On Monday, the Vatican reaffirmed that the Catholic Church cannot bless same-sex unions after its own clergy sought clarification on the matter. The decree distinguished between the welcoming and blessing of gay people, which is still the case, but not their unions, as any such recognition could be confused with the sacrament of matrimony. That of marriage between one man and one woman, God’s supposed plan for procreation purposes.
The explanation approved by Pope Francis went on to state that while gay people must be treated with dignity and respect, gay sex is “intrinsically disordered.” It is a sin. And God is not in the business of blessing sins.
I, like others, am still reeling from the news. There are many loving couples, and families, who want to be visible in their chosen faith and I would like to be one day as well.
Having grown up in a devout family from the Philippines, I was educated by the Jesuits, followed by the Brothers of Christian Instruction. I took to heart the sacraments of Holy Communion and confirmation, excelled in catechism class, and even considered entering seminary. Long after accepting my sexuality and coming out, I attended Mass religiously, cherishing its teachings and traditions, offering alms at the collection plate. Even as dioceses floundered having turned a blind eye to the extent of sexual-abuse crimes amongst its ranks, I compartmentalized the sins of individual men away from the good for which the institution stood.
But for the church to claim that my sexuality as my choice equates to choosing to sin is a step too far. We should be beyond the nature-vs.-nurture argument by now. How many of us wished, even prayed, we could be different so that our lives would be easier?
The harsh, if not hostile, message toward the LGBTQ community is a tough pill to swallow for gay Catholics in America and the world over who have long had to walk the tightrope of our beliefs against a doctrine that continually turns a cold shoulder on this one aspect of who we are as holistic beings. As a result, we remain in a schizophrenic state where the law of the land recognizes our right to marry but the church slams the door right at our faces.
Many held out hope as glimmers of reform came to the fore when the pope not long ago called for national laws providing gay couples with legal protections in same-sex unions. But after this week, I am certain that I no longer have a home in the Roman Catholic Church. And that I must finally move on.
A gay Catholic friend, who loves the church and maintains a perfect Mass attendance record spanning 25 years, reached out after I lashed out on Facebook. He too was crushed and heartbroken, feeling lost and not knowing what to do. How can the church shun this true believer? It should be no surprise that attendance and affiliation continue to dwindle as its flock flees to other pastures of worship.
I make my decision with a heavy heart, especially in the thick of Lenten season, when believers prepare for Easter through prayer, doing penance and self-denial. The irony of which is not lost on me.
I may have unwittingly started my migration away months ago, dropping in on Episcopal services in an old schoolhouse where many in the congregation are ex-Catholics, including the priest. They have already accepted what I am finally coming to realize. That there are other communities willing to fully embrace my brand of sinner.
Jobert E. Abueva is a writer and resident of New Hope.