The Catholic Community of St. Francis of Assisi has a long tradition of inclusivity, a reflection of Jesus himself who came to break down barriers and divisions among peoples of every nation and way of life. For many years, we have been the only parish in the diocese to openly welcome and include our LGBTQ brothers and sisters not only by their presence, but in ministry and leadership as well. Our LGBTQ ministry has been a source of great comfort and support to countless others who have looked to them for direction and hope, indeed a life-saving ministry for some. Our parish is enriched by their presence and they are a blessing to us. As the pastor of this faith community, I stand in solidarity with them, as Jesus would, and empathize with their pain, and that of their families, friends, and members of our parish resulting from the recent statement from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) on blessing same-sex unions.
In the midst of this pain, our parish remains steadfast in lifting up our LGBTQ brothers and sisters who are loved by God no less than anyone else and who are made in the image and likeness of God like everyone else. In these ways, God blesses each of them and all of us every day. I was asked last week for my reaction to this CDF statement. As a priest of 40 years, I have learned to take the long view of things. Nothing is perfect on earth and the Church is no exception. 100 years ago we were a Catholic Church quite different than we are today. I have no doubt that we will look different in another 100 years. In what ways remains to be seen.
I say this not to belittle the real pain and disappointment the CDF statement has caused many people nor to dismiss longstanding doctrinal traditions of the Church. I say this simply to note that we are a Church that has changed, in little and large ways over the centuries, and will likely continue to do so. As examples, the Church has changed its doctrinal teaching on freedom of conscience, slavery, usury (lending money for a profit), and divorce. Some of us remember the changes brought by Vatican II wherein abstaining from meat every Friday under penalty of committing serious sin was changed and shifting the liturgy back into the languages of the people was approved, things that would have been unimaginable 100 years ago. There is currently a commission of scholars appointed by Pope Francis exploring the possibility of ordaining women to the diaconate, something that would have been inconceivable back when I was ordained a deacon.
In the meantime, we continue to worship, pray, learn, serve, gather as community, and do what we can at the parish level to promote the values of the Gospel and the one who taught them to us, Jesus Christ. With him as our rock, we need never lose hope.