Bishop Stowe Nods ‘Blessings’ of Same-Sex Couples At Catholic Dissenters’ Pride Month Event

In defiance of a recent Vatican statement, Dignity USA and co-sponsors host ‘Catholic Pride Blessing’

Bishop John Stowe of Lexington gave a blessing to participants of so-called Catholic Pride Blessing, organized by Dignity USA, a group that dissents from Catholic teaching.
Bishop John Stowe of Lexington gave a blessing to participants of so-called Catholic Pride Blessing, organized by Dignity USA, a group that dissents from Catholic teaching. (photo: screenshot / via Youtube)

Catholic dissenters and LGBTQ activists on Tuesday hosted an online Pride Month “blessing” in a public challenge to a Catholic teaching and a Vatican statement reiterating that same-sex unions cannot be blessed. Speakers made comments that rejected Catholic teaching on sexuality, marriage and family, talking about “God’s triumph of queer love” or declaring that pride is not sin but “salvation” and “a promise of liberation for all.”

Bishop John Stowe, OFM Conv., of Lexington, made an appearance, delivering a simple, general blessing inviting the attendees to a deeper relationship with God and to know his love.

“We know that there are many, many Catholics who love, support, and, yes, bless their LGBTQ+ family members, friends, and neighbors,” Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of event organizer Dignity USA, said June 1 ahead of the event. 

“We wanted to create a way for them to make their love visible,” Duddy-Burke said. “Many of these people felt disheartened and disappointed by the Vatican statement and appreciated the chance to send a different message.”

On March 15 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a response to the query “does the Church have the power to give the blessing to unions of persons of the same sex?”  The congregation answered, “negative,” outlining its reasoning in an explanatory note and accompanying commentary.

The response said that God “cannot bless sin,” but also stressed, “the Christian community and its pastors are called to welcome with respect and sensitivity persons with homosexual inclinations and will know how to find the most appropriate ways, consistent with Church teaching, to proclaim to them the Gospel in its fullness.”

The CDF statement, issued with the approval of Pope Francis, sparked protests in the German-speaking Catholic world. Several bishops expressed support for blessings of same-sex couples, while churches displayed LGBT pride flags, and a group of more than 200 theology professors signed a statement criticizing the Vatican.

Priests and pastoral workers in some 80 cities in Germany and in Zurich defied the Vatican on May 10, conducting so-"blessing" ceremonies attended by same-sex couples. 

Dignity USA solicited support for the so-called Catholic Pride Blessing on its website, saying the CDF’s March statement “has caused pain and will continue to harm many.” 

“We won’t wait for the Vatican to recognize the gifts that LGBTQI people and their love bring to the Church, ” the group added. “As Pride Month approaches, we want to speak boldly in support of the inclusion of LGBTQI people, couples, and families. We pray that this Pride month would be an empowering season of solidarity and that the Vatican's pronouncements on LGBTQI people and their love will not be the final word.”

The online event, held on Zoom, had over 200 attendees.

Just before the Bishop Stowe's  message, Duddy-Burke delivered what she called a “Pride Blessing.” Her remarks depicted a narrator hearing a voice: “You have been judged worthy and holy of my delight. Therefore go with pride, which is not sin for you but salvation, a promise of liberation for all. You are my beloved. With you I am well pleased.”

CNA sought comment from the Diocese of Lexington but did not receive a response by deadline.

The event included several other speakers who dissent from Catholic teaching on sexuality, incluing  the openly homosexual, Irish-born Father Bernard Lynch, a member of the Society of African Missions until he was expelled from the order in 2011. The event described him as a longtime member of Dignity New York and a “married Roman Catholic priest.” In his memoirs, Lynch has claimed to have been religiously married to his same-sex partner in 1998, with the blessing of a Cistercian monk. He said he has officiated at same-sex ceremonies. He contracted a same-sex civil partnership in 2006 and a same-sex civil marriage in Ireland in 2017. 

At the Zoom meeting,  Lynch gave a “blessing for couples.” 

Other Dignity USA “video blessings” came from Mary McAleese, past President of Ireland, a vocal LGBT advocate and critic of Catholic teaching on sexual morality. Previously she has called Catholic teaching “evil” and contended that it “conduces to homophobia.”

Former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See Miguel H. Diaz also spoke. Diaz was President Barack Obama’s ambassador to the Vatican from 2009 to 2012. He is currently the John Courtney Murray S.J. Chair in Public Service at the University of Loyola Chicago theology department.

Diaz presented a poem he said was inspired by St. John of the Cross before saying to the LGBT audience:

“Blessings on you who patiently wait as you resist in spirit ungodly beliefs, teachings and stereotypes which attempt to extinguish your light.”

“Blessings on your families, your friendships, your loving unions, may they all participate in and celebrate the mystery of God’s triumph of queer love,” said Diaz, adding “you are called to be a prophet of God’s love.”

Before the event, Dignity USA circulated a “Pride Blessing” statement that blesses self-identified LGBT, intersex, and queer people as “a unique and glorious reflection of God's astounding creativity and love.” They “create new kinds of families formed by love rather than by law.” 

Dignity USA rejects Catholic teaching on sexual morality, the nature of marriage, and the ordination of only men to the priesthood, among other issues. In July 2015 it and several other dissenting groups called for the Catholic  Church to recognize same-sex unions as sacramental marriage, what it called sacramental equality. Dignity USA’s funders have included the Arcus Foundation, founded by billionaire heir Jon Stryker. The foundation has funded LGBT activists that have helped split Christian denominations over controversies about ecclesial authority, marriage, and sexual morality.

Other co-sponsors of Tuesday’s event include the Institute Leadership Team of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, NETWORK Lobby, the Maryland-based WATER feminist theology group, and the Women’s Ordination Conference. In addition, other co-sponsors are Faith in Public Life and the Human Rights Campaign, which have led advocacy campaigns against the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops or against individual Catholic bishops. The National LGBT Task Force was another co-sponsor.

Some of the speakers at the Pride Blessing have faced allegations of sexual harassment or misconduct.

Diaz, after his term as ambassador, became a professor of faith and culture at the University of Dayton. The Ohio university in 2013 found “reasonable cause” to believe that Diaz sexually harassed a married couple while a professor there and engaged in “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature, particularly after being told to stop.”

Lynch, the priest in a same-sex marriage, was named in a November 2019 lawsuit filed in Manhattan Supreme Court. The lawsuit alleged that Lynch sexually abused a teenage student at Mount St. Michael Academy in 1978 and 1979, where Lynch served as campus chaplain, the Irish News reported. 

In 1989, a Bronx court acquitted him of sexually abusing a different teenager at the same school. His accuser recanted his accusation on the courtroom steps, saying he had been pressured to make the accusation. Lynch had denied the allegations, contending he was the subject of a “witch hunt.”