A letter from the Vatican to a gay male couple who wrote to Pope Francis about their joy in having their three adopted children baptized after three years of repeated requests has caused excitement and consternation among Pope-watchers. LGBTQI Catholics and advocates greeted the news as an important pastoral signal; those who believe children should only be raised by married male-female couples were quick to point out that the Vatican had sent a form letter like those sent to many who send personal messages to the Pontiff. Some even noted that the couples’ names, Toni and David, could have been mistakenly interpreted by Vatican staff as a female and male names, even though the letter’s writer states in the first sentence that they are a homosexual couple.
This debate is emblematic of the tendency among Catholics and others to seek the significance of every word and action that comes from the Vatican, and especially from Pope Francis himself. Although this particular letter was not signed by the Pope, but by Monsignor Paolo Borgia, who works in the Vatican Secretary of State’s office, its existence has made it subject to scrutiny and the projection of varying perspectives onto it. This focus on what is happening in Rome misses a more important aspect of this incident. What is truly remarkable is the witness to holy fortitude that this couple demonstrates in the courageous act of telling their story to and seeking blessing from the head of our Church. In his letter, Toni states that he and David have been partners for 27 years. It took them six years to get final approval for the adoption of their first child. Despite this, they added two additional children to their family, noting with relief that the process was much quicker for the later adoptions. It was three years before a priest would agree to baptize their children.
Toni and David represent thousands of same-sex couples whose love and commitment inspire them to provide safe, stable, loving homes for children who may otherwise never have a family. In Catholic terms, this is generative love. They also typify the thousands of LGBTQI people who see past the dehumanizing and erroneous dogma our Church too often preaches against us, remaining deeply committed to the core values of our faith.
Given all of this, here is the letter that Toni and David should have received.
Dear Toni and David,
We are proud to join you in celebrating the recent Baptism of your children, and unite with your local faith community in officially welcoming them into our Church. Be sure of our continued prayers and support for your entire family as these precious children mature and flourish through your care.
We also thank you for the witness you have provided in sharing your story with us. Your persistence in challenging obstacles presented by both civil and religious authorities recalls the Parable of the Persistent Widow (Luke 18:1-8). Like her, your conviction that your cause was just and your demand that you be heard eventually ensured that you were granted your desires, the ability to adopt and then baptize your children. Further, we acknowledge your fortitude in choosing to remain part of the Body of Christ when so many would have walked away in anger and despair. We ask for the grace to know that this is our Church, and to persist in calling her to righteousness, as you have done.
We ask you to pray for us, as we will do for you. May your family know the fullness of love, joy, and peace in the years ahead.
With humility and gratitude,
Your Fellow Catholics
Would you sign onto this letter?