LGBTQ+ Advocates Celebrate Pope’s Approval of Same-Gender Blessings

Chris Vella

On Monday, the Vatican issued a declaration, approved by Pope Francis, that made blessings for same-gender couples possible in the church. In posts this week, Bondings 2.0 will detail various reactions from Catholic LGBTQ+ advocates, secular groups, church leaders, and others.

Today’s post focuses on LGBTQ+ advocates’ responses, which were overwhelmingly positive. (For New Ways Ministry’s statement on this monumental document, referred to as an early Christmas gift from Pope Francis, click here.)

Chris Vella, co-chair of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics, which called the declaration, “a milestone in the long journey towards equality,” spoke about the personal impact:

“As a Catholic LGBTIQ+ person married to my partner for the past five years, the decision by the DDF is a major milestone that confirms what we always knew in our hearts: that our relationships can be blessed, are indeed holy, and can be a blessing for our families and communities as well as the Church. This announcement comes on the eve of the first date with my husband-to-be ten years ago. What a wonderful gift!”

Marianne Duddy-Burke

Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, called the declaration “a dramatic reversal” of the same dicastery’s 2021 ban on such blessings. Duddy-Burke commented in a statement:

“This is an important recognition that the denial of blessings caused great pastoral harm to many and demonstrates a willingness to rethink discriminatory and dehumanizing theology. . .[S]ignificant majorities of Catholics in many countries already believe that same-sex couples’ relationships are holy, blessed, and equivalent to marriage. It may take time, but we fully expect that the official church will achieve this recognition, as well.”

LGBT+ Catholics Westminster issued a statement calling the declaration “nothing short of wonderful for those many couples in committed relationships.” The British organization continued:

“The Catholic Church has always been very comfortable to give blessings to a vast range of inanimate objects ranging from homes, offices and vehicles, even machines of war, as well as to beloved pets and other animals. The idea, not to say practice, that a loving and committed same-gender couple could deserve a blessing in their faith and from the Church that they love so much, has been a struggle for the Church for far too long.”

Francis DeBernardo

Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry added to his initial statement in an interview with ABC 5, saying:

“‘It shows the greatest affirmation of same-sex couples that we’ve ever seen in 2,000 years. I think perhaps even more significantly, it shows that church teaching can change. . .It’s a recognition that something is holy, and what today’s decision is saying is that the relationship that exists between two people of the same gender is holy and is something that can help each of those two people become closer to God.'”

Sarah Kate Ellis

Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD, said in a statement:

“By removing barriers to priests blessing LGBTQ couples, the Pope accurately recognizes that LGBTQ people and our relationships are worthy of the same affirmation and support in the Church, and this strengthens couples in their faith and to the community. This is the latest in a historic pattern of actions and announcements from Pope Francis which show that LGBTQ people should not be used as a dividing issue, and we are worthy of love, respect and compassion.”

JR Zerkowski

Stan J.R. Zerkowski, executive director of Fortunate Families, told The Bay Area Reporter:

“‘Yesterday, every ordained person knew they were not to bless same-sex unions. That was, sort of the rule, if you will. . .It was done covertly, not to cause trouble, but I think today signals a whole different pastoral care approach to same-sex relationships. . .For those who say nothing’s changed, I’d say they’re absolutely wrong and a lot has changed overnight.'”

Christine Quinn

Christine Quinn, a lesbian Catholic who was the New York City Council’s first openly LGBTQ+ member, lauded this “incredibly powerful step,” telling Gay City News, “As a lesbian, a Catholic, and a human being who fundamentally believes everyone deserves love and support, this is welcome news, especially during the holiday season.”

Aaron Bianco

Aaron Bianco, a gay church worker who was forced to resign due to right wing harassment, told Gay City News that “this huge turnaround was very surprising,” and that non-Catholics “probably don’t understand how huge this is.” Bianco added, “We’ve gone from this will never be a conversation’ to ‘OK priests, you have the ability now to go out and bless same-sex couples if they ask you for it.'”

Rick Guasco, co-director of Chicago’s Archdiocesan Gay and Lesbian Outreach, known as AGLO, told the Daily Herald that he “felt affirmed by my church in a way I never felt” because “[i]t acknowledges LGBTQ people do have strong, committed relationships, just like everybody else can.” Guasco added that AGLO is now determining “what [the declaration] is going to look like and what it means for us going forward.”

Fr. Donal Godfrey, SJ, the director of ministry at the University of San Francisco who is gay, said the declaration “humanizes and destigmatizes us.”

Michael Vasquez

The Pacific School of Religion and its Center for LGBTQ+ and Gender Studies in Religion released a statement applauding the pope for “a historic and significant step.”

Finally, Michael Vasquez, an LGBTQ+ Catholic activist, wrote in the Washington Blade about the declaration in this Advent season. Describing it as a “moment to exhale” and to hope, Vasquez wrote:

“Advent foreshadows justice, and gives reason to continue to hope. For decades LGBTQ Catholics labored and organized for change, and now we breathe the rare air of those who taste the fruits of laboring for justice. . .This moment is the inheritance of a legacy of queer Catholic organizers unrelentingly committed to the possibility of hope. . .The tide is turning, and in keeping with the Christmas spirit, Pope Francis, while imperfect, guides us towards the liberating light of hope.”

Tomorrow, Bondings 2.0 will cover church leaders’ reactions, both positive and negative. For the blog’s full coverage of recent years’ debate over blessing LGBTQ+ couples, click here.

Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, December 21, 2023

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