Pope’s Reiteration of Support for Civil Unions, Denial of Marriage a Mixed Blessing for LGBTQ+ People, says LGBTQ+ Catholic Group

September 17, 2021. In an onboard press conference during his return flight from Hungary, Pope Francis once again addressed whether same-sex couples’ relationships could be recognized. According to reports from The New York Times, Crux and other outlets, the pontiff said same-sex couples could never be married in the Church because “the Church doesn’t have the power to change a sacrament as it was instituted by the Lord.” In comments interpreted as expressing support for civil union laws, the Pope went on to say, “But if a homosexual couple wants to lead a life together, the State has the possibility to give them safety, stability, inheritance.”

              Marianne Duddy-Burke, Executive Director of DignityUSA, which represents the majority of US Catholics who support justice, equality and inclusion of LGBTQ+ people in church and society, said, “Pope Francis’ clear endorsement of legal status for same-sex couples and recognition that our families deserve legal protections is vitally important for people all around the world. This statement from the Pope is a significant break from past denials of any rights for our community. It could have very positive ramifications in countries where there are few, if any, legal rights for LGBTQ+ people.”

              Duddy-Burke said the Pope’s continued denial of marriage is frustrating, but not surprising. “The Vatican’s teaching on marriage is rooted in gender complementarity and the ability to produce children,” Duddy-Burke said. “This narrow, incomplete understanding of what graced committed relationships and families look like limits many in the Catholic hierarchy from being open to where we believe God is calling our church. We believe that the love and commitment shared by millions of same-sex couples is every bit as sacramental as that shared by mixed-gender couples. Our church also teaches that the sacrament of marriage is actualized by the couple’s exchange of vows, not by the blessing of a priest. So we, and many Catholics around the world, affirm that same-sex marriages exist, even if denied by church leaders.”

              Duddy-Burke noted that DignityUSA has been explicitly calling for sacramental equality in the Catholic Church since 2015. That year it adopted a resolution declaring, “DignityUSA and its members call on the leaders and members of our Roman Catholic Church to ensure that all of the sacraments of our church be administered regardless of the gender identity, sexual orientation, or relational status of the person(s) seeking the sacrament.”

              “Until LGBTQ+ people can access all the sacraments our church offers, including marriage, ordination, and baptism, we cannot truly be full members of the Catholic Church,” said Duddy-Burke. “So, while we acknowledge Pope Francis’ support for civil unions as a step forward, we still have a long march ahead in striving for that equality.”

DignityUSA is the nation’s oldest and foremost organization of Catholics committed to justice, equality, and full inclusion of LGBTQI people in church and society. The group has been advancing these issues since 1969.