Catholics have expressed their anger over the Diocese of Marquette’s new restrictions placed on LGBTQ people, which include prohibitions from the sacraments.
Yesterday, Bondings 2.0 reported on the set of directives from Bishop John Doerfler of Marquette that are the most comprehensive restrictions yet released by a U.S. diocese. They include instructions to deny sacraments to transgender people and those in same-gender relationships, prohibitions on such people in liturgical roles and church leadership, LGBTQ-negative education policies, and more.
LGBTQ advocates have reacted strongly, per The Washington Post:
“Jennifer Haselberger, a former chancellor for canonical affairs in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, said she was particularly puzzled by Marquette’s rule about baptism.
“‘There’s nobody who approaches baptism from a state of perfection,’ she said. ‘The presumption is the opposite. You come to baptism as a sinner, and original sin is forgiven you.’
“The diocese’s policy may also counter a part of canon law that says any person who has not yet been baptized is eligible for that sacrament, Haselberger said. A transgender person denied baptism for that reason could appeal to the Vatican, but Haselberger said it is unlikely that someone would risk the publicity and emotional challenge of that process.”
The Post reported further comments by Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry:
“At a time of increasing societal awareness of diverse gender identities, DeBernardo said he assumes that many bishops are fielding questions from priests about whether to administer sacraments to transgender or nonbinary people.
“‘I think that when the marriage equality debates in the U.S. ended in 2015, for the most part, with the Supreme Court decision, that the new issue for the U.S. bishops became gender identity, more than anything else,’ he said. ‘And I think with the new generation — that there’s new understanding of gender and more visibility for people who don’t identify with the gender binary — that this is going to come up.'”
Patrick Hornbeck, a gay theologian at Fordham University, tied the Diocese of Marquette’s restrictions to wider debates among the U.S. episcopate over the sacraments, in particular the Eucharist:
“Hornbeck. . .noted the policy comes at a time when many Catholic leaders have taken to drawing lines beyond which they believe it’s not possible for a person to be in good standing within the church. Recent debate among the U.S. bishops over whether President Biden and other Catholic politicians who support abortion rights can receive Communion exemplifies that trend, he said.
“‘The Diocese of Marquette seems to be adding fuel to that particular fire by saying that beliefs about gender and gender transition also fall into that category,’ Hornbeck said.”
Elsewhere, on Twitter, Jesuit Fr. James Martin posted in response to the directives:
“It is not a sin to be transgender. Transgender people are beloved children of God struggling to understand their identity. They need to be accepted with ‘respect, compassion and sensitivity.’ As Cardinal Gregory told a trans person, ‘You belong to the heart of this church.'”
Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, linked the Marquette policy and similar ones to a 2019 document from the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education, Male and Female He Created Them, which addressed LGBTQ issues. Duddy-Burke told NBC News:
“This educational mandate [from the Vatican] was sort of just put on the shelf by almost every other country in the world, but it just shows how many culture warrior bishops we have here in the United States, that they have really amplified this kind of teaching to the detriment of LGBTQ Catholics, who feel evermore excluded by the hierarchy of our church. . .If the church continues to have discriminatory attitudes, policies and teachings, the trend of people opting out of Catholicism is only going to continue.”
DignityUSA has launched a petition asking Bishop Doerfler to withdraw the policy, saying, in part: “The sacraments should not be weaponized, period. Not against LGBTQ+ people, not anyone.” More information is available here.
—Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, December 11, 2021