Blessings Unbound

I’ve read a few conservative reactions to the pronouncement from Pope Francis that Catholic clergy can now offer blessings to those who are in same-sex relationships. What I was more interested in, though, is hearing from those who are most directly affected by the change. Namely, those who are in same-sex relationships and seeking blessings. Michael J. O’Loughlin provided just that perspective (gift article) for The Atlantic. O’Loughlin’s view is that it isn’t just those in relationships that the church does not recognize that can face difficulty staying in the church. Rather, that challenge is common to everyone.

When I’m speaking to groups of Catholics, I often talk about how it isn’t easy for anyone to remain part of the Church. At some point, I say, something in your life will conflict with the Church’s ideals. Theology is pristine; life is messy.

I think back on my own life and the times I’ve been ready to throw in the towel because something just didn’t line up with the church. It even caused me to join a new denomination. Something has always compelled me to stay, though. As my friend JB perhaps put it best, it makes you think of St Peter’s words in John chapter 6: Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

It’s rarely a good idea to look at someone through the lens of one characteristic of their humanity. Whitman wrote, I am large, I contain multitudes.” The sentiment might be more universal, though. Most of us contain multitudes. We have contradictions sometimes and certainly incongruities. So the many facets of the believer fuse into one whole spiritual person.

O’Loughlin answers why he doesn’t depart Catholicism for another church.

I could choose to leave the Catholic Church and join any number of denominations that are more welcoming to gay and lesbian believers. I’ve stayed for many reasons, not least because of Catholicism’s diversity, whose benefits far outweigh the challenges it poses. But mostly I stay because I believe that my otherwise ordinary life has been made sacred by my faith and the sacraments.

As he says, we all have difficulties staying with the church on occasion, but some have it harder than others, and more is the admiration that’s earned.