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Appleton, WI

March 27/28: Day by Day with Father Bill – Weekend Edition

Some of you commented that you appreciated the inclusion in the Prayers of the Faithful last Sunday of the following petition:

That our LGBTQ+ sisters and brothers and their families and friends may know that our parish family is a haven of welcome, for we believe that wherever there is unselfish and self-sacrificing love, there is God, who is the source of every good blessing, we pray to the Lord…LOVING LORD, guide us on the way to holiness.

Perhaps you have read or heard that the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith recently declared that same-sex relationships cannot be blessed in the Catholic Church. The language of the document was paternalistic and hurtful. Our LGBTQ+ sisters and brothers and their families and friends were disappointed, discouraged, and disheartened. I, too, was very saddened by the harshness of this statement. These statements are making it harder and harder for our Catholic gay sisters and brothers to feel welcome in the Church or even remain in the Church. And these feelings extend to their families and friends who love them. A statement such as this results in more people leaving the Church. This reality breaks my heart.

Without diving deep into the theology of marriage and sexual morality and a careful description of sin and conscience, which I am not competent to present, I would like to say a couple of things that I hold firmly in my heart.

1. I John 4:16 says this: We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us. God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him (her). Wherever you and I witness a love that is unselfish, that places the other person above one’s own self, and that is sacrificial, I believe that God is present. God certainly is present in a deep, loving friendship. God is present in a relationship between two persons of the same sex who have made an unselfish commitment to love one another. We see this goodness in the love that is expressed towards their children who are growing up in a nurturing and safe environment. Where there is genuine love, God is always present.

2. I believe that God is the source of all blessing and that the Lord’s willingness to bless and affirm goodness is unlimited. The Church cannot tie the Lord’s hands. If the Lord chooses to bless any relationship, the Lord will do that.

3. I think that most of our gay sisters and brothers understand that the Catholic Church is not about to change its definition of sacramental marriage. All that those persons in same-sex commitments are asking is that their Church love and accompany them and that we, the People of God, celebrate their presence and the presence of their families in the midst of our parish family. They, in turn, would feel the Lord’s touch of blessing upon their lives. For the life of me, I do not understand why we would not feel called and blessed to do this as a faith community.

4. I am very disappointed in Pope Francis for letting this statement be published without his more careful and compassionate critique. I believe that he needs to say more about this. Perhaps Pope Francis was pushing back against the statement last Sunday when he said the following in his Angelus Address: We must respond with the witness of a life that is given in service, a life that takes upon itself the style of God – closeness, compassion and tenderness – and is given in service. It means sowing seeds of love, not with fleeting words but through concrete, simple and courageous examples, not with theoretical condemnations, but with gestures of love. Then the Lord, with his grace, makes us bear fruit, even when the soil is dry due to misunderstandings, difficulty or persecution, or claims of legalism or clerical moralism.

5. I always remember what Pope Francis said to a victim of clergy abuse in Chile, who now lives in the US and is gay: You know Juan Carlos (Cruz), that does not matter. God made you like this. God loves you like this. The Pope loves you like this and you should love yourself and not worry about what people say.

I debated whether or not to write these thoughts down. Some of you may struggle with them. Please feel free to contact me if you would like to have a conversation about this reflection. I would welcome the opportunity for further dialogue. I cannot stand by without saying something, knowing that our hurting LGBTQ+ sisters and brothers are struggling mightily on these difficult days for them as Catholics in our Church!

Father Bill +

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