By C K George (Former PTI Reporter)
Thrissur, Jan 25 (IVC) A controversy has erupted in the Universal Roman Catholic Church following Pope Francis’ new encyclical ‘Fiducia Supplicans’ approving non-liturgical blessings for same-sex couples.
Several bishops of different countries have come in the open with strong protests and expressing their unwillingness to bless as per directive of the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith released on December 18 permitting the blessings of “same-sex couples” and in other irregular situations. Certain bishops have dared to make statements saying that the Church have no powers and rights to issue such a decree and it was against the provisions of the Code of Canons of the Catholic Church (CCCC).
The Catholic Bishops in Cameron (40 per cent of Christian population) had reportedly expressed their protest recently at Yaouden and added their voice to other Catholic Church leaders , who have prohibited the implementation of Fiducia Supplicans in their Episcopal Sees and territories they govern.
In a statement to members of the National Episcopal Conference of Cameron (NECC) on the document that the Vatican Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF) released on December 18, permitting the blessings of “same-sex couples” and couples in other irregular situations was not acceptable.
NECC members take the stance that their counterparts in Malawi and Zambia have taken, barring members of the Clergy from imparting blessings upon “homosexual couples” term that the DDF directive that such blessings be non -liturgical as “hypocritical”.
“We, the Bishops of Cameron, reiterate our disapproval of “homosexuality and homosexual unions” they say, and go on to issue their directive, “Consequently, we formally forbid all blessings of “homosexual couples in the Church of Cameron”.
Differentiating in between liturgical and non -liturgical contexts in order to apply the blessings to same sex couples is hypocritical. The Catholic Bishops in Poland have ruled out the possibility of blessing “same-sex unions” but remain open to blessing individuals with homosexual tendencies , only if they are “living in complete abstinence” of sexual activities.
The Polish Episcopal Conference in a statement released on December 21 said the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a declaration which allowed non-liturgical blessings of “same-sex couples”.
The Polish bishops’ statement did not expressly criticize the Vatican’s declaration but appeared to conflict with the guidance with it. “In response to the question “Does the Church have authority to bless same sex unions? The answer is negative” the Polish bishops’ statement read citing a March 2021 “responsum” from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
“Since practising sexual acts, outside marriage, that is, outside the indissoluble union of a man and a woman open to the transmission of life is always an offense against the will and wisdom of God expressed in the sixth commandment (You shall not commit adultery) of the Decalogue , people who are in such a relationship cannot receive such a blessing”. “ This applies in particular to people in same sex relationship”, the statement said.
Amid the controversy unleashed by the new Vatican document permitting non-liturgical blessings to same-sex couples, Ukraine Greek Catholic Church has become the first Eastern communion to declare explicitly that the document does not apply outside the Latin Church.
“On the basis of the Code of the Canon of the Catholic church (CCCC) 1492, this declaration concerns purely the Latin Church and has no legal force for the faithful of the Ukraine Greek Catholic Church said Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevehuk , head of the Church in a statement on December 22.
Shevehuk was referring to a provision of the Code of Canons for the Eastern Churches , which states “Laws enacted by the supreme authority of the Church in which the passive subject is not expressly indicated, affect only the Christian faith of the Eastern Churches insofar as they treat matters faith or morals or declaration of divine law or these Christain faithful are explicitly included in these laws or they grant a favour which contains nothing contrary to the Eastern rites.
The Episcopal conferences of Africa are united in the belief that “the extra-liturgical blessings proposed in the Vatican document cannot be carried out in Africa” without creating scandal Cardinal Fridolin Ambago of Kinshasa, the President of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) summarized the stands taken by the different Bishops Conferences of Africa in a statement issued on January 11.
The episcopal conferences generally prefer- each bishop remaining free in his diocese – not to offer blessings to same-sex couples. The African bishops profess their “unwavering attachment to the Successor of Peter”, the Cardinal said, but fear the “potential confusion and scandal” that could be caused by blessing couples in irregular unions.
The Vatican’s declaration , he said, “has sown misconceptions and unrest in the minds of many lay faithful, consecrated persons and even pastors, and has aroused strong reactions”. African bishops are committed to treating homosexual persons with “respect and dignity”,, Cardinal said.
The leaders of the French Catholic Bishops’ Conference have issued a statement encouraging priests to bless people “who humbly ask for God’s help”, but carefully avoided suggesting such blessings for couples.
The permanent Council of the French Episcopal Conference in its statement issued on January 10, evidently responded to the earlier statement from nine French bishops who had announced that they would not authorize blessings for same-sex couples. The German Bishop Karl-Heinz Wiesemann issued a letter on November 02 asking pastors in his Diocese of Speyer to bless same-sex couples.
The Cardinal Oswald Gracias , Mumbai, welcomed the Vatican’s declaration anddescribed it as a “natural” for India. It is an affirmation of our spirituality, India’s most senior Catholic Cardinal and a close adviser to Pope Francis , said.
To the extent there’s controversy over Fiducia Supplicans in India, Cardinal Gracias said , it’s because it ‘s been misunderstood. “There is no change at all in the Church doctrine of a marriage between a man and a woman . The tradition of the Church, the magisterium is very clear and there is no contradiction at all”, he said.
“The blessing is like when a person is going on a journey, when they have come on a pilgrimage, they want a blessing asking God to be with them,” Gracias said. Everybody has a right to God’s love and God’s compassion, calling the teaching on blessings in the document a ”natural consequence” of this principle, Cardinal added.