On the New Rule for the Blessing of LGBTQ People

On the New Rule for the Blessing of LGBTQ People December 18, 2023

Scrabble tiles arranged to spell "LGBTQ"
image via Pixabay

You may have heard about the new declaration from the Discastery for the Doctrine of the Faith regarding blessing LGBTQ people.

The declaration, entitled “Fiducia Supplicans,” permits ministers of the Church to bless same-sex couples and others in “irregular relationships,” as long as the blessing isn’t confused with a wedding. I’ll let Father Martin tell you all about it.

This is the reversal of the previous rule, which was that blessings for such couples are forbidden because “God does not and cannot bless sin.” Human beings are not sins, and besides, you can’t tell if a same-sex couple is in sin just because they live together. There are asexual homoromantic couples who don’t have sex, and I know of Side B queer Catholics who live with their partners as roommates but don’t break any rules. And all of these considerations are sidestepping the question of whether the Church can or should evolve her teaching about the rules in the first place; I’m not going to have that talk with you today. But in any case, now queer couples can receive a blessing from a priest, as long as they don’t do so during a liturgy or in any way that looks too much like a wedding. It’s in some ways a laughably tiny concession. In other ways, it’s a monumental step forward.

All the usual suspects are in hysterics over this, of course. People who never liked the Pope in the first place are fuming that he’s a traitor to the Church. They’re nearly foaming at the mouth with vitriol against queer Catholics who would like a blessing.  I heard someone lamenting that Pope Francis hates the Gospel, which does not mention LGBTQ people in any way.

One particular Catholic is insistent that we “FORBID ANY BLESSING OF ANY PERSON, COUPLE, OR RELATIONSHIP THAT MAY GIVE EVEN THE SLIGHTEST IMPRESSION OF SCANDAL OR IRREGULARITY. ” And yes, that’s just a troll account on Twitter, but the tweet has been liked and shared an awful lot today. He seems to be expressing the thoughts of many.

I wonder how far people are willing to take the suggestion that we refuse to bless “any person, couple, or relationship that may give even the slightest impression of scandal or irregularity.”

I remember a heterosexual couple at Franciscan University, who decided to never go to daily Mass together at the early morning liturgy but only in the afternoon; their stated reason was “to avoid scandal” because someone might see them and assume they had been sleeping together overnight. That seems a little extreme, but still: some engaged couples have sex before marriage. Should a priest refuse them a blessing, just in case? Should a priest refuse a married couple a blessing if they don’t seem to have enough children and he assumes they’re contracepting? Should he refuse a great big family with ten children a blessing because some husbands are abusive and force themselves on their wives, which is also a sin? Should he refuse a single person a blessing just in case that person looks lustfully on women? Refuse to bless a widow in case she murdered her husband? Refuse to bless a fellow priest in case the priest is having an affair? When you get down to brass tacks, all have sinned and nobody is not scandalous.

The last time I went to a Catholic wedding Mass, there was a notice in the program that only Catholics in the state of grace were able to receive Holy Communion, but anybody who wanted to could come forward with crossed arms for a blessing. Nobody complained about that. That wasn’t scandalous. Sacraments are a certain type of marvelous gift to be gratefully received under certain conditions, and we can have a nice robust argument about what conditions there ought to be. But a blessing is for everyone.

In fact, a blessing is not only for everyone but for everything.

Anyone who’s been Catholic for longer than five minutes knows this, and the Orthodox know it as well. Hold out a Rosary or a new scapular for your pastor and he’ll bless it. He won’t stop to check that you didn’t shoplift it first. Drive up to the church in your new car and ask, and the priest will bless your car no matter how bad your driving record is. Hand a priest the drawing your four-year-old made of Jesus and Mary with Santa and the tooth fairy, and your priest will bless it.  A priest will bless salt. He will bless water. He will bless an Easter basket full of candy and kielbasa. But God forbid he bless a queer person. That would be a scandal.

It’s important to know just where queer Catholics stand, whether we follow the rules or not. To devout “traditional” Catholics, LGBTQ human beings are less worthy of a blessing than a sausage. We are less valuable than a bottle of water or a pinch of salt. In the great chain of being, we rank below a marshmallow Peep. Better to shut down the whole custom of blessing in general, than to let a queer person feel that they’re welcome in a church. Blessings are for less scandalous things, like cars.

Fortunately, I don’t think Jesus is a traditionalist.

May God grant Pope Francis many happy and blessed years.

 

Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross, The Sorrows and Joys of Mary, and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.

 

 

 

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