At last, a stream of light for LGBTIQ Catholics

Pope Francis has gently pushed the door to allow some light into the darkness

Pope Francis’s decision to give Roman Catholic priests the green light to bless same-sex couples and others in “irregular” situations is a significant development for the LGBTIQ community.

From a liberal lay perspective, the move is not a seismic shift – the Vatican has made it very clear this does not mean endorsement of relationships the Church considers to be sinful.

However, for LGBTIQ Catholics the move represents some form of recognition as humans who can fall in and out of love; and commit to one another like anybody else.

After all, there was never any sense in having priests bless buildings, cars and other material objects but not same-sex couples.

The Pope’s decision to endorse the guidelines opens the Church’s door ajar to people in the LGBTIQ community who want to have a fulfilling Christian experience. And knowing how the wheels of change turn very slowly in an institution like the Church, the development is significant.

In many ways, it justifies the principled stand taken by Dominican Mark Montebello and diocesan priest Colin Apap several years ago when they saw no theological problem in blessing same-sex couples much to the chagrin of the conservatives who ran the roost in Malta’s Church.

Getting there has not been easy and the conservative winds within the Vatican walls and beyond continue to blow hard against Pope Francis and his reformist agenda. Indeed, to some he is the devil incarnate whose actions are undermining the Church’s foundations.

But to many others, Francis has brought about a breath of fresh air.

One can only hope that the Maltese church fully embraces these guidelines and the spirit that underpins them.

We do not doubt Archbishop Charles Scicluna’s commitment. After all, Scicluna and then Gozo Bishop Mario Grech had been trailblazers internationally in 2017 when publishing guidelines on how priests should accompany divorced and remarried Catholics after taking the cue from Pope Francis’s exhortation Amoris Laetitia. The guidelines were frowned upon by some conservative parish priests in Malta but praised by the Pope at the time.

Almost seven years later, the Archbishop must now make sure that the latest development concerning the blessing of same-sex couples is also reflected at parish level. These couples should not be made a pariah in their own Church.

However, this leader, which speaks from a liberal lay viewpoint, hopes it will not take the Roman Catholic Church hundreds more years to enlighten itself and accept that people in the LGBTIQ community should be able to partake in all the sacraments without discrimination.

In Biblical tradition, God may have created a man and a woman to go forth and have children but he also created a diversity of people along the way. It is only patriarchal arrogance over the millennia that has interpreted God’s will in such a way that stifles human diversity and the relationships that may be borne out of it.

For how can a God of love exclude two men who have harmed nobody and whose only ‘sin’ is loving each other? How can a God of love shut the door on two women who love each other and want to live by Christian values? How can a God of love be a tyrant with trans persons whose only ‘sin’ is being born that way?

There must be more to this God of love than what men in charge of his church - because they have always been and continue to be men - have professed over the millennia.

Pope Francis has gently pushed the door to allow some light into the darkness. For the sake of those LGBTIQ persons who feel they belong to the Catholic Church we can only hope the stream of light evolves into a beacon of hope that floods the room with compassion, love and acceptance… and this will happen in their lifetime.