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Catholics React To Vatican Ban On Clergy Blessing Same-Sex Marriages

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

LGBTQ Catholics won't have priests blessing their same-sex marriages. The Vatican called on Catholics to welcome and respect LGBTQ people. However, it said in a statement approved by Pope Francis that Catholic clergy cannot bless same-sex unions, writing that God, quote, "cannot bless sin." Jamie Manson is the president of the nonprofit Catholics for Choice and is a member of the LGBTQ community. Jamie, what was your reaction when you heard the Vatican's statement?

JAMIE MANSON: Good morning, A. Well, obviously, it was a profound disappointment. This gives a sense that our love is inferior, that we cannot - that our love is not blessed by God. So it's profoundly painful.

MARTINEZ: Now, to be clear, this is not a new position for the Catholic Church. They're just restating what was already their position on same-sex relationships. But, Jamie, why do you think this statement now?

MANSON: Well, there was some murmurings in Germany by bishops that they were considering, how can we bless same-sex couples? So I think that put a lot of pressure on the Vatican. Also, the pope - there was a documentary last year - that the pope suggested support for civil unions. So I think the Vatican hates confusion, and they like to clarify things when things get a bit muddy. So I think that probably prompted this.

MARTINEZ: Did all that give you hope, though?

MANSON: Honestly, A, it didn't. I'm a journalist. I was a journalist for 12 years. As a lesbian, I listened very closely to what the pope had to say about same-sex unions. And he always held onto this idea that a man and a woman in marriage is superior and is God's plan for humanity. So in a way, I'm relieved because it was time for a bit of institutional honesty.

MARTINEZ: Does this make it official in your heart?

MANSON: I think it was always official, and I think that the pope liked the good press, to be quite honest with you. And, you know, but I think what's painful is that he gave the sense that he's a bridge builder, and he's going to heal wounds. So I think that's where the disappointment is coming from for a lot of people. And I think it's justified because it was a mixed message for eight years.

MARTINEZ: Why do you think, ultimately, though, he's hewing so close to his predecessors on doctrine on this?

MANSON: Because so many teachings about sexuality in the church depend on the main teaching here, and that has to do with natural law and the idea that sex must always create life. And if the church in any way deviates from that idea, it has to change its position on a lot of issues, including contraception, including even women priests. That teaching is based on this. So if they change one thing, the whole thing cascades, and I think that's just too overwhelming for them.

MARTINEZ: And do you think that for the majority of Catholics in the world, that's just too much to handle all at once?

MANSON: Well, I think that there's a really important global context here because teachings - when the Vatican says things like this about same-sex love, same-sex unions, it actually has a very negative effect globally. It can promote hate speech. It can promote anti-LGBTQ policies, even violence. The church is a global political power, so there will be deep ramifications. And as is so often the case with these ideological battles, the vulnerable will be the most wounded and adversely affected.

MARTINEZ: So now that this has been said and done, do you think this might lead to lots of people leaving the church as a result of this?

MANSON: You know, my sense is that this will be a final blow for a number of Catholics who really had been holding onto hope because of Pope Francis. The media had such a love affair with him, and I think people were really holding on tight to the last threads of hope. And this could be the final blow.

MARTINEZ: Jamie Manson, president of the nonprofit Catholics for Choice. Jamie, thank you very much for your perspective.

MANSON: Thank you, A. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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