a member of the Vatican’s Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors:

“In the interview, Cruz does not hold the Pope responsible for the content and style of the document, but rather ‘some very powerful prefects’ of the Roman Curia who are ‘masters in commanding’. He knows that Francis did not personally sign it – ‘although he is ultimately responsible for it’. He, Cruz, ‘has a feeling that somehow he will fix this situation’.”

Feminist Organization Releases Blessing Ceremony

The Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual (WATER) published a new blessing ritual for same-gender couples in response to the Vatican ban. In a brief statement preceding the ritual, directors Mary E. Hunt and Diann L. Neu write, “We, the WATER Community, rejoice in the love of all couples and in the abundant blessings which the Divine Creator showers on our world through them.” To find the ritual, click here.

Relatedly, Hunt also wrote about reactions to the ban for Religion Dispatches. She focuses in on “the many and varied ways some Catholics try to explain and excuse a statement,” such as those who claim Pope Francis did not really approve it or was distracted by his then-upcoming trip to Iraq. Hunt writes:

“It is stunning the lengths to which his defenders go to offer ludicrous excuses for the fact that yes, Virginia, Pope Francis really did approve this ‘gratuitously cruel’ statement which is doing a lot of harm. I would love to be wrong on this because it has lowered Francis’ standing on other issues like ecology, war, and economics. Of course he could step forward and issue a clarification. But that’s not much of a Vatican custom—at least within the same century as making a colossal mistake. Great harm is already done.”

New Film Features Gay Couple’s Response to Ban

A short documentary, titled “The Greatest Blessing,” shares the story of Pietro and Giacomo, a gay Italian couple, and how they have responded to the Vatican ban. The film, which is by Emanuele Sesta, can be viewed below or on YouTube by clicking here.

For Bondings 2.0’s full coverage of the debate over blessing same-gender couples in the church, click here.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, June 18, 2021

Related Items

The New York Times, “German Catholic Priests Defy Rome to Offer Blessings to Gay Couples

New Ways Ministry, A Catholic Blessing for Same-Gender Couples”

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