A key Vatican official believed to be the person responsible for the Vatican ban on same-gender blessings last year has been reassigned by Pope Francis in a personnel change that could have wider significance.
Archbishop Giacomo Morandi, the number two official at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was reassigned by Pope Francis to now be head of the Italian Diocese of Reggio Emilia-Guastalla. America reported further:
“The move amounts to a demotion since Morandi currently has the title of archbishop, yet is heading to a small diocese, not an archdiocese. . .
“[Morandi] was widely seen as being behind the March 2021 document that outraged the gay community, which Francis has made pains to welcome into the church fold. The document declared that the Catholic Church won’t bless same-sex unions because God ‘cannot bless sin.’ The document said Francis had been informed of the document and ‘gave his assent’ to its publication, but Francis was apparently taken by surprise by its impact.”
According to Crux, the Vatican did not give a reason for the somewhat abrupt personnel shift, nor was a successor appointed. What Morandi’s reassignment means has prompted Vatican observers to speculate. Morandi appears to have played a key role in the blessings ban, but he has also opposed the pope’s restrictions on traditionalist Masses. The Crux report noted that major personnel shifts have been occurring in the Vatican recently and more are expected with the anticipated release of Pope Francis’ new constitution for the Curia this year.
Perhaps more significant is the possibility that Morandi’s removal opens up. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s leadership is now left with its prefect, Cardinal Luis Ladaria, who is well past retirement age at 78, and two adjunct secretaries, one of whom is retiring. The other adjunct secretary, however, is Malta’s Archbishop Charles Scicluna, a close ally of the pope with a positive record on LGBTQ issues. Some observers speculate that, with Ladaria retiring and Morandi now removed, the pathway is set for Scicluna to head up the doctrinal office.
Such an appointment would be remarkable for LGBTQ people. Bondings 2.0 readers may recall Scicluna;s many positive decisions. Most recently, he threatened a priest with canonical sanctions for a priest who made harmful anti-gay comments. In 2013, while he was an auxiliary bishop, he called for the church to respect gay people. He somewhat defended love in same-gender relationships, saying at one point, “Love is never a sin. God is love.” At other times, Scicluna did not punish and even affirmed the LGBTQ outreach ministry of a priest who blessed a same-gender couple’s union in 2015; he said the church should apologize to LGBTQ people (though opposed civil unions); he condemned “conversion therapy” with an apology for a church report which had supported it, and he participated in the International Day Against Homophobia.
Much of what Vatican observers and journalists do is, at some level, read tea leaves. Why something does or does not happen in the labyrinthine world of the Curia is complex to discern. Pope Francis certainly keeps Catholics alert with his willingness to make bold changes without notice. It is hard to know what to make of the Morandi situation or predict the next events. Stay tuned, however, because any curial changes in 2022 could be critical for LGBTQ people.
—Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, January 12, 2022