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Eminence, the emeritis cardinal archbishop of HGN

Monday, May 17, 2021


It's time for a new post.

I want to enter the conversation about civil unions and same sex marriage. I have witnessed as a licensed clergy person one same sex marriage. I was honored to do this for two long time friends.

I described the ceremony in their backyard garden several years ago as a civil event with religious overtones. I prayed for the two men and gave them a blessing. This was after the United States approved of gay marriage. The two partners wrote much of the ceremony. 

It was also an ecumenical event. There was another pastor present who participated in the service. He was the pastor of the church where one of the men started attending after he was run off by traditional Roman Catholics at a historic church this man attended for many years and cared for its physical structure as an architect.  

These two men had been together for over twenty years. One of them, the architect, said once to me that their relationship was more stable than some of his straight relatives who were in relationship.

I signed the marriage license as the official witness. The new pastor of the architect declined because his bishop had not approved of same sex unions. At the time two other bishops of his denomination in that state had approved of same sex weddings. His particular bishop had not approved. I had not bothered to inform the Roman Catholic bishop where I once lived for many years that I was coming back for a gay wedding. He would not have approved in any case.

This leads me down memory lane. I remember from my catechism a question about the ministers of the sacraments. For baptism the priest was the usual minister, but in a case of life or death a lay person could administer the sacrament. Then for confirmation the bishop was the usual minister of that sacrament. There may be something about a priest doing this if a person was coming into the Roman Catholic Church for example at Easter. The priest could administer the Sacrament of Confirmation. 

This is a big one, marriage. The ministers of the Sacrament of Marriage are described as the two people getting married. The priest was only there as the official witness for the church, the big Roman Catholic Church. There was nothing back in those days about the sexuality of the two getting married. 

I also closely followed back in those days the Second Vatican Council. There was much progress on a number of issues. One of the biggest forward steps was changing the approach to the Jews. The Catholic Church even changed the Good Friday prayers regarding the Jewish people. Here is a Wikepeda citation; 

"On 21 March 1959, Pope John XXIII ordered that the word "faithless" (LatinperfHeridis) be removed from the prayer for the conversion of the Jews,[13] This word had caused much trouble in recent times because of misconceptions that the Latin perfidis was equivalent to "perfidious", giving birth to the view that the prayer accused the Jews of treachery (perfidy), though the Latin word is more correctly translated as "faithless" or "unbelieving".[14] Accordingly, the prayer was revised to read:[15]"

Moving on...back in those days of Vatican II, I remember the word "Sacrament" being used in a very broad and inclusive way. "I am a sacrament, you are a sacrament". Persons, things, events were a called a sacrament; that is an outward sign instituted by God to give grace. I would have no trouble calling a loving union between two same sex persons committed for life a sacrament. 

In reading last Lent Frederik Martel's book; In the Closet of the Vatican one of the more memorable lines was that the Catholic Church was the last bastion in the western world resisting the legacy of Stonewall. It's time for a new Council or at this time and place for the synodal processes that are happening in Germany and Ireland to proceed with more voices than just the Vatican. The windows of the church need to be reopened.

Finally, a wise Jesuit teacher I had back in the 80's often would offer as an example of binary thinking this antidote; Once a high church official in the Vatican was asked about the priests being accused of child molestation and that high Vatican official responded; "Well, some priests are sinners." The unspoken implication is that of course other priests, like me, are not sinners.

Now the Vatican says it can't bless sin so no blessing of same sex couples. Only bless sinless couples?  




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