Kentucky parish offers scheduled appointments for same-sex blessings

Kentucky parish offers scheduled appointments for same-sex blessings

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CNA Staff, Jun 6, 2024 / 14:15 pm (CNA).

A parish in the Diocese of Lexington, Kentucky, is openly promoting blessings for same-sex couples despite a Vatican directive that suggests such blessings should be “spontaneous.”

Historic St. Paul Catholic Church in downtown Lexington says on its website that “same-sex couples who would like a blessing” can contact the church’s pastor, Father Richard Watson, via phone or email.

The offer, made via the church’s “LGBTQ+ Ministry” page, is accompanied by a link to the Vatican’s December 2023 Fiducia Supplicans declaration, which says that Catholic priests can bless same-sex couples as an expression of pastoral closeness without condoning their sexual relations. 

That directive says that ministers “should not prevent or prohibit the Church’s closeness to people in every situation in which they might seek God’s help through a simple blessing” and that priests in administering such blessings can “ask that the individuals have peace, health, a spirit of patience, dialogue, and mutual assistance.”

But the promulgation indicates several times that such blessings should be “spontaneous” rather than scheduled by appointment.

“People who come spontaneously to ask for a blessing show by this request their sincere openness to transcendence, the confidence of their hearts that they do not trust in their own strength alone, their need for God, and their desire to break out of the narrow confines of this world, enclosed in its limitations,” Fiducia Supplicans says.

The “pastoral sensibility” of ministers should “be formed to perform blessings spontaneously,” the declaration states, stating that they are to be “non-ritualized.”

The document says such blessings “should never be imparted in concurrence with the ceremonies of a civil union, and not even in connection with them,” nor should they be “performed with any clothing, gestures, or words that are proper to a wedding.”

The blessings allowed by the document should offer “no intention to legitimize anything,” it says, “but rather to open one’s life to God, to ask for his help to live better, and also to invoke the Holy Spirit so that the values of the Gospel may be lived with greater faithfulness.”

In its declaration, the Vatican said that Fiducia Supplicans is “sufficient to guide the prudent and fatherly discernment of ordained ministers” on the matter of irregular blessings, and that “no further responses should be expected about possible ways to regulate details or practicalities regarding blessings of this type.”

Neither Watson nor Stan Zerkowski, the director of the parish’s LGBT ministry, immediately responded to a query on Thursday morning regarding the offer. 

Reached for comment via phone, a spokesman for the Diocese of Lexington declined to comment on the matter. 

The parish has previously promoted same-sex couple blessings: In a Facebook post on Jan. 1 of this year the church declared that “history was made” when two women “asked for a blessing which Father Richard freely offered according to the guidelines in Fiducia Supplicans.” The women had been “civilly married for 22 years,” the parish said. 

Zerkowski, meanwhile, made headlines last year when he revealed that Pope Francis had sent him a personal message in which the Holy Father praised him for his LGBT outreach. 

“Thank you for your ministry,” the pope said. “I pray for you, please continue to do so for me.”

The Lexington parish is also known for its depiction on its website of the Blessed Virgin Mary draped in a gay pride flag.

The Kentucky diocese and its Bishop John Stowe have likewise been at the center of controversy recently for backing Christian Matson, a woman who identifies as a man and who has been living as a hermit for several years.

Experts have warned that the diocese risks sowing scandal and confusion by allowing Matson to continue living as a monk and by referring to her with male pronouns. 

Meanwhile, in Chicago last month, a priest, Father Joseph Williams, apologized for a same-sex blessing he performed in which he was dressed in full vestments and asked the two women he was blessing to recommit themselves to “love each other as holy spouses.”

“I am deeply sorry for any confusion and/or anger that this has caused, particularly for the people of God,” Williams said in his apology last month.