The Vatican is very, very angry at the Episcopal Church for voting last week to add gender identity and expression to the church’s nondiscrimination laws — thus affirming trans people as full members of the church and allowing them to be ordained — and approving a rite of blessing for gay and lesbian unions.
Francis DeBernardo of New Ways Ministry reports that a senior Vatican official has condemned the decision as “a huge obstacle on the path to Christian unity.” The prelate, Bishop Brian Farrell, is Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, the ecumenical branch of the Catholic Church. Farrell told the Catholic News Service that the Episcopal Church’s pro-LGBT progress will adversely impact its ongoing dialogue with the Catholic Church in the United States and that it “jeopardizes the achievements of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission since 1970.”
Responding to the criticism, Rev. Susan Russell of Pasadena, California — a longtime proponent of LGBT inclusion in the Episcopal Church — remarked to the Christian Science Monitor:
“We are not going to be blackmailed into bigotry against our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in order to maintain a unity that requires uniformity.”
Kudos to Rev. Russell and the Episcopal Church for standing their ground in the face of threats and spiritual bullying from homophobic religious leaders. While I’d like to hope that the Catholic Church wouldn’t be so petty as to allow advances in LGBT rights to impede its relationship with more enlightened religious bodies, I’m not surprised by this latest move, given the fact that the Catholic hierarchy seems intent on taking every possible opportunity to punish LGBT people and those who love, support, embrace, and include them.
Besides, the worst that could possibly happen in this situation is that the hierarchy of the Catholic Church decides to cut off dialogue with the Episcopalians entirely. And as far as I’m concerned, that’s not a bad thing — a dialogue that’s contingent upon the acceptance of malicious anti-LGBT bigotry isn’t really worth continuing at all.