Pope Francis. (Getty/Franco Origlia)
Hundreds of Catholics stepped forward to bless LGBT+ people during a virtual service in response to the Vatican’s ban on blessings for same-sex couples.
The live-streamed event was hosted by Dignity USA, an organisation that works to secure justice and equality for LGBT+ people in the Catholic Church, and was run in conjunction with 19 other groups.
Kicking off Pride Month, hundreds of Catholics offered powerful blessings to LGBT+ people and to same-sex couples, including Miguel H Diaz, a former US ambassador to the Holy See, former Irish president Mary McAleese and John Stowe, a Catholic bishop from Kentucky.
The powerful half-hour event began with activist Meli Barber thanking the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith (CDF) for drawing attention to the mistreatment of LGBT+ Catholics by issuing its ban on blessings for same-sex couples.
“We 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.”
Dignity USA said that it was inundated with huge numbers of Catholics signing on to its Pride blessing, while many other submitted their own personalised blessings for LGBT+ church members.
Mary E Hunt and Diann Neu, co-founders and co-directors of the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER) led the blessing service by offering up a prayer to LGBT+ Catholics.
The impactful prayer saw Hunt and Neu thanking God for creating LGBT+ people and for “honouring the many ways people live and love”.
Throughout the 34-minute livestream, countless messages from Catholics showed up on screen, offering personalised blessings to queer church members.
Gay priest said the Catholic Church has drummed ‘negativism’ into LGBT+ youth
Fr Bernárd J Lynch, a married Catholic priest and HIV activist, noted that the church has drummed “negativism” into young LGBT+ people “as if they were sheet metal”.
Despite this, they have learned to “forgive”, he said. He asked God to bless LGBT+ people, and specifically same-sex couples, saying they are “true prophets of Jesus Christ and his gospel”.
Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of Dignity USA, said in a press release: “We know that there are many, many Catholics who love, support, and, yes, bless their LGBTQ+ family members, friends and neighbours.
“We wanted to create a way for them to make their love visible. The response has been phenomenal. We’ve received blessings from parents, siblings, and friends of LGBTQ+ people, priests and sisters, and folks who simply identify as ‘a Catholic who cares.’”
She continued: “Many of these people felt disheartened and disappointed by the Vatican statement and appreciated the chance to send a different message.”
The blessing service comes just months after the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith (CDF) released an explanatory note that banned priests from offering blessings to same-sex couples.
The note acknowledged that LGBT+ people are children of God, but went on to say that priests must not offer blessings to such couples because “God cannot bless sin”.
The Catholic Church has held firmly to its teaching that homosexuality is intrinsically disordered, despite emerging evidence that biblical justifications for homophobia rely on misinterpretations and mistranslations.
There has been significant unrest within the Catholic Church ever since the CDF issued its guidance.
Numerous churches in Germany have held mass blessings for same-sex couples in direct contravention of Vatican rules, while a bishop in Belgium reported that 700 mostly young people formally left the Catholic Church shortly after the CDF’s note was released.