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.