When my partner asked me to marry her in 2012, I told her I would need to wait until the Pope agreed to same-sex marriage. It wasn’t just a punchline with a stall tactic. I was committed to our relationship, but I was also a practicing Catholic as much as I was a practicing lesbian. I had no idea what saying ‘yes’ would mean liturgically and I wanted to be married in my church.
At the time, Benedict XVI was still Pope. Just a month after our engagement (I eventually answered ‘yes’), he used his last Christmas greeting to denounce same-sex marriage, calling it a “manipulation of nature” that will “destroy the essence of the human creature.” He used the opportunity to repeat a previous message that same-sex marriage was “an attack” on the traditional family.
By the time we found a church to marry us in 2013, Benedict XVI had resigned, and Francis was our new Holy Father. Then, just two months before our nuptials, Pope Francis made his high-altitude declaration, “If someone is gay and searches for the Lord…who am I to judge?”
That 2013 inflight press conference brought solace and hope to me and millions of LGBTQ Catholics around the world. However, since that momentous occasion, even Francis took us on a 10-year roller coaster ride, speaking out and taking action on LGBTQ inclusion.
From the thrill we felt after the first statement, we gripped the grab bar as we descended back to reality in 2021, hearing a very different message from that same voice.
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When German bishops pushed him with a direct question, “Can the Church give a blessing to unions of persons of the same sex,” the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith went even further than an unequivocal “no.”
“God does not and cannot bless sin…The Church does not have, and cannot have, the power to bless unions of persons of the same sex.”
Hopes were dashed and the reaction throughout the church from LGBTQ Catholics and advocates was raw with emotion. Even the Pope seemed to distance himself from the message.
Then just before Christmas 2023, Francis took us to the precipice of optimism with his new declaration on the blessings of same-sex couples. Critics have been quick to point out the limitations of the blessing. It is on the people, not the union; the blessing may not be done within the context of a liturgy or ritual; and people are not to wear special clothing.
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Yes, all that is true, but it has not soured the taste of joy and mercy for me in this papal act of pastoral care.
Renée and I have gone through many changes in our first decade of marriage as one would expect, but I never expected the church to make such a monumental shift in the same decade.
While we have had our marriage blessed by an Anglican priest, a United Church minister, and even a Catholic priest, you bet I’ll be asking my parish priest for a blessing on us. Frankly, I’m glad I won’t have to get dressed up.
Deirdre Pike is a queer Catholic working for the Anglican Diocese of Niagara in justice and outreach.
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