A Catholic diocese in Michigan will withhold sacraments from LGBTQ people unless they have “repented.”
NBC News reports that the Diocese of Marquette, which encompasses Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, issued the guidance in July — although it only recently gained wider attention.
The seven sacraments, including baptism, marriage, and receiving Communion, are used to express faith and channel the grace of God in Catholicism.
But “persons with same-sex attraction” and “persons with gender dysphoria” will be expressly denied such holy rituals under the diocese’s guidance. LGBTQ also can’t serve as witnesses for baptisms or confirmations.
Instead, the diocese instructs priests to “lead” LGBTQ people “step‐by‐step closer to Jesus Christ in a manner that is consistent with the Church’s teaching.”
In order to be consider “repented,” LGBTQ Catholics would be required to end same-sex relationships or live in their assigned sex at birth.
Transgender Catholics who have undergone gender confirmation procedures — or “physical changes to the body,” as the document states — won’t be forced to reverse them in order to repent.
The Diocese of Marquette also compares transgender people to those with anorexia nervosa, calling it a “disorder” involving “an incongruence between how the persons perceive themselves and their bodily reality.”
“Just as we would refer a person with anorexia to an expert to help him or her, let us also refer persons with gender dysphoria to a qualified counselor to help them while we show them the depth of our love and friendship,” it continues.
The guidance, signed by Bishop John Doerfler, also calls children of same-sex couples a “pastoral concern,” but allows for such children to be baptized if they are told that same-sex marriage is against the Catholic Church’s teachings.
The baptism should also “be celebrated privately, and care should be taken to avoid the impression of accepting the redefinition of marriage and parenthood.”
Earlier this year, the Vatican said that the Catholic Church would never bless “sinful” same-sex marriages and called homosexuality and same-sex relationships a “choice” that “cannot be recognized as objectively ordered” to God’s plans.
In 2019, the Vatican issued a statement calling transgender people a “confused concept” and said they “annihilate the concept of nature.” The document urged Catholic schools to resist accepting transgender people and to reject pro-trans “gender theory.”
In a statement to NBC News, the Diocese of Marquette said the guidance was a “framework” for developing relationships with LGBTQ Catholics.
“The Church teaches that persons experiencing feelings of same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria is not sinful, but freely acting upon them is,” the diocese said.
Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of Catholic LGBTQ rights organization DignityUSA, told NBC News that the guidance was the latest example of Catholic dioceses “making statements that look like they’re trying to be helpful to gay, queer and transgender people but that are really doing harm to the spiritual, emotional and physical health of our community and to families.”
James Martin, a Jesuit priest and LGBTQ advocate, responded to the guidance by tweeting that it was “not a sin to be transgender.”
“Transgender people are beloved children of God struggling to understand their identity,” Martin wrote. “They need to be accepted with ‘respect, compassion and sensitivity.’ As Cardinal Gregory told a trans person, ‘You belong to the heart of this church.'”
LGBTQ Catholic organization New Ways Ministry said the Marquette diocese’s guidance would “backfire explosively in the face of the leaders who wrote these restrictive and harmful rules.”
“The downside of such a statement is the grave and lasting pastoral and psychological harm that it will cause,” New Ways executive director Francis DeBernardo said in a statement.
“Not only will LGBTQ people feel further alienated from the church, but their family members, friends, and supporters will also end up leaving for more welcoming communities. Worse yet, such harsh messaging will certainly cause some LGBTQ people, particularly youth, to develop negative self-images and potentially practice self-harm.”
DeBernardo added: “These guidelines are not a tool for evangelization, but for decimation of the Catholic community. Far from being pastoral, these guidelines reflect church policy which restricts Jesus’ inclusive message for all and which does not protect the Catholic Church, but gravely harms it.”
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