The words caught me off guard, though they should not have. The Vatican released a statement on Monday that claimed God could not “bless” same sex marriages — as if God called them Sunday night to give them that message. There are billions of people around the world who identify as Roman Catholic, making the words of the Vatican that much more concerning.
Their words sting and are hurtful not only to the LGBTQIA+ community but seem to go against what Pope Francis has previously supported — civil unions and legal marriage protections for gay couple. The Vatican’s belief that the blessing of a civil union might be confused as a sacramental recognition of a marriage — something that heterosexual couples automatically get in the church when they marry — is a slap in the face for gay couples who believe their union is a blessing, because it is.
The Catholic Church does not believe in blessing a civil union, but does seem to believe in welcoming gay people into the church. This makes no sense to me. You cannot welcome gay people into the church if you do not welcome all of them — including the love that same-sex couples have, which is not less than what heterosexual couples have.
A long held belief of the Catholic Church is that marriage as defined by God is between a man and woman. I, as a gay, married woman, obviously disagree with the Vatican and the idea that marriage is between a man and a woman is a tired belief void of understanding the reality that we live in today. That reality rests on the fact that people have changed since Biblical times and what we must live by is what God stood for: compassion, respect, honesty, and doing the right thing even when others, like Pope Francis, are not.
In a documentary released in Rome in October 2020, the Pope stated in part that civil union laws for same-sex couples should be passed. Pope Francis goes on to say, “What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered. I stood up for that.” The Pope’s statements were made less than six months ago and seem to be in direct contrast to the most recent Vatican’s statements.
So gay couples should have equal protection against the law — and the Pope supports that — but their marriages aren’t “real” in the eyes of God? How is that supposed to work?
If the Catholic Church wants to be more progressive, start small and fully accept people, including gay people. Being welcoming is not something that you can do half-assed. To live by the Bible means understanding some of the teachings, like the one in 1 Corinthians, that love is the greatest gift of all and the Vatican.
The passage in 1 Corinthians 13 states, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
This is the same scripture I had the day my own civil union was blessed in the Episcopal Church. I recommend that the Vatican goes back to this passage and reads it — it hits home for who we are as a people today. That we should love, protect and not dishonor, which includes LGBTQIA+ people.
I married my wife, a former Catholic woman, in 2011. We were married in the Episcopal Church, a denomination we call “Catholic light.” Religious traditions matter to my family and me, as does our faith. When we got married 10 years ago, gay marriage was not legal in the Episcopal Church either. But the blessing of a civil union was and the legal part came by way of a justice of the peace.
Our union was blessed by our beloved priest, Jennifer, a woman who saw our union for what it was — blessed by God. She made us feel special on our big day, and reminded us that we were as deserving a couple to unite in this way as any other. What we never questioned along the way, is whether God loved us, blessed us or walked with us in our union. We knew He was with us every single step of the way. He carried us through the struggles of discrimination we faced as a same-sex couple, reminding us that we are His children too and of equal value as a woman who chooses to marry a man. As LGBTQIA+ people, we are no less than anyone else and the love we have for our partners means just as much as the next person.
There is nothing wrong with truly loving another person, loving another for the person they are man or woman or trans or bisexual. When a person makes the commitment to be with another person, binding their lives together, committing to facing struggles together and creating memories together, it means they understand truly what the meaning of love is.
The Vatican is wrong to state that God says it’s a sin to bless civil unions. When such statements make their way to the ears and hearts of others, two things happen: LGBTQIA+ people will hear that their lives, their love for one another isn’t equal to that of heterosexual people’s, that their love does not matter — and people who believe that LGBTQIA+ people can (and should) be discriminated against or harmed in some way feel emboldened to discriminate or spew hate.
And we can’t ignore the impact that statements like this have on the mental health and well being of the LGBTQIA+ community — especially the younger folks. Numerous studies have shown the relationship between not feeling accepted for who we are and spikes in mental illness, self-harm, and suicide.
Religious bodies, like the Catholic Church, have a responsibility, especially when they speak to their believers. The responsibility they have is to not inflict harm, and these statements have done just that. Their words matter and these recent words by the Vatican are shameful.
The good new is that, according to Reuters, some Catholic priests are rebelling and going against the words of the Vatican by standing up for LGBTQIA+ people. Change in the Catholic Church cannot happen unless there are people — like the Catholic priests who have vowed to disobey the orders of the Vatican and continue to bless civil unions — that anything will change in the Catholic Church. We can all teach one another something and for the Catholic Church, their reckoning is right now.