Early this morning, someone from Ateneo asked me about my reaction or take on the recent official pronouncement from the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith regarding the blessing of same-sex couples and other persons considered by the Roman Catholic Church within irregular relationships.
And I replied to them with an emoji:
I want to start by saying that the pronouncement from the Vatican is not what most people think it is and not what LGBTQIA+ people want it to sound like. It is not a blessing for the relationship of the couple. The Vatican was very clear about that, and they also made it clear not to confuse any form of blessing for an LGBTQIA+ couple with any form of union, sacramentally or secularly.
It is a blessing for any person or group of persons seeking a prayer from a priest. The blessing is NOT to affirm the relationship of the couple.
Let us not be hasty in pushing to mean what the Pope or the Vatican does not mean.
Nothing has changed doctrinally and catechistically speaking. For the Roman Catholic Church, marriage and any form of union are only between a cisgender man and a cisgender woman. LGBTQIA+ relationships are still officially considered “irregular” and a sin.
Is the pronouncement still a huge thing? DEFINITELY!
Nakakaloka nang bonggang-bongga on a historical scale for a Pope to say things the way Pope Francis has about LGBTQIA+ persons. Not only to say things in a more pastoral, welcoming, and friendly way, but even more than that, to meet in person for all the world to see transgender women and gay men, even within the Vatican grounds. He has not only made pronouncements about the equality of women in the Church but also appointed some women and lay faithful in some of the high offices of the Curia previously held only by bishops and cardinals.
Now, an official clarification about blessings has been published by the office of the Doctrine of the Faith to say that LGBTQIA+ couples may approach to ask for some form of blessing; previously, transgender persons could be godparents of children who are to be baptized. The Roman Church, known not only for its anti-LGBTQIA+ doctrines and practices but also for its decades-long atrocious language against the community, finally speaks in a language and tone that is more pastoral, friendly, and welcoming. Knowing too well how many powerful conservative church leaders and lay faithful will negatively react and criticize him, Pope Francis nonetheless chooses to speak and engage the way he did.
In conclusion, depending on where you are and how you look at it, this recent chika of Pope Francis and the Vatican is both something and nothing at the same time.
It is something because, given the context and history of their Church, what Pope Francis has been doing and saying will still have some far-reaching ripples within the approximately 1.2 billion Roman Catholic faithful. He has a positive and pastoral impact on many LGBTQIA+ Roman Catholics who have historically been alienated from their Church by the negative rhetoric of Benedict and John Paul.
It is nothing because, officially, the Church still considers same-sex attractions “intrinsically disordered,” and same-sex relationships are still considered sinful and irregular despite what psychological associations and the fields of anthropology have already declared.
Personally, and I admit, it did not have any impact on me. Hindi ko nga napansin ito hanggang sa may nagtanong tungkol dito at nang ako’y tanungin para sa isang panayam ng GMA-7. I have been affirmingly and sacramentally blessing LGBTQIA+ couples for 11 years now. The Church Denomination where I am ordained, Metropolitan Community Church, has been sacramentally blessing and ministering to LGBTQIA+ persons and couples for more than 50 years now, since 1968. We have been blessing and affirming individuals and couples in the totality and fullness of who they are and not in a half-baked theological gymnastics kind of way. For me and the Church I am with, MCC, there is nothing disordered or sinful in the hundreds of couples I have met and blessed, whose only wishes are to build their lives together, to celebrate their love with family and friends, and to be protected under the law when the time comes.