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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Diane J. Strickland says:
A beautifully written piece about something ugly. Thank you. Thank you for refusing to lay yourself down in the world and lie about who you are. Thank you to reach out your hand to others with less resilience, less reserves of courage, or less confidence right now.
B. C. White says:
As the old song goes, the times, they are a changing. I grew up United Church in the 1960's and 1970's and so had a more liberal religious bent because of the denominational bent. I was never particularly against LGBTQ people because I didn't know any or thought I didn't.
I have been involved in several conservative Christian Church for some years now. However, I was never in favor of discrimination of people nor violence towards people during my life. Probably because of the ignorance and prejudice of the people writing books on LGBTQ issues in these groups that I read, I did not have a whole picture of the issues and bought into some of the rhetoric. However, in the last couple of years, I have looked into the issues more closely for myself and started to read more variously. With some nuanced clarification, (though equally applying to the rights of the heterosexual community) I don't see any compelling and clear reason not to grant the same rights to LGBTQ people and others in their movement with the rest of us. Marriage is something that is difficult because I doubt that anyone hasn't at some point "sinned" in breaking their covenant with another person to be completely faithful (remember, the standards are very high, as per what Jesus said about lusting in our hearts). I've never met anyone who has been so "pure" as not to be in violation. I suspect that if this issue had come up in the gospels, Jesus may have asked the accusers - He/She/It who is amongst you without sin can cast the first stone... I don't know the ins and outs of all points of theology on this and I'm not going to come down hard on any given side because there are almost always major problems with being too dogmatic. However, I'm sure both sides who believe they are absolutely correct will find out one of these days who is right and who is wrong or whether both are somehow wrong. However, in the mean time, we have a clear obligation in view of the second great commandment to love one another. We each are responsible for doing this above almost all else and to the best of our ability as part of honoring God. Some may say that we must honor God by pointing out that this is "sin" and trying to stop people from getting married or warning them. However, most people are aware of these views so it is up to them to choose. If they are wrong, they are responsible for the consequences and their actions. It is not up to us to force them to choose in a certain way.
For me it is not the sin itself the people should be worried about, it is the lack of repentance. This is why Israel and later Judah were exiled, not because of their sins, but they did NOT return from their sins. (Ezekiel 14:6, Jeremiah 2) If one sins and repents (say looking at another lustfully - also not giving license to keep sinning(Hebrews 10:26, Romans 6:1)) then we are right with God. (1 John 1:9) If we willingly break God's commandments and excuse ourselves from moving away from that sin, then God WILL judge through Christ. (Romans 2:2-3, 2 Corinthians 5:10) We may not be called to judge, but we are called to warn others and to keep sin away from the Body of Christ. (Hebrews 3:13) Unfortunately people who sin and are called on it from others usually change the warning to judging to justify their actions, or they are convicted of the sin and don't want to repent.
Rev. Steve Bailey says:
Deirdre - As an Anglican clergy person, I'm glad you've found a career among Anglicans. This latest hurtful nonsense from the Vatican is symptomatic of institutional religion's inability and unwillingness to enter the 21st century in terms of psychology, sociology, spirituality and the hope of the Gospel itself. It portents the growing irrelevance of fossilized institutions such as the Roman Catholic establishment. I'm thankful that there are many professing Catholics fighting this grave injustice based on outdated dogma, outdated science, and outdated views of what constitutes human sexuality and human relationship.
I have this written in my Bible - Did we become Christians by faith? If so why do we put our trust in science and philosophies? Do we get to heaven by faith?, or, is there a scientific or philosophical way of getting there?
When one states the Bible is outdated they forget that God doesn't change
Elspeth MacEwan says:
Very sad to think of such blind hatred. It breaks my heart too. Thanks for your faithfulness in sharing your experience. May you be surrounded and surprised by all the blessings of Love.
Diane Damario says:
I don't disagree that God does not bless sin; my understanding is that God forgives sin. Having said that, it is important to note that God is love, and love is not sin. Consequently, in my view, same-sex relationships, which are about love, are not sins. These relationships should be blessed as acts of love. It's a bit disturbing that they would be blessed as sins.
Although, I am straight and was raised Roman Catholic, I have divorced and remarried. I refuse to consider my second marriage as a sin. I left the Roman Catholic church mid-service one day, when I was pregnant and just couldn't listen to the Roman Catholic definition of a family anymore. I wouldn't accept that the Roman Catholic church did not/would not consider my husband and my child as part of my family, and that I might have to beg to have my child baptized. I have since joined the United Church, which seems to better align with my views.