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[OPINION] When will the Church learn?

(I write this as a faithful member of the Catholic Church. This is a personal opinion.) 

While browsing for news about recent affairs and issues in the Catholic Church, I was shocked to read the headline: “Vatican excludes gay union blessing as God 'can't bless sin.’”

Whether you’re a Catholic or not, chances are, you’ll feel indignant about this recent statement coming from the high office of the Catholic Church. Barring same-sex marriage is an unchangeable teaching, according to the Catholic Church, for it goes against the sanctity and true spirit of marriage between man and woman. I agree with this, but calling same-sex couples as “sin” or “living in sin” is just too much. To add insult to injury, telling them that God “cannot bless them” goes too far.

The document came from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (formerly called “The Inquisition,” and infamous for silencing theologians who did not toe the Roman line), which is responsible for guarding and promulgating Catholic doctrine. The said document, ironically signed by Pope Francis, is a response to the query whether Catholic clergy can bless gay unions.

According to Fr. James Martin, SJ, “It seems to be the Vatican's response to some German bishops who had floated this idea in the lead-up to their country's synod, as a way of reaching out to LGBTQ+ people.”

The document clarifies that the Church must treat gays with dignity and respect, but returns to the antiquated reference to gay sex as “intrinsically disordered.” Also, individual gays can still be blessed by the Church on the condition that they manifest their will to live faithfully to Catholic teaching – except gays involved in same-sex unions. Inconsistencies abound.

Surely, many are disappointed. Faithful gay Catholics are deeply hurt. Catholic same-sex couples who find it hard to fit into the Church are further ostracized. Outsiders who have personal resentment to the Church’s conservatism become more resentful.

The tone of the document runs counter to how Pope Francis is opening the Church to the marginalized, especially the LGBTQ+ community. In his apostolic exhortation on the family, he strongly stated: “We would like before all else to reaffirm that every person, regardless of sexual orientation, ought to be respected in his or her dignity and treated with consideration, while ‘every sign of unjust discrimination’ is to be carefully avoided, particularly any form of aggression and violence.” (Amoris Laetitia no. 250)

Just last year, in the documentary Francesco, he endorsed providing gay couples with legal protections in civil same-sex unions in a video clip extracted from an interview for a Mexican television station. He once told abuse survivor Juan Carlos Cruz that, "It doesn't matter that you are gay. God made you that way and he loves you the way you are, and it doesn't matter to me,” in a private meeting in the Vatican. He responded to an Italian gay couple to allow their three children to join the catechetical program and minister as altar servers without fear of discrimination. And, during a press conference on his return flight from Rio de Janeiro, he famously remarked: “If a person is gay and seeks out the Lord and is willing, who am I to judge that person?” Despite adhering to the traditional teaching of the Church on marriage, no doubt the Pope has opened the doors of the Church with mercy, love, and understanding to the LGBTQ+ community. 

The language used by the Vatican is against the compassionate spirit of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ reached out to the marginalized and pariahs of his time without first judging them. He dined with sinners such as tax collectors and allowed women, treated as second-class citizens in Jewish culture, to assist him in his earthly ministry. He condemned the oppressors, because he was concerned for the welfare of the oppressed. In his deeds, Jesus blessed them with his loving presence. Yes, he commanded them to not sin anymore, but without depriving them of his grace. 

When will the Church learn that there is grace in the love between persons of the same sex? When will the Church learn that same-sex couples can be life-giving? When will the Church learn to cease using harsh language on the LGBTQ+ community? When will the Church learn that being a gay is never a sin? When will the Church learn to listen to the findings of science about homosexuality? Take note, the Church is not only Pope Francis. The Church is us all. 

The biblical scholar and progressive Jesuit Cardinal Carlo Martini, known for his support for legal protections for same-sex civil unions in the same vein as Pope Francis, and was formerly a possible successor of the late Pope John Paul II, months before his death in 2012 made headlines because of his statement about the possible goodness of same-sex unions in an interview:

“ ...I am ready to admit that in some cases, good faith, lived experiences, acquired habits, the unconscious, and probably even a certain innate inclination can push one to choose for oneself a form of living with a partner of the same sex. In today’s world such behavior cannot therefore be ostracized or demonized. I am also ready to admit the value of a loyal and lasting friendship between two persons of the same sex.”

Not all Church leaders and members are homophobic. There are still faces of Jesus’ mercy. I would like to share this story of Jacques Gaillot, a former French bishop:

“In 1993, he (Gaillot) had come out in support of a proposed French law to recognize same-sex unions. He reportedly once recited a prayer of 'welcome' for a gay couple. In an October 1992 edition of Gai Pied, a now-defunct French publication dealing with homosexual concerns, he explained that he had received a request from a gay couple to bless their marriage. 'Please receive us, although we are pariahs of the church,' he said the couple had asked him. ‘I've got AIDS. My life will soon come to an end. It would be such a comfort.’ Gaillot said he agreed to meet the couple and 'to say a prayer, a sign of welcome and understanding.'"

It’s high time for the Church to intensify its pastoral outreach to the LGBTQ+ community. It cannot be done by using harsh language and depriving them of God’s blessings. The only way is the way of Jesus Christ: love, compassion, and mercy. There’s no other way. – Rappler.com

Kevin Stephon R. Centeno is currently undergoing his Jesuit Candidacy Program.