On Monday, by way of a document released by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Catholic Church argued that it won’t bless same-sex unions because it “cannot bless sin.”
The statement, which was approved by Pope Francis, came in the form of a two-page explanation in response to a question. The Vatican said in the response that it is welcoming of gay people, but claims gay sex is “intrinsically disordered” and that gay unions can’t be blessed. The reasoning: It argues that God’s plan is that marriage if for the sake of creating life.
The decree has since left Catholics in the LGBT community concerned, given that Pope Francis has previously said gay couples should have legal protections in unions and that they “have a right to a family.”
“These rules and teachings are not meant to discriminate against any person. They are a matter of Church doctrine, which is often counter-cultural by its very nature, because it is not formed or informed by modern society’s guidelines but by Scripture, theology and a belief in natural law,” said Mary DeTurris Poust, director of communications for the Albany Diocese. “To society’s secular ears, this can be a difficult teaching to understand — whether you are a divorced Catholic or persons in a same-sex union seeking a blessing, or, for that matter, a woman wishing to pursue ordination to the priesthood,”
While some Catholic churches in the Capital Region say they understand where the Vatican is coming from, those of other faiths — like Rev. Dustin Wright of the Messiah Lutheran Church in Rotterdam — argue that the Catholic Church’s stance on such issues is turning parishioners away.
Wright, who has blessed several gay unions in the last five years, said that roughly a third of his congregation are former members of the Catholic Church.
“It’s heartbreaking,” Wright said. “We have a pretty large contingent of former Catholic members of our congregation who are really lamenting this, as well as folks that are members of the Lutheran Church, that probably would still consider themselves Catholic. They really love so much about Roman Catholicism, but just continue to be heartbroken by the social teachings. There was a lot of hope under Pope Francis, that things are changing in some areas, particularly around the environment and a few other things. But there’s still a long way to go.”
Rev. Dominic Isopo of St. Luke’s and St. Joseph’s in Schenectady said that “sensitivity and understanding” have to remain at the heart of conversations around same-sex unions. He said he understands that the church’s stance is that “God’s plan for creation, both human beings and in nature with animals and everything else, is to procreate” and added that blessing same-sex unions hasn’t been something he had been comfortable doing in the past.
“I certainly sympathize and understand where the gay community is coming from,” Isopo said. “The larger issue here is coming up with a definition of marriage. And secondly, the whole overarching issue of human sexuality. And I think those are challenges for the church, particularly the magisterium, which is the teaching branch of the church, and the Congregation for Doctrine of Faith. I think those are some of the issues that they’re looking at, and will always be part of the conversation.”
He added that St. Luke’s regularly prays for and accepts those in the gay community, as many parishioners are from the community, and he thought the Vatican acknowledged positive aspects to same sex unions in its document.
Wright, who said his congregation has representation in Schenectady Pride’s planning committee, said he had a conversation with two mothers recently who were asked to leave their church when their children came out as gay. He added that over at Messiah Lutheran, he prioritizes “mainstreaming queer voices in leadership.”
“Church would be the place where you feel the most affirmed, the most welcomed, the most loved,” Wright said. “And it’s heartbreaking when it’s literally the exact opposite and a message of love is abused and misused and misappropriated.”