OPINION: Catholics should rethink doctrine regarding same-sex marriage

Pope+Francis+is+one+of+the+most+progressive+popes+in+the+church%27s+history%2C+but+he+still+has+not+changed+the+doctrine+on+same-sex+marriage.+

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Pope Francis is one of the most progressive popes in the church’s history, but he still has not changed the doctrine on same-sex marriage.

After the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2015, multiple religions have been questioned  regarding their stance on the issue. The Catholic church was recently asked if the clergy had the authority and ability to bless same-sex unions. The Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith formally issued a response, stating “negative” and The response was approved by Pope Francis, despite his previous endorsement of protecting  LGBT members of the church. 

This answer was met with mixed reactions, conservatives responded positively while LGBT members were understandably disappointed by the response. 

“The Church’s understanding of sexual acts and relationships is more metaphysical than biological or sociological,” religious and theological studies professor at St. Edward’s University Jonathan Heaps said “Official Catholic teaching has settled on some essential definitions and acts or relationships that do not fit them are considered, in the language the Church tends to use, ‘intrinsically disordered.’”

At first it felt contradictory for Pope Francis to approve this response by the Vatican, considering his previous opinion stating that LGBT members should be protected legally and should not be shunned by their family. However, this position and support of civil unions is different from supporting marriages blessed by the Vatican. 

“Pope Francis has in the past taken the (biblical) position that even in his role it is not his place to judge another person, whether for their sexual orientation or anything else,” Heaps said. “He has expressed his support for economic and legal protections of same-sex couples in the form of ‘civil unions.’ It should be remembered, though, that this position emerged as an alternative to legalizing gay marriage in Argentina. He was clear at that time that he held the official Catholic view which is that  the divine plan for marriage is between men and women.”

I believe that every marriage should be treated equally and that same-sex couples should be included in the Catholic ceremonies if they wish to be. However, this stance by the Vatican is not a surprising one when you think about traditional Catholic views and how these views generally depict the LGBT community. Hopefully people of all faiths can get to a point where this changes, and can move forward in a positive direction regarding issues that negatively impact LGBT members of these communities. 

“The philosophy and theology that informs these doctrines originated in another time and place,” Heaps said. “Transposing those teachings into the register of more contemporary thought without fundamentally changing the tune itself is a hard problem on its own terms and many Catholics do not even agree it’s worth attempting.” 

The idea that rethinking the Doctrine seems to not be worth attempting to most Catholics is disheartening, as it seems that many Catholics do not have enough empathy regarding the issue to even try to make improvements. An attempt should be made to be more inclusive, as it is even more disheartening to the LGBT community for their religious organization to not even try to include them more.

“Although they have not budged on the central point, the truth is that the Catholic Church’s stance on this topic has changed,” Heaps said. “The evidence of that change is how much effort the CDF [Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith] expends trying to make sure their determination vis-a-vis blessing unions is not taken as condoning mistreatment of LGBT+ persons in general.”