LGBTQ Catholics are expressing frustration and anger after Pope Francis and the Catholic Church reaffirmed their opposition to same-sex marriage rights on March 15.
The Catholic Church made headlines after responding to a question asking whether the Church has “the power to give the blessing to unions of persons of the same sex.” In an explanation approved by Pope Francis, the Church said God “does not and cannot bless sin.”
“There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family,” the Catholic Church wrote in a letter. The church added that their decision is not “discriminatory” but a “reminder of the truth of the liturgical rite and the very nature of the sacramentals, as the Church understands them.”
Jason Steidl, an out gay catholic theologian and religious advocate who lives in Brooklyn, told Gay City News anti-LGBTQ statements like this are a “tragedy” and can have devastating effects on LGBTQ Catholics.
“There’s a huge disconnect between what the Church teaches and how Catholics actually practice and live their faith,” said Steidl, who is a member of the Church of St. Paul the Apostle in Midtown Manhattan. “This is something that strikes at the very heart of LGBTQ identity and our ability to flourish, our right to be ourselves, to grow in love and relationships with ourselves and with one another.”
Last year, Pope Francis endorsed same-sex civil unions and he said LGBTQ people are “children of God” and “have a right to family.” However, his most recent statements underscore his reluctance to go any further than that.
“This is devastating for us and our work,” Steidl said. “We’ve been struggling so hard to change the culture…we’ve tried to get church leaders to listen, and yet they refuse to time and time again. On the other hand, this is very consistent with Pope Francis. Even before this, he said a lot of very difficult things…he’s said transphobic things and homophobic things. He’s not an ally in any sense of the world.”
Aaron Bianco, an out gay Catholic professor at the University of San Diego who made headlines in 2018 after he was the target of anti-LGBTQ harassment while working as a pastoral associate at St. John’s the Evangelist Catholic Church in San Diego, said he’s disappointed that Francis approved this message.
“We take two steps forward, and we’ve done that a lot with Pope Francis. I have to give him credit. But then, we take two steps back very quickly,” Bianco, who is from New York City, told Gay City News. “There are Catholic priests, all over this country and all over the world in the shadows that are blessing same-sex couples.”
Francis DeBernardo, who is executive director of LGBTQ Catholic organization New Ways Ministry, said he was not surprised to hear the Church reiterate opposition to marriage equality.
“Though Rome has now spoken on this issue, what the Vatican doesn’t realize is that the Catholic faithful are not satisfied with the answer that they gave,” DeBernardo said in a written statement. “Catholic people recognize the holiness of the love between committed same-sex couples and recognize this love as divinely inspired and divinely supported and thus meets the standard to be blessed. They recognize that God has already blessed these unions, and that a ritual is simply a recognition of God’s blessing.”
Marianne Duddy-Burke, the executive director of DignityUSA, said the Vatican’s latest move will “exacerbate the pain and anger of LGBTQI Catholics and our families.”
“This statement is hurtful to same-sex couples and dismissive of the grace demonstrated by same-sex couples who live deeply loving and committed relationships,” Duddy-Burke noted in a written statement. “It harms families of LGBTQ people, and young LGBTQ people who hoped the church would be more affirming, and even hoped to be married in the church someday.”
According to Steidl, these statements will continue to fuel anti-LGBTQ sentiments across the globe.
“Families around the world will use this teaching to harm LGBTQ people,” said Steidl, who knows congregants who have been kicked out of their home and shunned by their families because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. “People will die because of this teaching, and that’s what the Catholic Church…just doesn’t seem to get.”
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