I have had my sin blessed, not once, but twice. Yes, it is true. I have had my sinful same-sex unions blessed twice by Roman Catholic priests.
I don’t consider them sinful, of course, and neither did the priests who may have risked their heavenly seats or at least their standing in religious communities by offering their holy hands and words commending our commitments of love to one another. However, once again, the Vatican has decided it is time to remind priests, God does not bless sin.
The first sinful blessing was by a priest in Ottawa who laid his hand on the rings my partner and I exchanged on our 10th anniversary, five years before same-sex marriage was legalized in Canada in 2005. The second time, a different priest did the deed, calling the opportunity to bless our nuptial vows a privilege after missing the main event in 2013. The wedding had taken place with an Anglican priest presiding at the local cathedral, a United Church minister witnessing, a choir from my Catholic church making music, and plenty of eating and drinking at a reception in the neighbourhood Presbyterian church.
At this point, you wouldn’t be alone in asking, “how many churches does it take to marry a Catholic lesbian?” (Put down your calculator, the answer here was four.)
So why did Roman Catholic bishops from Germany have to go poking around for an answer on whether the church would be making room for the blessing of same-sex civil unions, given their country’s decision to make them legal? O, that they would have remembered the maxim, “It is better to seek forgiveness than permission.”
Instead, they asked a question queer Catholics and their friends and allies already know the answer to. No.
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The pain of this answer is deepened when the clarifying statement, undoubtedly signed off on by the Pope, brings our loving relationships back down to the level of “intrinsically disordered,” with this treasured phrase, God “does not and cannot bless sin.”
Pope Francis, often considered to be the one who had come to break down the barriers in this and other church declarations of otherness, said it was okay to release that sword of words to pierce our hearts.
This is the same guy who, in a 2019 interview, said, “Homosexual people have the right to be in a family. They are children of God. You can’t kick someone out of a family, nor make their life miserable for this.” In another part of the interview, he said, “What we have to have is a civil union law; that way they are legally covered.”
Between the pain of the words themselves and the thought of Francis reading them and nodding, “yes, this is what people in same-sex relationships need to hear,” I am sick, sad and sorry.
I am sick for young, queer Catholics in all parts of the world, who have not had a chance to build up the resilience needed to hear these words and know their worth and dignity comes from God alone, not the men who have irreparably damaged the vehicle, this church, that had the potential of communicating Christ’s love to the world.
I am sad for me and for my parish community where I have worshipped and sung in the choir for almost two decades because they are good people and have welcomed and loved me in ways that speak the opposite to this latest statement. I don’t know if I can go back, and I don’t want them to think they have failed me.
I am sorry our church leaders cannot recognize the grace and gift of our relationships. I have always said I would stay and fight to change things but it’s getting more difficult to keep that commitment. Even if pastoral leaders do as the archbishop of Chicago has called for in light of the hate mail from the Vatican, it just might be too late.
Cardinal Cupich calls for pastoral leaders to “redouble our efforts to be creative and resilient in finding ways to welcome and encourage all LGBTQ people in our family of faith.”
I am grateful for the efforts of the priests, sisters and parishioners along my journey who took a chance and became a blessing to our so-called sin of same-sex love. I am sorry it may no longer be enough to hold me.
Deirdre Pike has been a queer Catholic since 1978, and now mixes it up by working for the Anglicans in the Diocese of Niagara.
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