Reaction to Fiducia in US has revealed ‘enduring animus’ to ‘LGBT persons’, says key Pope ally

Newly elevated Cardinal, Monsignor Robert Walter McElroy gestures as he attends a courtesy visit of relatives following a consistory for the creation of 20 new cardinals by the Pope, on August 27, 2022 in The Vatican.

By John L Allen Jr

One of Pope Francis’s most vocal allies in the Church hierarchy in the United States has criticised the reaction among some Catholics in the country to Fiducia Supplicans.

Cardinal Robert McElroy of San Diego has said that while it’s fine for a priest concerned about protecting the institution of marriage to refuse to offer blessings of persons in same-sex relationships, much of the opposition in the US to a Vatican document authorising the non-liturgical blessings of couples in irregular situations, including same-sex couples, is rooted not in doctrinal principle but what he called an “enduring animus” against gays and lesbians.

“It is wholly legitimate for a priest to personally decline to perform the blessings outlined in Fiducia because he believes that to do so would undermine the strength of marriage,” the cardinal said on 16 February.

But, he went on to say, “it is particularly distressing in our own country that the opposition to Fiducia focuses overwhelmingly on blessing those in same-sex relationships, rather than those many more men and women who are in heterosexual relationships that are not ecclesially valid.”

McElroy, who’s widely seen as a leader of the progressive wing of the US Church and a strong Francis supporter, added: “It is crucial to emphasise that Fiducia simply clarified questions about the permissibility of a priest pastorally blessing persons in irregular or gay unions in a non-liturgical setting and manner. No change in doctrine was made.”

McElory didn’t specify which sorts of non-ecclesially valid relationships he had in mind, but couples who live together outside of marriage would come under this.

“If the reason for opposing such blessings is really that the practice will blur and undermine the commitment to marriage, then the opposition should, one thinks, be focusing at least equally on blessings for these heterosexual relationships in our country,” he said.

“We all know why it is not,” McElroy said, attributing it to “an enduring animus among far too many toward LGBT persons”.

Noting that Fiducia Supplicans has stirred intense debate around the world, including a statement from the bishops of Africa to the effect that such blessings would be inappropriate in their cultural context, McElroy cited these “diverging pastoral paths” as a positive example of decentralisation.

“We have witnessed the reality that bishops in various parts of the world have made radically divergent decisions about the acceptability of such blessings in their countries, based substantially on cultural and pastoral factors as well as neo-colonialism,” he said.

“This is decentralisation in the life of the global Church,” McElory said, implying that such differences in principle can be positive, reflecting adaptation to local cultures.

Nonetheless, he insisted that decentralisation should not become an excuse for anti-gay prejudice.

“This decentralization must not obscure in any manner the religious obligation of every local church in justice and solidarity to protect LGBT persons in their lives and equal dignity,” he said.

McElroy, 70, was speaking during a session of the Religious Education Congress sponsored by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the largest annual Catholic gathering in North America, on the subject of Pope Francis’s ongoing Synod of Bishops on Synodality.

McElroy said that in the listening sessions which led up to last October’s month-long meeting of the synod in Rome, issues related to the LGBT+ community loomed large.

“The searing question of the Church’s treatment of LGBT+ persons was an immensely prominent facet of the synodal dialogues,” he said. “Anguished voices within the LGBT communities, in unison with their families, cried out against the perception that they are condemned by the Church and individual Catholics in a devastating way.”

McElroy conceded that among the bishops and other participants gathered in Rome, there was disagreement on the subject, listing it among what he called areas of “deep divide” in the assembly. The other areas included how to empower laity without undercutting the hierarchical nature of the Church, the extent and limits of inculturation and decentralisation, and the possible ordination of women deacons.

McElory also described areas of strong consensus in the meeting, such as the need to open up more roles in the Church to laity. He cited the example of how in his own diocese he was unable to name a veteran administrator to the role of “moderator of the curia” because, under existing church law, that role is restricted to priests.

As a result, McElroy told the crowd, he simply appointed the layman as “vice-moderator of the curia” and refused to select a moderator. He predicted that when the Synod of Bishops reaches its conclusion this October, reforms on such matters could come quickly.

“I think there will be a lot of progress on questions like this,” he said.

In terms of the single most powerful theme to emerge from last October’s summit, McElory said it was the sense that the time has come for a “paradigm shift” with regard to the inclusion of women in the Church.

McElroy said that while there were contrasting opinions on women deacons, a more “full-bodied” discussion ensued beyond a “binary” yes or no. For example, he said there was some discussion of perhaps ending the transitional diaconate, which would make ordination as a deacon the final step before priesthood.

Doing so, McElroy said, might sever the connection between the diaconate and the priesthood, which “could make it easier to have women deacons”.

In response to question about the perception that certain American bishops are anti-Francis, McElroy said the political dimension is less important than a bishop having a pastoral orientation.

“The ultimate criterion for a bishop is, is he pastoral? The question of whether he’s strongly pro-Francis, medium Pope Francis, Okay but not great with Pope Francis, leaning for or against, is secondary,” he said.

Going forward, he explained, a major practical challenge for the Church will be to find ways to make it more participatory and rooted in listening, but without replicating the cumbersome system of the synod itself.

“The process of discernment used in Rome is far too time-consuming to use with regularity in parish and diocesan life and decision-making,” he said. “It won’t work here.”

Instead, McElroy called for “analogical methods of discernment” which would be “practical for general use in our diocese and our parishes and groups of faith”.

With regard to Catholic doctrine, without offering specific examples McElroy suggested that in general it is time for change.

“It is becoming clear that on some issues, the understanding of human nature and moral reality upon which previous declarations of doctrine were made were in fact limited or defective,” McElroy said.

LGBTQ+ church bid

— ‘I was told being gay would send you to hell’

Betty Harper’s first attempts to talk about her sexuality with her family did not go well

By Natalie Grice

Betty Harper is so “sick and tired” of trying to find a church where she feels truly welcomed as a gay woman that she is planning to start her own.

The 21-year-old charity worker from Llanddulas, Conwy county, is engaged to her partner of two years. Both are Christians who want to find somewhere accepting to practise their faith but have so far not found what they are looking for locally.Betty has travelled a long road to accepting her sexuality. Raised in a “very, very strict” Christian household, the message she heard growing up was that same-sex relationships were sinful.But she knew from an early age that was what she wanted.

She explains: “When I was younger I felt different to my friends. I wasn’t attracted to the boys [but] I was attracted to the girls.

“My dad was a pastor of a church at this time and all I’ve known my entire life is ‘being gay is wrong, and being gay will send you to hell’.”

‘It didn’t go down very well’

Betty remembers first mentioning her ideas about her sexuality when she was in Year 8 and entering her teenage years.

“I told my dad, I think I like this girl at school, and it didn’t go down very well, and that’s when I kind of shut off conversations any further about that,” she said.

Betty Harper Betty Harper (right) and her fiancee Hannah
Betty and her fiancee Hannah first met through a church

“As a Christian, when you’ve been brought up to be taught it’s not OK to be gay or to be in a same-sex relationship, but you are. You can’t change how you feel.”

She even tried to use her faith to alter who she really was because of her conditioning.

“Believe me, I’ve prayed and prayed and prayed to try and change how I see boys and how I see girls,” she says.

“[But] I was made this way. God made me who I am.”

Betty’s life is intimately bound up with her religion. She works as centre manager for a Christian charity offering community support and aid to the people of Rhyl, Denbighshire, taking over from her mother who helped establish the charity out of a church during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Her personal faith and relationship with Christianity is strong – it is clear to see it permeates every aspect of her life, and this remains the case despite some of the experiences she has had with churchgoers who disapprove of homosexuality, and have made that plain to her.

However, when she initially embarked on a relationship with a woman, she went through a crisis of belief.

“It was the first serious relationship I’d had with a woman and I really struggled.”

‘Disowned’

She and her current partner are now “unravelling” elements of past conditioning after “all those years of being drilled, ‘you’re going to hell, you’re going to hell'”.

It has led to a breach with her father’s side of the family. “We no longer speak. They’ve kind of disowned me because I’m with a woman,” she says.

She has been told by one family member they pray they can go to hell in her place so she can go to heaven.

Andrei Daniel Production Father Lee Taylor, Fabiano Da Silva Duarte and Right Rev Gregory Cameron
Fabiano Da Silva Duarte, left, and Father Lee Taylor were believed to be the first same-sex couples to receive an official Church in Wales blessing on their marriage in 2021, even though they could not wed in church

“That is so hard-hitting for me, because I believe there is a heaven and a hell. That’s really hard for me to hear and it made me doubt myself, and it’s that conditioning that needs to be unravelled,” she says.

Perhaps ironically, it was through a church that she and her partner Hannah first met, after Betty and her mother visited an old place of worship that her future partner attended.

Although Hannah had not come out at the time she became a Christian, she still experienced anti-gay sentiments through Sunday services.

Getty Images Two women getting married
Marriage between two same-sex people is still a “taboo” in some churches, in Betty’s experience

“She was preached at and told it was not OK to be gay just in a general Sunday service. She was like, ‘hang on that’s ridiculous, why can’t you be accepted for being gay?’,” she said.

Betty acknowledges steps have been taken in some Christian churches to welcome and accept LGBTQ+ members, but so far has not found somewhere she feels accepted.

“We’ve been to many, many churches around the area and a lot of them say ‘you’re welcome’. But if you’re married it’s a bit of a taboo subject,” she says.

At one church, initially welcoming to the couple, Betty says she was told after consultations with members of the congregation that she could attend choir rehearsals.

But she was also told not sing or perform on stage because “we wouldn’t want you to influence the younger people, and you couldn’t be a role model for them”.

After conditions were also put on her partner working with the Sunday school, Betty says she “walked away”.

“I said ‘we’ve been together two-and-a-half years and we need to find a church that is completely accepting, and I don’t think we’re going to find that. So I’m going to start something’,” she added.

“And that’s kind of how that snowballed.”

She says the “spur of the moment” decision is something she has run with “because it is so needed”.

‘Everyone is accepted for who they are’

She is now trying to find a wider group of people who are interested, locate a building and a “wholly accepting” pastor for the church, and has already had positive responses to the idea online.

“It’s not specifically for only LGBT people. Straight people are welcome. Everybody is welcome, even if you’re not a Christian,” she said.

Betty is looking for “anywhere in Wales” where there is a good building in a welcoming community, suggesting somewhere “youthful” and “modernised” such as Llandudno.

“I think of a church I would like it to look like – [such as] the churches that have very upbeat music. I suppose it would be mainly directed at younger-ish people, unless some of the older people love the music; they’d be more than welcome,” she grins.

She envisages a place where people can “do what they want” in worship.

“It shouldn’t be something you’re reading [from a leaflet] constantly. You should dance, express yourself how you best express yourself. That’s the kind of church I’d like to start.”

Getty Images St Mary's Cathedral, Edinburgh
The Scottish Episcopal Church is one of the religious groups in the UK which carries out same-sex weddings in its buildings

Betty and Hannah are hoping to marry in 2025, and if things go to plan hope they will be able to have a blessing in their own church after a civil service.

Currently, same-sex couples are unable to marry in Roman Catholic churches, the Anglican Church of England or the Church in Wales, although the Church of Scotland has voted in favour of the move.

Other denominations, such as the Methodist Church, United Reformed Church, Quakers and the Scottish Episcopal Church perform marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples.

After years of hearing her sexuality was sinful, Betty just wants to be in a place where she and other gay people are accepted.

As she says: “All you’re doing is loving somebody. It’s not like you’re murdering or anything like that.

“You’re just loving somebody, and God is love, so how can he discriminate [against] you for loving someone?”

Complete Article HERE!

Greece legalises gay marriage

— Becoming first Orthodox Christian country to allow same-sex unions

Members of the LGBTQ+ community and supporters celebrate in front of the Greek parliament.

By Prisha

In a historic decision, the Greek parliament on Thursday (Feb 15) passed a law which legalised same-sex marriage and made it the first majority Orthodox Christian country where marriage equality for all has been established.

In spite of opposition from Orthodox Christian clergy and conservative segments of society, the decision received the support of 176 out of 300 lawmakers in the parliament. The bill introduced by the centre-right government was opposed by 76 lawmakers, after months of polarised political and public discourse.

The country’s LGBTQ+ couples welcomed the parliament’s decision as the onlookers in parliament cheered and dozens celebrated on the streets of Athens.

“This is a milestone for human rights, reflecting today’s Greece – a progressive, and democratic country, passionately committed to European values,” said Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, in a post on X after the voting.

“People who have been invisible will finally be made visible around us, and with them, many children will finally find their rightful place,” said the prime minister in the parliament, ahead of the vote.

“The reform makes the lives of several of our fellow citizens better, without taking away anything from the lives of the many,” he added.

The historic law has given the right to wed and adopt children to same-sex couples, decades after the LGBT community campaigned for marriage equality in the socially conservative country.

Even though civil partnerships for gay couples were introduced by Greece nearly a decade ago under the left-wing Syriza government, the government recognised only the biological parents of children in those relationships as legal guardians.

However, as per the new law, same-sex parents can now be recognised as legal parents of the children.
<h2”>‘Proud to be Greek’: LGBT community celebrates on streets

“This is a historic moment,” said Stella Belia, the head of same-sex parents group Rainbow Families, while speaking to Reuters news agency. “This is a day of joy,” she added.

LGBT communities rallied outside parliament and one of the banners read: “Not a step back from real equality.”

“I’m very proud as a Greek citizen because Greece is actually – now – one of the most progressive countries,” said Ermina Papadima, who is a member of the Greek Transgender Support Association.

“I think the mindset is going to change… We have to wait, but I think the laws are going to help with that,” she added.

Celebrating the law, many people sang passages from the Bible, read prayers, held crosses and displayed banners in the capital’s Syntagma Square.

However, the head of the Orthodox Church, Archbishop Ieronymos, said that the measure would “corrupt the homeland’s social cohesion”.

Complete Article HERE!

Greek Church Leads Hateful, Twisted Campaign Against Gay Marriage

— Greece’s Orthodox Church is using ludicrous out-dated arguments like claiming homosexuality is a mental illness or that baptisms could turn kids gay if their parents are LGBTQ+.

by Demetrios Ioannou

Greece is expected to legalize same-sex weddings this week, in a vote due to be held the day after Valentine’s Day. Not everyone is feeling the love, however, and the Greek Orthodox church has become an outspoken and powerful opponent of the changes.

Even though the bill isn’t forcing the priests to marry gay people and has nothing to do with the church, it is church officials who have been the loudest opponents, with bishops appearing on television programs making outdated and false accusations, calling homosexuality a mental illness and suggesting that gay men and women are sick and only the church can heal them.

When the bill passes, Greece will be the first Christian Orthodox country with strong roots in religion to allow same-sex marriage.

Ultra-orthodox and far-right groups protested in central Athens on Sunday against the bill. Among them were many who were holding Greek flags, icons with Jesus and the Virgin Mary, and of course members of the clergy. “Fatherland, Religion, Family,” was one of their slogans.

“Ever since psychiatry removed homosexuality from the list of mental disorders, it gave up on related research and these unfortunate people were left helpless with only solace the hope of a convenient legislation and the assertion of rights with parades of self-deprecation and shame,” said Nikolaos, the Metropolitan of Mesogaia and Lavreotiki, during a meeting of the Greek church’s Holy Synod in late January. These words angered many Greeks who took to social media to express their disapproval and even forced the Hellenic Psychiatric Association to release a statement clarifying that “homosexuality is not a mental illness”.

According to the Greek church, homosexuality is a sin and “of course the traditional family is in danger. A homosexual relationship can neither be a family nor a marriage,” Panteleimon, the Metropolitan of Maroneia and Komotini, the spokesperson of the Holy Synod, said to The Daily Beast, and continued: “The church only recognizes as marriage the relationship between a man and a woman, whose relationship is sanctified through the holy mystery of marriage.”

“I didn’t expect anything different from the church,” said Stella Belia, who was among a group of independent consultants who worked on the national strategy for the equality of LGBTQ+ people, which is being implemented by Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in accordance with a European Commission initiative.

She told The Daily Beast that she has been “out and proud” since she was in high school, but is also a deeply religious person.

Despite being abandoned by her church, Belia has made huge progress as the president of Rainbow Families Greece, an NGO focusing on LGBTQ+ parents and their families.

While there are politicians who also oppose the bill, it is expected to pass with the majority of the parliamentary votes. Although Greece has recognized a cohabitation agreement, as an alternative to marriage for same-sex couples since 2015, this addition to the civil wedding bill will also acknowledge the children of those couples who have not been officially considered a family and don’t enjoy the same rights as straight families. However, the right to medically assisted reproduction and surrogacy will still not be extended to same-sex couples.

“It is very important for many [gay] families who have been feeling insecure, like families where the one member who is the legal parent is a person whose life is in danger. Those families will finally be able to have a shared parenting role,” said Belia, who is the biological mother of two 16-year-old boys, Giannis and Antonis, and looks after the three children of an ex-partner.

When her partner’s son Christos, had an accident with a motorcycle on July 6, 2022, he was hospitalized in the ICU for over a month. “He was under sedation and we didn’t know if he would live or die. And I was outside that ICU, inside was my child and I was nobody [to him according to the hospital rules],” she said, describing the difficulties many same-sex families in Greece face. According to current law, if the legal parent in a same-sex family dies, the child will most possibly end up in foster care. The partner does not have any rights associated with the child and cannot have custody.

This bill is currently in parliament and will be brought to a vote on Feb. 15. The church must then decide how to respond to the new law within religious settings. Though it is not an official decision yet, and the Greek Archbishop Ieronymos has been trying to push a more neutral stance for now, other members of the clergy have suggested that they will refuse to christen the children of gay couples, with Seraphim, the Metropolitan of Piraeus, saying on Greek network SKAI that: “If we baptize the children of gay couples, the children will become gay too.”

“I joke sometimes about this with my sons,” said Belia who had her children through IVF. “My boys tell me, ‘Mom do you still love us the same now that we are straight?’”

At the moment the Greek church has been waiting for the government’s next move and at the next meeting of the Holy Synod will decide how they will proceed. “True love has a cost; it has a sacrifice. The message of the church is clear; the church accepts everyone in repentance,” Panteleimon said. Belia replied: “None of them will deprive me of my faith. And this has nothing to do with me rejecting the church, it has to do with the church not wanting me in its bosom. I will not force myself to go where they do not want me”.

All this comes only months after the country had its first ever gay party leader. The newly elected leader of the main opposition party in the Greek parliament, Stefanos Kasselakis of SYRIZA, is a gay man who recently married his husband in New York. Same-sex marriage has been on Kasselakis’ agenda as well since day one and this has been one of the few things Greece’s main political parties agree on.

Mitsotakis said in a recent interview on national television ERT that the church could not stop the democratic will. “I absolutely respect our fellow citizens who have a different point of view, just as I respect the church’s point of view. We will respect the different opinion, but the state legislates; it does not co-legislate with the church,” he said.

The bill will finally give visibility to a large number of people in Greece and mostly their children. “All these years we have been fighting for the obvious,” Belia said.

Complete Article HERE!

Pope Francis: To be ‘scandalized’ by gay couple blessings is ‘hypocrisy’

Pope Francis greets pilgrims at his general audience on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024, at the Paul VI Audience Hall at the Vatican.

By Matthew Santucci

Pope Francis this week again defended the Vatican’s controversial document authorizing blessings for same-sex couples, with the Holy Father arguing that humans “must all respect each other” and stating that blessings should be extended to “everyone.”

The pope’s comments come from an exclusive Italian-language interview he gave to the Italian weekly print periodical Credere, which will be available in newsstands across Italy on Thursday.

When asked by editor Father Vincenzo Vitale about Fiducia Supplicans — the December document published by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF) that authorized nonliturgical blessings for same-sex couples and others in “irregular situations” — the pope said that “the gravest sins … are those that disguise themselves with a more ‘angelic’ appearance.”

“No one is scandalized if I give a blessing to an entrepreneur who perhaps exploits people: and this is a very serious sin,” the Holy Father said. “Whereas they are scandalized if I give it to a homosexual … This is hypocrisy! We must all respect each other. Everyone.”

“I don’t bless a ‘homosexual marriage,’” the pope said. “I bless two people who love each other and I also ask them to pray for me.”

“Always in confessions, when these situations arrive, homosexual people, remarried people, I always pray and bless,” he continued. “The blessing is not to be denied to anyone. Everyone, everyone. Mind you, I am talking about people: those who are capable of receiving baptism,” Francis continued.

Pope Francis has come to the defense of the document several times since its publication. In a Jan. 26 audience with members of the DDF, the pope said that “moral perfection” isn’t a requirement for receiving a blessing.

The intent of the blessings, the pope said at the time, is “to concretely show the closeness of the Lord and of the Church to all those who, finding themselves in different situations, ask help to carry on — sometimes to begin — a journey of faith.”

Those comments came after the 87-year-old pontiff appeared on the Italian prime-time TV talk show “Che Tempo Che Fa” on Jan. 14, which he joined via livestream from his residence at Casa Santa Marta.

Answering questions regarding Fiducia Supplicans, the pope said that “the Lord blesses everyone who is capable of being baptized, that is, every person.”

“But we are to take them by the hand and help them go down that road, not condemn them from the beginning,” he told the network. “And this is the pastoral work of the Church. This is very important work for confessors.”

The pope’s comments at Credere come amid continuing controversy over Fiducia Supplicans, which has been met with widespread criticism and concern centered on how it might be misconstrued. Backlash has come particularly from Church leaders in Africa and Eastern Europe.

Credere, which is part of the San Paolo Editorial Group and available only in print, was established on the occasion of the election of Pope Francis in 2013.

It is distributed throughout Italy with a weekly circulation of 60,000 copies and 200,000 readers, the Italian daily newspaper La Stampa reported.

Complete Article HERE!