On Monday morning, the Vatican's orthodoxy office kicked off the week by issuing a formal response to the question of whether or not the Catholic Church could and should bless gay unions. The response, which was approved by Pope Francis, said that while gay people should be treated with respect, God "does not and cannot bless sin: He blesses sinful man, so that he may recognize that he is part of his plan to love and allow himself to be changed by him." The notice went on to say that gay sex is "intrinsically disordered" and that the "presence in such relationships of positive elements, which are in themselves to be valued and appreciated, cannot justify these relationships and render them legitimate objects of an ecclesial blessing."
The comments from the Vatican feel like a step backward after Pope Francis made affirming comments about gay unions in October of last year during a documentary interview. "Homosexual people have a right to be in a family," he said in the film. "They are children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out or made miserable over it. What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered."
Then again, this is the Catholic Church we're talking about. And even the Pope's seemingly positive comments about the existence, rights, and happiness of LGBTQ+ people were nowhere near progressive or, more importantly, indicative of the Catholic Church's stance.
It's also ironic and, at best, wildly hypocritical that a religious institution that has known about clergy members engaging in child rape and pedophilia since at least the 1950s — one that sent abusive clergy members to Church-run medical centres so they could "receive treatment" without alerting medical professionals of their crimes — would continue to deny LGBTQ+ Catholics a blessed marriage.
In 2018, a grand jury investigation revealed that over 300 priests in Pennsylvania abused over 1,000 children. Just last year, Pope Francis urged the leader of the Catholic church in England and Wales, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, to stay in his post and not resign after a report concluded that his leadership repeatedly "prioritized its reputation over the welfare of child sex abuse victims."
That same year, the Pope said homosexuality in the clergy was a "serious matter" that "worried" him, going on to say that "the Church urges that persons with this rooted tendency not to be accepted into ministry or consecrated life."
Many in the Catholic right have attempted to link the horrific sex abuse scandal of 2002 to the existence of LGBTQ+ people. As Intelligencer writer Andrew Sullivan wrote in a 2019 piece, these people claim that "the root of the scandal was not abuse of power, or pedophilia, or clericalism, or the distortive psychological effects of celibacy and institutional homophobia, but gayness itself."