In Defiance of Vatican, Catholic Leaders Bless LGBTQ Community | Sojourners

In Defiance of Vatican, Catholic Leaders Bless LGBTQ Community

Screenshot of Miguel Díaz, the former U.S. ambassador to the Holy See under President Barack Obama, offering a blessing during DignityUSA's Catholic Pride Blessing event on June 1, 2021. 

Earlier this year, the Vatican said that its priests and ministers cannot bless same-sex unions. For LGBTQ Catholics, this was a setback for what many saw as the church’s more welcoming trajectory under Pope Francis. But not everyone is following the instructions; in the United States and across the globe, Catholics have directly disobeyed the Vatican’s instructions.

On the first day of June — which marks the beginning of Pride Month in the United States — DignityUSA, an organization supporting LGBTQ Catholics, hosted a Catholic Pride Blessing, where LGBTQ Catholics could be blessed by clergy.

“In many ways, we have the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith to thank for sparking this event,” said Meli Barber, vice president of DignityUSA, referring to the Vatican offices that issued the ruling against blessing same-sex unions. Barber noted that the DignityUSA event was inspired by the “Liebe Gewinnt” or “Love Wins” event in which over 100 priests in Germany chose to bless same-sex couples.

While the “Liebe Gewinnt” blessings were specifically for same-sex unions, the DignityUSA Catholic Pride Blessing was broader in scope, blessing LGBTQ Catholics and their allies. The virtual event, held through Zoom, offered blessings in the form of prayers, poems, and public submissions collected in advance through DignityUSA's website.

Speakers at the event included former President of Ireland Mary McAleese; Miguel Díaz, the former U.S. ambassador to the Holy See under President Barack Obama; and Bishop John Stowe of the Catholic Diocese of Lexington, Ky.

Participating organizations included CORPUS — The National Association for an Inclusive Priesthood, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, Faith in Public Life, and the Women's Ordination Conference, as well as national LGBTQ advocacy groups like the National LGBTQ Task Force and the Human Rights Campaign.

Three-fourths of U.S. Catholics believe that LGBTQ people should be socially accepted, according to recent polling from the Pew Research Center, and just over 60 percent support same-sex marriage.

“We've heard from many Catholics — in our town halls, on social media, and through other channels — that they disagreed with the Vatican,” Barber said. “We thought we'd offer a way for people to come together in celebration of the inclusive church and world we are all working to build.”

The co-chairs of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics, Ruby Almeida and Christopher Vella, offered a joint blessing framing queer identity within God’s love.

“Blessed are you, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex, straight, sister, brother, kin. You are a unique and glorious reflection of God's astounding creativity and love,” Almeida said. Vella continued, "Blessed are you when you dare to bring the truth of who you are into loving relationship with others and strengthen the body of Christ.”

The submissions also reiterated the evening’s theme of God’s embrace for LGBTQ people, beyond the scope of Roman Catholic doctrine.

“May the Spirit bless and strengthen all who dare to live out the queerness of the Reign of God,” Steve Y. wrote. “We bless you who persist in loving and serving others in the face of contempt, denigration, and hatred,” Diane W. wrote.

As the blessing concluded, moderators opened the space for participants to chat. People offered thanks for the space convened, and remarked on its emotional quality on the first day of Pride Month.

“We've heard from people across the country and beyond who were buoyed by feeling their fellow Catholics shower them with blessings and love,” Marianne Duddy-Burke, DignityUSA executive director, told Sojourners in an email. “For LGBTQI Catholics, the statements of solidarity and support demonstrate that blessing comes from communities that enact God's all-encompassing love, not hierarchies of power and exclusion.”

Michael Vazquez, who directs the religion and faith program at the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, echoed this sentiment.

"Events like this pride blessing don't have singular, momentary impact, but reverberate throughout the Catholic Church as a reminder that God is always present with those who seek communion with the Divine," he told Sojourners via email. "LGBTQ people have always been leaders, ministers, and saints in the Catholic Church, and while hierarchy might deny our community something so simple and holy as a blessing, our collective witness of the Divine serves as a blessing to both the LGBTQ community and to the Catholic Church."

The event is now available to be streamed via DignityUSA’s website.

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