Seeing people as people

Where is the church going with the debate over same sex blessings?

Should our understanding of liturgy, blessing and sacraments be radically rethought or is the problem that we understand blessing, sacraments and liturgy as things that are “done to us”?

Answering from a liturgical perspective Tom O’Loughlin says ‘liturgy is a human response to the divine, to each other and to human need’.

The church has a role of interceding for people and if we lose sight of this, we minister to the concept of marriage rather than two people who are giving themselves in marriage, one to the other: “Blessing is not a magical formula” says O’Loughlin.

James Alison considers that some Gay and Lesbian people are seeking the blessing of the church to celebrate a “fixed stage in their lives” and  “to bear witness to something”.

Both they and their families wish “to give thanks to God” he says: “We bless God and God blesses us”. We enter into the blessing.

Michael Kelly SJ points out that in the traditiional Catholic theology of marriage “the couple administer the sacrament to each other”.

What makes it a sacrament is they are baptised,” he says.

He says that the Church’s problem is how “rules and law prevail over sacraments”.

Kelly says the same thing applies to a blessing.

O’Loughlin notes that the phrase ‘the church cannot bless sin’ “is bizarre” and sees it as equivalent to “rubber stamp you’re ok; you’re not ok.”

He points out, “once you start dealing with baptised people” in this way “who is actually ok?”.

Blessing “is not marking people like paper… all human beings are in need of divine mercy” and liturgy exists “in the messiness of life”.  

The discussion around ordered and disordered natures reveals says Alison the “sheer ridiculousness” of maintaining an aprioristic anthropology that defends the idea of defining someone—negatively—in a deductive way from a “good run amuck”.

He says, once you remove the aprioristic anthropology, the writers of the Responsum “have literally nothing to say!”

As a consequence, “Gay and Lesbian people are going to have to work out what our flourishing looks like for themselves?”

He says this is regrettable.

All speakers see the present situation as an indication of what had to change and Alison is encouraged by bishops not being frightened to disagree.

O’Loughlin sees it as a time of growing up. Though, Kelly points out, that in Asia and Australasia the situation is different and societal constructs place a huge break on developments within the church.