ACP Statement on the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) claiming the Church cannot bless same-sex unions.

Association of Catholic Priests

Statement on the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF)

claiming the Church cannot bless same-sex unions.

18th March 2021

The ACP believes that the CDF document is unfortunate and unwise, both in content and in timing. It is also contradictory. The content is negative, and condemnatory.

While it says that gay people are loved and valued by the Church, it then states that they are sinners, that their loving relationships are fundamentally opposed to God’s plan for creation The certainty with which they assume what God can and cannot do, is breathtaking. It seems fair to say that gay people, reading this document, will not feel loved and valued.

This divisive statement comes at a time when there is a major initiative, both in the Vatican and by the Irish bishops, to initiate a process of synodality, meaning a process where people will be asked for their views on all aspects of church life. It is emphasised that everyone’s voice will be heard, especially those on the margins of the Church.

Following on from this judgemental and discriminatory statement, it will be hard for gay people to believe that Church authorities will be open and welcoming of their views.

The leadership of the ACP is saddened and disappointed by this document. It is increasingly difficult to remain hopeful of an inclusive church.


Roy Donovan 087-2225150; Gerry O’Connor 087-2320295

Tim Hazelwood 087-1337164; John Collins 086-8046020

For verification: Liamy Mac Nally, ACP Admin Sec 087-2233220

The ACP provides support and a voice for Irish priests to engage proactively with the crucial debates in society; and full implementation of the vision and teaching of the Second Vatican Council.



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  1. Soline Humbert says:

    ‘What you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, you do it to Me.’

    I have just heard from a friend, a beautiful strong woman, a committed catholic who could barely speak because of the pain caused by the CDF statement. All she could mention was that she was hurting as if she had been physically mugged, feeling this was a form of violence, and that she could never see herself going back into a church and trusting a priest.

  2. Pól Ó Duibhir says:

    CDF appear on a Brexit-like path of self destruction. Did the Pope see the document, did he read it, did he reflect on it?

    Even if this was a sleight of hand on the part of the CDF, both they and the Pope are in the dock on this one.

  3. Jo+O'Sullivan says:

    The really sad thing is that it’s only people who love their faith who WANT to have Church blessings. How many heterosexual weddings have priests officiated at where they can have a fair idea that the couple have no real care for the sacredness of the blessing they’re receiving? I would be far happier to see such couples having a civil wedding and committed gay Catholic couples being married in Church. I imagine that a lot of priests find some wedding ceremonies quite difficult – aware that the bride and groom are just going through the motions and have no real depth of understanding or appreciation of the Sacrament.
    Yet they wouldn’t dream of refusing to allow them marry in church.
    And then there are homosexual couples who are deeply committed to each other and want with all their hearts to have their union blessed by the Church they are also deeply committed to. And they are refused such a Sacrament – or even a blessing on their love.
    I find it more than sad. I find it sickening.
    Thank you for standing up ACP. I also appreciate the statement of We Are Church.

  4. Joe O'Leary says:

    Congratulations, ACP, on a forthright, telling statement.

    JR Zerkowski on Facebook: “The Body of Christ is in agony. 26 phone calls yesterday. A record in one day. 12 the day before. This morning a young man ready to take his life. Majority of the calls and messages are young people at the end of their rope with church. Most just want someone to hear them, I think. Underlying theme: they love the church but “it hates me.” Emails and messages tell me folks are tired of feeling like damaged goods. Parents tell me their kids want nothing to do with the church anymore. I don’t defend, I accompany. I wish I could bring them all home to a place where rhetoric and actions were respectful, sensitive, and compassionate. Sometimes I need a quiet place to weep.”

  5. Nessan Vaughan says:

    Well done, ACP! What would Jesus say?

  6. Paddy Ferry says:

    Antwerp bishop ‘ashamed’ by Church’s position on homosexuality
    Wednesday, 17 March 2021

    Johan Bonny, bishop of Antwerp Belga
    The bishop of Antwerp, Johan Bonny, has expressed an unusually outspoken opinion on the latest statements by his church on the matter of homosexuality.

    This week, the body of the church known as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued an opinion in response to the question, ‘Is it permissible for a Catholic priest to bless a homosexual union?’ Within the Church, it is already clear that a priest may not officiate at a gay wedding, but the question relates to how the faithful should deal with the matter once that is done.

    The answer, approved by Pope Francis, came back loud and clear.

    The note distinguished between the church’s welcome for gay people, which it upheld, but not their unions. The opinion said such unions are not part of God’s plan, and any sacramental recognition of them could be confused with marriage.

    “I feel ashamed for my Church. I mainly feel intellectual and moral incomprehension,” Bonny said in an opinion for De Standaard

    I would like to apologise to all for whom this responsum is painful and incomprehensible. Their pain for the Church is mine today,” he writes.

    The document, he wrote, lacks scientific basis, theological nuance and ethical caution, in particular in the passage which states, “That in God’s plan there is no remotely possible resemblance or even an analogy between heterosexual and same-sex marriage.”

    “I myself know gay couples, in civil marriages with children, who form a warm and stable family, and who also actively participate in parish life,” he writes. “Some of them are active full-time as pastoral or church employees. I am very grateful to them. Who has an interest in denying that no resemblance or analogy to heterosexual marriage is possible here?”

    The responsum also states clearly that God cannot condone a sin; homosexual couples are living in sin and the Church cannot approve that.

    “Sin is one of the most difficult theological and moral categories to define, and thus one of the last to cleave to individuals and their way of living together,” Bonny said.

    “A respectful approach to same-sex marriage can only take place in the broader context of the Order of Service for Marriage, as an eventual variation on the theme of marriage and family life, with an honest acknowledgement of actual similarities and differences,” he concludes.

    Alan Hope
    The Brussels Times

  7. Daithi O'Muirneachain says:

    We can only play the game of life with the cards dealt to us. Neither, did we decide the rules of the game and God knows this.
    Unfortunately, the Roman Church was always one of rules and regulations, strictly enforced and with severe penalties for defaulters, in the past even torture and death.
    Same sex marriage and registery office marriage are civil legal entities. So, in giving a blessing to a same sex couple, who seek it as they search for God in their lives, is the correct action to take. Blessings here are for people.

  8. kyril rocha says:

    The other day our sister Soline Humbert assured me that my English is not that bad (thanks a lot, Soline). So I dare to make a comment:

    Well, did the Holy Inquisition also prohibit pastoral agents from, say, attending a house opening lunch when a divorced or gay couple wants to celebrate their civil union (in the Pope’s expression) and then pray with them and for them? Would such pastoral agents need to use liturgical vestments or ritual books? I really hope not…

  9. Phil Dunne says:

    Last week Francis went to Iraq and spoke of peace. This week he signed this document of violence and further endangered the lives of our LGBT sisters and brothers in parts of the world where they are not safe.
    The silence of the Irish bishops is deafening.
    Jesus wept and so do I.

  10. Stephanie Jennings says:

    Thank you ACP for your press release. My heart goes out to all priests that are aware of how contradictory the RCC position on gay marriage is in terms of the basic precepts of Christianity.
    Fortunately it is easier for lay people like me that have tried to maintain a connection for the sake of community to now just say enough is enough. You have taken a step too far in Rome. Thank you ACP for trying to keep a true Christian torch alive.This current statement has left me in a position where I cannot defend the indefensible.

  11. Joe O'Leary says:

    Phil Dunne, just a small correction: he did not sign the document, and America magazine say he gave it a nod of approval as it was rushed by him BEFORE his trip to Iraq. A similar story emerged about the ridiculous 2003 CDF document denouncing gay marriage and civil unions–that it was pushed through by a minority in the CDF during a vacation and took many officials by surprise. Nonetheless that document is proudly displayed on the Vatican’s website.

    People used to point out that Persona Humana (1975) did not bear the papal signature, and its more notorious successor Homosexualitatis Persons (1986) is not signed by the Pope either. Instead: (During an audience granted to the undersigned Prefect, His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, approved this Letter, adopted in an ordinary session of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and ordered it to be published.) Parentheses in original, which also italicizes the sentence.

    It looks like settled papal policy to leave the CDF to look after LGBT questions, regarded as “doctrinal” (let’s not forget that in its old guise as the Roman Inquisition it punished the “heresy” of disagreeing with its view on “sodomy” by burning at the stake). Paul VI, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis have lots of obiter dicta or pastoral principles that sweeten the pill of what the CDF come up with. But this good cop, bad cop routine is not working.

    When we find bishops crying out that the Vatican game is intolerable, it’s a clear sign that a drastic change of approach is needed, such as Vatican II began with regard to Judaism.

  12. Joe O'Leary says:

    JR Zerkowski writes: Yesterday I received this message from a mother: “JR, I don’t know you but I do know your pain. My son was tormented by a parishioner for years as this man passed by the piano my son was playing. With the Host still in his mouth he grumbled “faggot” and other slurs at my son. Supposedly, the man was spoken to by the pastor. But he never stopped. I know this contributed to my son’s death at age 34. When will we wake up and become the Church Christ instituted?”

    In my decades in Church ministry I, too, have had similar situations as the mother describes. At one parish I served I had people mouth the word “fag” so I could see them during Mass. Clearly, it was meant to intimidate and demean me. In another, I had a permanent deacon and his wife sit near the piano in church so they could see me and I could see them and they would shake their heads in disgust at me during the mass for all to see, especially if we prayed aloud for LGBTQ+ people or sang All Are Welcome. I’ve had people leave notes on my car in the parish parking lot with “F” slur and had some try to get me fired by writing to my pastor and my bishop. I’ve had people go through my garbage and leave notes on the front door of my home. Of course, there are the emails and unsigned letters that I and my present pastor receive regularly, too.

    The mother that wrote to me lost her son because of attitudes and behaviors that hurt and kill the spirit until they kill the flesh too. Lord knows why I am strong enough to withstand the abusive and ugly behavior I’ve suffered at the hands of the ordained and not ordained and still do while others reach the end of their strength and just cannot take it any longer.

    Words matter. A responsum to a dubium matters. When each one of us does not stand up to ugly, demeaning, insulting, intimidating rhetoric and hateful behaviors we encounter in our faith communities – from faith leaders or from anyone – we are complicit and we perpetuate the cycles of abusive behaviors done in God’s name that are absolutely contrary to the Gospel and assault the dignity of a person. These words, actions and attitudes caused a 34 year to take his life and many others who are younger and older than this mother’s son, too. In a word Jesus is crucified again and again and again.
    I rarely share information about my own journey because I try to focus on accompanying others and that isn’t about me, after all. But this week made it clear it is about us and I am part of us. So are you.

    (Couldn’t happen in Ireland, could it?)

  13. Iggy O'Donovan says:

    I note the decree from the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome banning the blessing of same-sex unions (Irish Independent, March 16). While many would accept that gay couples cannot as of now meet the requirements for a full Catholic sacramental marriage I fail to see the reasons why they may not recieve a simple blessing. Many Catholics in the Vatican II era who believed that the tenets of their church and faith could be reconciled with modernity suffered a heavy defeat under John Paul II and Benedict XVI. They did however experience a revival of hopes with the arrival of Pope Francis. So it is disappointing that this unfortunate decree should appear on his watch and apparently with his approval. One wonders if the Franciscan renaissance has not become a debacle. One is not surprised that such a document should emanate from the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith a body not noted for acting with transparency, impartiality or justice.
    When they declare that these blessings are “not valid” does this retrospectively invalidate blessings which have already been conferred in good faith.?
    In the course of my priestly ministry I have been involved in blessing ceremonies of every description. These include blessings of rams, cows, crops, matrimonial beds, cars, tractors, and even weapons of war among other things. It seems strange to me that a same sex couple who request a simple blessing on their union must be turned away.
    But then , “who am I to judge”?

  14. Phil Dunne says:

    Thank you Joe @12 for your clarification. Whatever the maneuvering of the CDF the buck stops with Francis. He has not spoken or disassociated himself from the statement.

  15. Paddy Ferry says:

    Joe, I have often said how much I admire your knowledge and erudition which have been such a gift to us on this site.

    However,I also admire and respect your honesty and integrity — and courage,even — with regard to the whole issue of sexual orientation and LGBT rights. If others among the 70%+ — that is the last figure I read — of priests, bishops, archbishops and cardinals in Europe and North America who are homosexual were as honest as you we would certainly be in a much better place today.

    When I first began to post comment on this site many years ago now I remember you, Joe, sharing with us how an Irish bishop had said to you that if we began to discuss homosexuality in the priesthood the people would think we had gone off our heads. Well, I think at this stage we would be off our heads not to discuss it. It is certainly the large herd of white elephants in the corner of the room.

    Thank you Joe, for sharing as you have @13.

  16. Joe O'Leary says:

    Fr Iggy, how can a blessing be “not valid”? The CDF don’t quite say that but they dance around it: such blessings are declared “unlawful” and “not licit” and inconsistent with “the nature of sacramentals” and they end with “the Church does not have, and cannot have, the power to bless unions of persons of the same sex in the sense intended above.” Do the last five words provide a loophole? You cannot “bless sin” and you cannot bless the sexual aspect that the church sees as sinful, but perhaps you can nonetheless bless the friendship between the two people. Simple solution: bless the couples but add the note that the blessing does not cover their sexual acts, which are left to conscience.

  17. Soline Humbert says:

    If you own a vicious guard dog and you remove its muzzle and unleash it, you do carry the responsibility when it attacks and kills.
    The Vatican official website states clearly that Pope Francis approved the publication of the Responsum and added Note. Without his permission to publish, it would have remained in the CDF drawer. If Pope Francis approved publication without reading it, it is completely irresponsible. If he didn’t approve its publication, he must clearly say so now and correct the Vatican record. The Body of Christ has been grievously wounded.

    And yes the silence of the Irish bishops is also more than deafening.It speaks volumes.
    Bishop Brendan Leahy who was so enthusiastic about launching the Irish Synodal preparation last Sunday on RTÉ news has nothing to say.
    Of course ‘parameters’ were mentioned. Now we know. Prepare to walk this synodal path on the spot or even backwards.
    Time for an Easter Rising!

  18. Joe O'Leary says:

    Paddy, it wasn’t “homosexuality in the priesthood” but just “homosexuality” that he thought could not be discussed publicly. I regret not challenging that, since he could have become the first Irish bishop to say something positive about “gay rights” (as the phrase went then). Times have changed, and the acronym “lgbt” rolls off the tongue so smoothly in contrast with the monstrous “homoesexuality” and the self-conscious “gay”. It’s already 35 years since the Church embarrassed itself in its first document devoted entirely to gayness (essentially, male) by giving it the title “Homosexualitatis Problema” (which miraculously disappeared in the English translation). In a future synodal or conciliar discussion the spokespeople for lgbt experience (or whatever it will then be called) will have a much more normal and natural presence than if they were characterized as “homosexual persons” or “gays”, and will more readily be seen as standing for a universal human concern rather than some parish of freaks.

  19. Colm Holmes says:

    19 March 2021

    Spiritual Abuse of LGBTQ+ Catholics

    We Are Church Ireland denounces the latest Vatican statement banning the blessing of same-gender unions as both theologically flawed and outdated as well as profoundly lacking pastorally. Many LGBTQ+ Catholic people experience it as an act of violence, spiritual abuse, an attack on their goodness and love. Many others are revulsed by its language.

    Its condemnatory stance is unworthy of a Christian church, although sadly not unprecedented coming from the CDF, but it is dispiriting to see Pope Francis signing off on it.

    We Are Church Ireland calls on Irish priests and bishops to follow the example of bishops and priests in other countries who have repudiated the CDF statement and have pledged to continue blessing same-gender unions.

    We also call on our members and other Catholics to express their support for our LGBTQ+ sisters and brothers and to use every means to register strongly their protest against this Vatican ruling which makes a mockery of any talk of synodality and inclusivity.

    Colm Holmes
    WAC Ireland
    Mobile +353 86 606 3636

  20. Kay Milton McGinty’ says:

    I absolutely applaud the honesty and integrity of all the comments above.. I just so admire your truth and strength.. so sad to even try to comprehend where this statement from the CDF is going, or what has happened.. there are so many amazing, wonderful and beautiful people who are part of LGBT, whom we know and love.. how or do they ( CDF) think that they have the power to make a judgment like they have just done? “All God’s creatures have a place in the choir, some sing low, some sing higher, some sing high on the telephone wires, some just clap their hands, or paws, or whatever they’ve got “… simple as that..

  21. richard o'donnell says:

    Well done ACP. Just ignore the CDF as indeed most of the world do in any event.
    But it is a pity that the Pope, with all his promise, isn’t a bit more Christian here as many of us had hoped.

  22. Paddy Ferry says:

    Might this really be possible that Francis is uncomfortable with that statement from the CDF on same-sex unions. This is Gerard O’Connell’s piece in America magazine.

    Vatican sources suspect Pope Francis was distancing himself from CDF statement on same-sex unions in address
    Gerard O’Connell
    March 21, 2021

    Pope Francis speaks during an audience with the community from the Pontifical Belgian College at the Vatican March 18, 2021. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)
    Was Pope Francis alluding to the recent statement of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that said priests could not give blessings to same-sex unions because “God cannot bless sin,” when he spoke at the Angelus today, March 21? Informed sources in Rome told America they believe he was, but they did not wish to be identified since they were not authorized to comment.

    They noted that when commenting on the Gospel of the day, which recounts that some Greeks wanted “to see Jesus,” Pope Francis said many people today also want to see, to meet and to know Jesus, and so “we Christians and our communities” have “the great responsibility” to make this possible by “the witness of a life that is given in service, a life that takes upon itself the style of God: closeness, compassion and tenderness.”

    Francis explained that this “means sowing seeds of love, not with fleeting words but through concrete, simple and courageous examples; not with theoretical condemnations but with gestures of love.” He added that “then the Lord, with his grace, makes us bear fruit, even when the soil is dry due to misunderstandings, difficulty or persecution or claims of legalism or clerical moralism. This is barren soil. Precisely then, in trials and in solitude, while the seed is dying, that is the moment in which life blossoms, to bear ripe fruit in due time.”

    He said that “it is in this intertwining of death and life that we can experience the joy and true fruitfulness of love, which always, I repeat, is given in God’s style: closeness, compassion, tenderness.”

    According to three sources, it was significant that Francis called on Christians and the church to give witness to Jesus “not with theoretical condemnations but with gestures of love.”
    Tweet this

    According to three sources, it was significant that Francis called on Christians and the church to give witness to Jesus “not with theoretical condemnations but with gestures of love” and that he speaks about “misunderstandings, difficulty or persecution or claims of legalism or clerical moralism” as “barren soil.” They noted that many people had read the C.D.F. document as judgmental or condemnatory and saw it as marked by much “legalism and clericalism,” far from the pastoral spirit of Francis, even though the document also had positive aspects. The sources suggested that with his remarks today, Pope Francis appeared to be distancing himself to some extent from the C.D.F. statement—to which he gave “assent to its publication” before his visit to Iraq.

    One senior Vatican source, who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to comment publicly, said, “the three words—‘closeness, compassion, tenderness’—that Pope Francis repeats speak to the heart of every father and mother, of every spiritual father and mother.” He said, “They are the true blessing of the church and its shepherd for every person, for every situation.” Moreover, he added, “They are the true measure of the very magisterium [i.e., the teaching authority of the Church] when it enlightens consciences and guides the faithful. Every ‘responsum’ [i.e., official magisterial answer] and the doctrine in which it is couched should rise to that measure.”

    Given the controversy that has followed the publication of the C.D.F. statement, sources in Rome told America they would not be surprised if the pope were to return to the whole question more explicitly at some future date.

    Full Text of the Angelus Address
    Dear Brothers and Sisters,


    On this Fifth Sunday of Lent, the liturgy proclaims the Gospel in which Saint John refers to an episode that occurred in the final days of Christ’s life, shortly before the Passion (cf. Jn 12:20-33). While Jesus was in Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, several Greeks, curious because of what he had been doing, express the wish to see him. They approach the apostle Philip and say to him: “We wish to see Jesus” (v. 21). “We wish to see Jesus”. Let us remember this: “We wish to see Jesus”. Philip tells Andrew and then together they report it to the Teacher. In the request of those Greeks we can glimpse the request that many men and women, of every place and every time, pose to the Church and also to each one of us: “We wish to see Jesus”.

    And how does Jesus respond to that request? In a way that makes us think. He says: “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified…. Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (vv. 23-24). These words do not seem to respond to the request those Greeks made. In reality, they surpass it. In fact, Jesus reveals that for every man and woman who wants to find him, He is the hidden seed ready to die in order to bear much fruit. As if to say: if you wish to know me, if you wish to understand me, look at the grain of wheat that dies in soil, that is, look at the cross.


    Podcast: The Vatican statement on gay unions may have been rushed past the pope
    Inside The Vatican
    The sign of the Cross comes to mind, which over the centuries has become the symbol par excellence of Christians. Even today, those who wish to “see Jesus”, perhaps coming from countries and cultures where Christianity is not well-known, what do they see first? What is the most common sign they encounter? The Crucifix, the Cross. In churches, in the homes of Christians, even worn on their persons. The important thing is that the sign be consistent with the Gospel: the cross cannot but express love, service, unreserved self-giving: only in this way is it truly the “tree of life”, of overabundant life.

    Today too, many people, often without saying so, implicitly would like to “see Jesus”, to meet him, to know him. This is how we understand the great responsibility we Christians and of our communities have. We too must respond with the witness of a life that is given in service, a life that takes upon itself the style of God – closeness, compassion and tenderness – and is given in service. It means sowing seeds of love, not with fleeting words but through concrete, simple and courageous examples, not with theoretical condemnations, but with gestures of love. Then the Lord, with his grace, makes us bear fruit, even when the soil is dry due to misunderstandings, difficulty or persecution, or claims of legalism or clerical moralism. This is barren soil. Precisely then, in trials and in solitude, while the seed is dying, that is the moment in which life blossoms, to bear ripe fruit in due time. It is in this intertwining of death and life that we can experience the joy and true fruitfulness of love, which always, I repeat, is given in God’s style: closeness, compassion, tenderness.

    May the Virgin Mary help us to follow Jesus, to walk, strong and joyful, on the path of service, so that the love of Christ may shine in our every attitude and become more and more the style of our daily life

  23. Joe O'Leary says:

    The Vatican has been doing this balancing act and good cop/bad cop routine ever since 1968. It’s an effort to maintain doctrinal purity on one hand and pastoral accommodation on the other, justice tempered by mercy, condemnation of acts as intrinsice inhonestum or gravely disordered or objectively immoral on one hand, and recognition that they could be subjectively defensible on the other. This system is showing its strains. A full-fledged attempt to listen to women and lgbt folk, and to consult properly modern anthropology, is long overdue. Sophisticated moral or pastoral theology verging on doubletalk leaves the unsophisticated, such as vulnerable lgbt adolescents who take every nasty CDF condemnation at face value, in the lurch.

  24. Paddy Ferry says:

    “Sophisticated moral or pastoral theology verging on doubletalk leaves the unsophisticated, such as vulnerable lgbt adolescents who take every nasty CDF condemnation at face value, in the lurch.”

    That is such an important point, Joe.

    It is so easy for us to say well who would listen to them anymore but you are right, some would take it all very seriously and at face value. It is so important that we bear that in mind.

  25. Clare Hannigan says:

    Pope Francis speaks about Christianity as “sowing seeds of love, not with fleeting words but through concrete, simple and courageous examples, not with theoretical condemnations, but with gestures of love.”
    All my life I have looked to my faith centred in the celebration of the Blessed Eucharist for strength and consolation at times of difficulties and suffering but as time goes by I feel more and more alienated from the Catholic Church.
    The CDF know that the way they have treated members of the LGBTI community and their families is perfectly acceptable to large sections of the Catholic Church – priests bishops as well as many members of the laity. I say this from personal experience. A member of my family who I love very much belongs to the LGBTI community and I have witnessed acts of cruelty at the hands of supposedly devout Catholics. So long as Pope Francis, Fr James Martin SJ and others like them continue to promote their vision of Christianity I will continue to struggle to remain loyal to the Christian faith.

  26. Paddy Ferry says:

    Cardinal Schönborn says Church cannot refuse blessing for gay couples. Austrian cardinal is the latest of more than a dozen German-speaking bishops who have criticized the Vatican for trying to stop priests from blessing same-sex unions

    Cardinal Christoph Schönborn

    By Christa Pongratz-Lippitt | Austria

    Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna — the universal Church’s second-most senior active cardinal — has voiced displeasure with the Vatican’s recent effort to reinforce a ban on blessing same-sex couples, saying the move has deeply wounded many people.”If the request for a blessing is not a show… if the request is honest and is really a plea for God’s blessing of a way of life that two people want to embark on together, then such a blessing will not be refused,” the 76-year-old cardinal said in the latest issue of his archdiocesan weekly paper, Der Sonntag.Schönborn, a Dominican theologian who has led the Church in the Austrian capital since 1995, said he was “not happy” with the responsum and “explanatory note” that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued on March 15 to prevent such blessings.He said many homosexuals wanted to see “the Church as their mother”, adding: “That is why the Vatican declaration was especially painful for so many, as they felt that they had been rejected by the Church.”Seven out of ten Austrian bishops have criticized the CDFSchönborn’s criticism is seen as extremely significant. Not only is he a member of the CDF, he is also the Church’s second most senior cardinal still in active ministry.Having received his red hat in 1998, he is outranked only by 75-year-old Vinko Puljic of Sarajevo, who became a cardinal four years earlier.”A blessing is not a reward for good behavior, but a plea for help from above,” said the Austrian Church leader.Schönborn is the most notable of more than a dozen German-speaking bishops who have publicly criticized the CDF text.That includes seven of the ten bishops who lead dioceses in Austria.Those who have joined himin raising objections include Bishops Hermann Glettler of Innsbruck, Manfred Scheuer of Linz, Benno Elbbs of Feldkirch, Wilhelm Krautwaschl of Graz and Josef Marketz of Gurk, as well as Salzburg’s Archbishop Franz Lackner who is also president of the Austrian Bishops’ Conference.Theologians, parish priests and leading lay Catholics speak outIn addition, some 200 German-speaking theologians and more than 2000 priests in Germany and Austria have issued a statement protesting the Vatican’s doctrinal congregation, publicly stating that they will continue to bless homosexual couples.Catholic lay leaders have also expressed disappointment with the CDF.The Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK) pointed out that the issue of blessing gay couples was not only being discussed in Germany, but also “in many countries in the world Church”.The ZdK has called for an “aggiornamento” or “further development of Church teaching” on homosexuality that could therefore not just simply be rejected.The present wording in the Catholic Catechism was insufficient, the influential lay organization said in a statement issued on March 16.In fact, Catholic bishops and leading laity have already begun discussing this and other issues pertaining to sexual morality as part of Germany’s ongoing “binding synodal procedure” for ecclesial renewal.The series of synodal gatherings was triggered by the Church’s shattered credibility as a consequence of the abuse crisis.Calls to re-formulate Church teaching on human sexuality”In our forum we want to embark on further developing the Church’s teaching on sexuality,” said Bishop Helmut Dieser of Aachen and Birgit Mock of the ZdK, co-chairs of the syondal procedure’s forum on sexuality and partnership.”Our forum will discuss this latest interjection from Rome in detail,” they said.Bishop Dieser, whom Pope Francis appointed to Aachen in 2016, said he’s aware that priests in Germany are currently blessing homosexual couples.”All this takes place in a sort of grey zone,” the 58-year-old prelate said.He pointed out that there was a high level of suffering around the issue and objections from Rome would not put an end to the discussion.”That kind of thinking is naïve and moreover destructive. It does a great deal of harm,” he insisted.The bishop said that “in order to signal that we must move forward on this issue”, the Church in Germany should enter into dialogue with the pope and the Vatican’s doctrinal office.He was adamant that Church teaching on sexuality needs to be reevaluated in light of scientific insights, saying this was a pressing challenge for the German synodal procedure.More “Francis bishops” in favor of blessing same-sex couples”Same sex couples are not second-class Christians,” Bishop Joseph Marketz of Gurk said in a March 24 interview with Die Kleine Zeitung, Austria’s largest regional newspaper.”They practice friendship, love and responsibility and deserve to be blessed for doing so,” said the 65-year-old Marketz who was installed as Gurk’s bishop a little over a year ago.He said he was prepared to bless same-sex couples any time.”I ask forgiveness from all those who yet once again feel that the Church has rejected them,” said Innsbruck’s Bishop Hermann Glettler during a newscast broadcast late Wednesday night throughout Austria.The 56-year-old bishop, whom Francis promoted to the episcopate in 2017, told Kathpressthat the CDF responsum and note came as a “disappointment for all those who were hoping for a clearer sign of the acceptance of gay couples”.Glettler, who is responsible for marriage and family affairs in the Austrian bishops’ conference, said the Church must now do more to offer homosexuals a spiritual home and strengthen everything that is good in their relationships.”Gays and lesbians are welcome, whether or not they are chaste””We still have a lot to learn (about homosexuality). The history of malicious and superficial judgements will continue to have an effect for a long time to come,” he pointed out.”Same-sex relationships can be based on faithfulness and mutual devotion,” he insisted.Bishop Glettler said this could lead to the personal happiness of those concerned and also contribute to social coexistence in society.He said that’s why Pope Francis had recently (Oct 2020) indicated support for same-sex civil unions.At the same time, he noted that the pope, in his 2016 apostolic exhortation Amoris laetitia, said there’s no reason “to establish analogies between homosexual partnerships and God’s plan for marriage and the family”.”We, as the Church, would like to welcome all gays and lesbians and offer them a spiritual home in the Church – and we do so whether they live chaste lives or not,” Glettler emphasized. Meanwhile, Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki of Cologne and three other bishops in Germany have emerged as the German-speaking Church’s strongest defenders the CDF’s statement against blessing same-sex unions. Christa Pongratz-Lippitt writes from Vienna where she has spent many years as a reporter and commentator on Church affairs in the German-speaking world.

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