NEW YORK – Bishop John Stowe of Lexington offered words of support and a blessing to LGBTQ Catholics alongside other advocates on a Zoom call Monday night, reminding them that “God desires a deep and intimate relationship with each of you.”
“May God, the source of life and love fill you with the job of knowing your great dignity and worth as God’s child who is created with love and filled with blessings from the first moment of your existence,” said Stowe in a video message.
The online prayer service hosted by DignityUSA – an organization that has advocated for LGBTQ Catholics for over 50 years – was attended by more than 200 LGBTQ Catholics from across the United States and Canada in honor of the start of pride month.
“May God who sustains us all in life continue to walk with you and share in your joys and sorrows while calling you to something ever greater,” Stowe continued. “May god bless your capacity to love and be loved and to share that divine presence with a broken and struggling world. May God almighty give you his peace.”
Stowe was the only U.S. bishop to address the event. Others that offered supportive messages include Mary McAleese, the former president of Ireland and a canon lawyer, and Dr. Miguel Díaz, the former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See under the Obama administration.
To kick off the Zoom event, however, Meli Barber, the DignityUSA vice president, took aim at the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for its March document clarifying that blessings of same-sex unions by the Church are “not legitimate” since such unions are “not ordered to the Creator’s plan.”
“In many ways, we have the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to thank for sparking this event,” Barber told attendees. “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 and you all have responded with enthusiasm.”
The document from the Vatican has been a topic of controversy since it was published. The document – signed by Spanish Jesuit Cardinal Luis Ladaria and approved by Pope Francis – was issued in response to a question submitted by pastors and faithful requesting clarification.
A note accompanying the document also clarified that the fact that the blessings are considered unlawful by the Church, it is not intended to be a form of unjust discrimination, rather just a reminder of the very nature of the sacraments. And Christians are called to welcome “with respect and sensitivity” those with homosexual inclinations.
In Germany in particular, where the bishops have urged a debate on the blessing of gay couples, opposition to the document culminated in more than 100 Catholic Churches offering blessings to gay couples in May.
At the time the document was released, Juan Carlos Cruz, a Chilean survivor of clerical sex abuse, who soon after was added to the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, also said in response to the document that “if the Church and the CDF do not advance with the world […] Catholics will continue to flee.”
On Monday, the U.S. Embassy to the Vatican flew the LGBTQ ‘Pride’ Flag. President Joe Biden also issued a statement in support of the LGBTQ community.
“During LGBTQ+ Pride Month, we recognize the resilience and determination of the many individuals who are fighting to live freely and authentically,” Biden said. “In doing so, they are opening hearts and minds, and laying the foundation for a more just and equitable America.”
Aside from Barber’s comments Monday night, the messages didn’t focus on the Vatican document, but instead sought to support the LGBTQ community.
Díaz told the attendees they were called to be a “prophet of God’s love.”
“Blessings so that you may overcome life’s challenges, and ascend the mountain of God’s love. Blessings on your families, your friendships, your loving unions,” Díaz said. “May they all participate in and celebrate the mystery of God’s triumph, in queer love.”
McAleese offered a prayer for their overall well-being.
“May you have love that never ends. Money enough and many friends,” McAleese said. “Find kindness in all that you do, and may God’s loving grace shelter and embrace you always.”
Follow John Lavenburg on Twitter: @johnlavenburg