A new set of directives from the Diocese of Marquette seeks to greatly restrict LGBTQ people’s participation in the life of the church, including possible bans on the sacraments and leadership positions. They are the most wide-ranging set of such prohibitions yet.
The directive is titled “Created in the Image and Likeness of God: An Instruction on Some Aspects of the Pastoral Care of Persons with Same-Sex Attraction and Gender Dysphoria,” and it is signed by Bishop John Doerfler and Vice-Chancellor MaryAnn Bernier.
The first sections of the text examines pastoral accompaniment and church teachings on sexuality. Readers are warned against “merely using labels such as ‘gay’ or ‘transgender,” and told that same-gender relationships “can never reflect total and fruitful love.” Being LGBTQ is compared to “a disordered desire for alcohol” and anorexia.
The prohibitions on LGBTQ people come in a section regarding specific pastoral situations, in which pastors might be “made to delay the celebration of a sacrament, withhold Holy Communion or the other sacraments, or determine that a person is not disposed to exercise a liturgical ministry or position of leadership (e.g., reader, extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, catechist, parish finance or pastoral council member, etc.)” based on someone’s relationship or identity.
Regarding the Sacraments of Initiation, someone in a same-gender relationship or who affirms their transgender identity “may not be Baptized confirmed, or received into full communion in the Church, unless the person has repented.” For trans people, the document repeatedly uses language similar to the following to differentiate people who affirm or do not affirm their identity:
“Repentance does not require reversing the physical changes to the body that the person has undergone. The experience of incongruence in one’s sexual identity is not sinful if it does not arise from the person’s free will, nor would it stand in the way of the person serving as a sponsor or a Christian witness. However, deliberate, freely chosen, and manifest behaviors to redefine one’s sex do constitute such an obstacle.”
Regarding the reception of Communion, people in same-gender relationships and transgender people “should not present themselves for Holy Communion.” If LGBTQ people who are public about their identities and relationships, they are to be denied Communion. Likewise, there is to be denials for the Anointing of the Sick outside of a person being unresponsive and close to death.
Regarding marriage, transgender people are considered their assigned sex at birth, not their gender, and so can only marry accordingly. There is an explicit prohibition on blessing same-gender couples, as well as use of church facilities for blessings or weddings by such couples.
The directive also addresses whether transgender people and people in same-gender relationships can exercise leadership and liturgical roles, which is answered in the negative when someone has not “repented and withdrawn from the relationship” or exercises “deliberate, freely chosen and manifest behaviors to redefine one’s sex.”
Finally, the directive takes up students in Catholic schools and religious education classes. Similar to policies in other dioceses, students are to be addressed and treated according to their assigned sex. Two appendices are included for covenants between families and schools or parishes, which, while not explicitly mentioning LGBTQ issues, stress adherence to church teaching.
Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, commented on the Marquette directives in a statement. He said they would “backfire explosively in the face of the leaders who wrote these restrictive and harmful rules,” adding:
“Catholics in the pews, who polls consistently show overwhelmingly support LGBTQ people, will balk at these penalties. Theologians who are opening up new ways of thought to further affirm LGBTQ people will refute the faulty reasoning the diocese uses. And bishops in other dioceses will certainly speak out to let Catholics in their areas know that LGBTQ people are welcome as full members of the Church.
“The downside of such a statement is the grave and lasting pastoral and psychological harm that it will cause. Not only will LGBTQ people feel further alienated from the church, but their family members, friends, and supporters will also end up leaving for more welcoming communities. Worse yet, such harsh messaging will certainly cause some LGBTQ people, particularly youth, to develop negative self-images and potentially practice self-harm.
“These guidelines are not a tool for evangelization, but for decimation of the Catholic community. Far from being pastoral, these guidelines reflect church policy which restricts Jesus’ inclusive message for all and which does not protect the Catholic Church, but gravely harms it.”
Tomorrow, Bondings 2.0 will feature more reactions to the Diocese of Marquette’s directives.
—Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, December 9, 2021