Yesterday many news outlets announced a ruling from the Vatican; priests would not be allowed to bless same-gender relationships. Every story I saw pointed out the most painful line in the document that the church “does not and cannot bless sin.” The Roman Catholic Church still views same-gender love as sinful, and will withhold blessings. They are wrong.
A blessing isn’t a form of magic, scripture tells us. In the 10th chapter of the book of Acts, the apostle Peter is astonished to see that “god shows no partiality.” Through a series of revelations, it becomes clear that God is already present among a household of Gentiles, people Peter was taught could not be holy. Peter says he must respond because the Spirit is already present. He baptizes the whole household.
Blessing doesn’t impart God’s presence. A blessing declares the holiness already present. My call as a priest is to name the sacredness I see. As a priest and pastor, and as a queer man in a same gender marriage I have seen God’s presence in same gender relationships. I know these relationships can be blessed.
Sadly the largest branch of Christians is still officially closed from recognizing God’s blessing of LGBTQ+ people. Refusing to name God’s blessing causes real harm, causes human beings, and especially vulnerable young queer folk, to question their belovedness in the eyes of God.
As an Episcopalian, I am often glad that the Vatican does not speak for me. My church has learned to stand proudly with our LGBTQ+ members, to declare God’s blessing. I am also mindful that there are so many Roman Catholics for whom this document comes as a slap in the face. Brave lay leaders, monastics, and even priests (Like James Martin, SJ) who stand bravely in opposition to the official currents of homophobia in their own Church. Those leaders are in my prayers, along with all the LGBTQ+ folks who are hurt by yesterday’s news.
I am blessed to have grown up in a branch of Christianity that was a half step ahead of my own calling. It took the Episcopal Church time, but for me the timing has been uncanny. The church had opened just enough that I had virtually no pushback for my own ordination. By the time I was ordained, I did not have to wait to perform same-gender marriages. While my husband and I had to deal with our state government’s refusal to recognize our marriage, it was never questioned by my church. I know I am blessed.
So let me say to anyone who is questioning: you are also blessed. Whether you choose to stay and witness within the Roman Catholic Church, or you need to choose sanctuary with those of us who have some experience protesting Vatican rulings, know deep down, the church’s role in blessing is simply to witness what God has already done. You are blessed. Your loved is blessed. No church can take that away.