On Monday of last week, the Vatican released a statement on same sex unions saying, among other things: “God cannot Bless sin.” This caused a lot of pain and confusion among LBGTQ Catholics.
For that, I blame theologians who give people the false hope that the teaching on marriage in the Catholic Church will change. It will not change. If it does, then the Church is not who she says she is, and we can all pack up and move on.
I also blame the people in the Church who have failed to teach the teaching on marriage in a way that people understand: in a reality where same sex unions are legal in various parts of the world, in other words, while not singling out same-sex relationships as the most sinful kind of relationships.
There are many layers to this conversation.
There is the theological part, the on-the-ground-in-the-trenches part, and then there is the Vatican part (for lack of a better description). After all that, there is the media part.
This is where my writing on this story comes in.
I became Catholic because I fell in love with Jesus. He found me in a very bad place, and it was in the teachings of the Church and therapy for serious childhood trauma that I found healing.
It was in my encounter with Jesus that I found myself. He made the difference for me. He loved me, even in my most sinful sins. He loved me in them. He did not wait until I was perfect. If that had been the case then I would still not be able to approach Him.
When I began RCIA, amazing people met me where I was and loved me there, not where they expected me to be. They did not lecture me on the Catechism. They ministered to me. Ministry is its own specific way of helping someone encounter Jesus, who is the Healer of all of us.
Nobody ever watered down the faith for my benefit, but they also did not bludgeon me over the head with it, reminding me of all the ways that I failed to live a holy life. I know that it is here, in the Catholic Church, that we have space for conversations on sin and redemption and everyone’s place at the table.
It is in this Church that I have found space to ask questions and have conversations that are not black and white. Our faith is so much more than the abstract or the concrete laws. It is also about relationship and acceptance of things and people we would rather exclude.
In writing this essay, my editor and I disagreed on approach.
I do not wish for or believe that the Church will ever change her teaching on marriage being a Sacrament between one man and one woman who are free to marry and open to life. My editor wanted me to use technical language of what marriage is. I disagreed, not because I do not understand Church teaching but because I have seen how “technical language” can and has been weaponized against LBGTQ Catholics. Also, technicalities will only go so far.
So, we split the difference.
On the ground is where the sheep are. The sheep need — and have a right to — a Church that cares for them pastorally in all matters, even when the Vatican releases a statement that can cause harm to the sheep, even if it says nothing surprising or intentionally hurtful. Especially then. As the kids say, read the room.
The statement was about blessing of unions, but to people who are in those unions, it sounded like it was about not blessing them as people. This happened because of the weaponizing of the theological language used in that statement. The statement itself has now become another one of those weapons.
There is a place in this Church for people in same sex unions. There is a place in this Church for gossipers, racists, and priests who molest children or sexually harass seminarians, because we are not our sins. We are human beings, made in the image of God and therefore always welcome to come to Him as we are, sins and all, with the hope that His grace redeems us.
That is the challenge of the Gospel. We do not exclude people, ever. We do allow people to walk away when a teaching is too hard for them. The choice is theirs to walk away. It’s on us not to shut the door behind them.
Only Jesus could do this perfectly, the rest of us have to find the balance of speaking the truth in love. It’s harder than it looks — and we do only an adequate job on the good days. Agree or disagree with the teaching, it makes no dice. Last Monday was not a good day for messaging.
Leticia Ochoa Adams is the creator of the Catholic Speakers of Color resource for conference organizers. She writes from Texas, on life, death, grief, suicide, faith, motherhood, doubts and whatever (else) happens to be on her mind.