When the Supreme Court ruling came down in late June, extending the right to marriage to members of the same sex in all 50 states, some observers felt that the Catholic Church was fairly immune to any requirements that it would have to allow same-sex weddings before her altars.
Now, though, calls for the Church to allow such nuptials are bubbling up. How far they will get is another question.
The issue was raised Tuesday by a report in the New York Times that featured “gay and transgender Catholics” who are making noises with the approaching visit to these shores of Pope Francis. And the noises are not exactly joyful.
“While some American conservatives are eager to see Pope Francis make use of his popularity on this trip to advance the fight against abortion and same-sex marriage, gay Catholics want him to acknowledge their rejection by the Church, and to welcome them as full members with equal access to sacraments like baptism and marriage,” the report said.
The article’s lede focused on an incident in which a young transgendered Catholic was put off by another member of the congregation who, perhaps indiscreetly, suggested that the person not go up to receive Communion.
While such an incident cannot be taken as emblematic of an entire Church’s collective treatment of “sexual minorities,” as some like to call homosexuals and persons who believe they were born with a body of the wrong sex, the Times found several people who believe otherwise. In fact, the paper said, “a large group of gay and transgender Catholics…are seeking a meeting with the Pope during his first visit to the United States, in September, pushing him to take a stand on the issues of sexuality and gender that are increasingly dividing Catholics and causing rancor in the Church.”
Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, said that many homosexual Catholics face constant torture in the Church, in situations ranging from denial for a child’s baptism or hearing something offensive in a homily. She wants to meet with Pope Francis when he comes, to share such “stories of pain and alienation,” which “do real harm to people.”
“It needs to end,” she said.
A July 5 press release issued by Dignity, which has been denied Catholic status by the Church because it advances viewpoints contrary to doctrine, said that members meeting for the organization’s national convention voted to begin advocating for “equal access to all of the sacraments of the Catholic Church for LGBT people and their families.”
“We can’t be fully equal if we are barred from any of our Church’s sacraments,” said Duddy-Burke. “Right now, we are officially banned from marriage and ordination, and often denied other sacraments, as well."
Earlier this month, the Episcopal Church in the United States voted to allow sacramental wedding ceremonies of same-sex couples.
Dignity’s convention took place in the bright afterglow of the Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges decision, which said any remaining state laws banning same-sex “marriage” are unconstitutional. At the same time, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops expressed support for a congressional bill that would help protect the Church and other religious institutions under the new “law of the land.” The First Amendment Defense Act, introduced by Sen. Mike Lee, R-UT, and Rep. Raul Labrador, R-ID, would prohibit the federal government from discriminating against individuals and organizations based upon their religious beliefs or moral convictions that marriage is the union of one man and one woman or that sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage. For such individuals and organizations, the Act provides broad protections, including in the areas of federal contracts, grants, employment, and tax-exempt status.
The push for a meeting of same-sex-attracted Catholics with Pope Francis runs contrary to one of the main reasons for the Pontiff’s first American visit. The last event on his five-day schedule will be in Philadelphia: the closing Mass for the World Meeting of Families, a triennial event meant to strengthen the natural family founded on the marriage of a man and woman. The Church and many Catholics have been supporting such initiatives as a way to counter the growing acceptance of “alternative” relationships and families.
That’s not stopping some from pushing a different agenda, of course. The Times reports that about 14 families with gay or transgender members have registered to attend the World Meeting of Families. Deb Word, president of Fortunate Families, a support group for Catholic parents seeking full inclusion of their gay children in the church, said her group applied to have a table in the exhibit hall, but was rejected.
As the Times pointed out, though the Pope’s words during an in-flight interview, “Who am I to judge?” have been interpreted to mean that he is open to a new understanding of homosexuality in the Church, he has perhaps more often spoken out strongly in support of orthodoxy. On a visit to the Philippines in January, Pope Francis said that “the family is threatened by growing efforts” to “redefine the very institution of marriage,” the Times noted. He also criticized wealthy Western countries for imposing their ideas about gender on developing countries, calling it “ideological colonization.”
A month later, he was quoted in a book saying that “gender theory,” which holds that gender is a social construct, is one of the great modern dangers to humanity, like nuclear weapons.