Controversial same-sex couple’s blessings

Estimated read time 7 min read

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. 

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