Pope Francis: If you don’t have something nice to say, then say nothing.

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It’s disappointing, though not surprising, that Pope Francis recently came out and said that the Catholic Church cannot bless same-sex unions. The man has been walking a very thin tightrope on a multitude of issues, but especially on his support of LGBT rights. At some point, the pushback must have gotten too great.

To summarize: on March 15, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which is the Vatican office responsible for church doctrine, released a two-page decision that said that same-sex unions are sinful and cannot be blessed. The Pope then publicly gave his approval of the decision.

“Furthermore,” the response reads, “since blessings on persons are in relationship with the sacraments, the blessing of homosexual unions cannot be considered licit. This is because they would constitute a certain imitation or analogue of the nuptial blessing invoked on the man and woman united in the sacrament of Matrimony, while in fact “there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family””

Towards the end of the response, the church tried to reaffirm that same-sex people are okay, but said they are still sinful, along with their relationships: “[The] Church recalls that God Himself never ceases to bless each of His pilgrim children in this world, because for Him “we are more important to God than all of the sins that we can commit”. But he does not and cannot bless sin: he blesses sinful man, so that he may recognize that he is part of his plan of love and allow himself to be changed by him.”

Pope Francis endorsed the Vatican response, despite showing past willingness to work with LGBT Catholics and, at the very least, not cause harm to them.

Unfortunately, the Pope has caused great harm to LGBT Catholics this time. Every time something like this happens — when the Church or the Pope makes an announcement that same-sex people and relationships are wrong — more and more LGBT Catholics are caused to feel pain. Sometimes they go back into the closet; sometimes they retreat from their family; sometimes they do even more drastic things. 

LGBT Catholics treat their faith as seriously as any other Catholic, and it is a slap in their face when the Church and Pope issue statements like the one this week. Furthermore, statements like the one this week embolden vehemently anti-LGBT organizations such as the Catholic League to discriminate and feel justfied in their discrimination. It reverses the change towards LGBT acceptance that Pope Francis seemed open to making.

It would have been better, in the end, if the Pope said nothing at all about the Vatican response. But perhaps that was expecting too much from one of the most influential people in the world.

We’re lucky that so many LGBT-friendly faith options exist for people. Those organizations are doing important work in recognizing the validity of LGBT people and their relationships. In the wake of the Vatican announcement, it’s especially important to double down on our support of LGBT-affirming religious organizations. They’re doing the yeoman’s work that the Catholic Church is clearly incapable and unwilling to do. They remind LGBT people that they are equally worthy of love without stipulations. Unfortunately, the Catholic Church seems to have forgotten that.