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Catholic bishops oppose Vatican’s stance on blessing same-sex couples

gay marriage

Posted: Saturday, December 23, 2023. 7:14 am CST.

By Horace Palacio: Catholic bishops from Africa, Poland, and other regions have announced their refusal to adopt the new Vatican policy that permits blessings for same-sex couples. This policy, endorsed by Pope Francis, has ignited a wave of resistance, particularly among traditionalist and conservative bishops.

The Vatican’s recent policy approval, which ostensibly seeks to reaffirm the church’s longstanding doctrine of marriage as a union exclusively between a man and a woman, has done little to quell the controversy surrounding the issue. This latest development underscores the ongoing challenge faced by Pope Francis in his decade-long endeavor to create a more inclusive church environment for the LGBTQ+ community.

Africa, with its 265 million Catholics, has been a hotspot for opposition. The continent, which has the highest number of countries criminalizing homosexuality, has seen strong reactions from several national bishops’ conferences. Zambia’s bishops have openly rejected the implementation of same-sex couple blessings, citing the country’s legal and cultural framework. Similarly, the bishops’ conference of Malawi has declared a prohibition on blessings for same-sex unions.

In Europe, the Polish bishops’ conference, known for its conservative stance, has echoed similar sentiments, affirming their commitment to the traditional definition of marriage. Their spokesperson, Rev. Leszek Gęsiak, emphasized that sexual acts outside the traditional marriage framework are viewed as offenses against divine will.

This widespread dissent is unusual, particularly considering that the Vatican’s document, titled “Fiducia Supplicans,” does not mandate bishops to perform blessings for same-sex couples but rather offers guidelines for such blessings if requested. This document, reversing a previous 2021 statement, states that blessings are permissible as long as they are distinct from marriage ceremonies and uphold the church’s definition of marriage.

In the United States, the bishops’ conference has attempted to downplay the significance of this shift, highlighting the unchanged nature of the church’s marriage doctrine. They draw a distinction between sacramental and pastoral blessings, underscoring the church’s openness to extend God’s grace to those seeking it, without altering its stance on marriage.

However, some of Francis’ critics have voiced strong objections. German Cardinal Gerhard Müller has criticized the policy as contradictory, and Kazakh Bishop Athanasius Schneider, alongside Archbishop Tomash Peta, has rejected the policy as deceptive and forbidden same-sex couple blessings in their jurisdiction.

Responses from other African nations, including Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, and South Africa, have largely sought to clarify the policy amidst confusion among followers. The predominant fear seems to be that this policy may signal a shift towards accepting homosexuality within the church.

In Mali, where the majority are Muslim, local church leaders have expressed their disagreement with the Vatican’s decision, seeking further clarification from the Pope. In the United Kingdom, a group representing Catholic priests has issued a letter reaffirming traditional church teachings in response to widespread confusion.

Meanwhile, in Zimbabwe, LGBTQ+ rights activist Chesterfield Samba doubts the policy change will significantly impact local same-sex couples facing church exclusion. Conversely, the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference, based in South Africa where same-sex marriages are legal, appears more receptive to the idea of blessings for gay couples, albeit with an expectation of conversion.

This global reaction highlights the complex and polarized landscape the Catholic Church navigates as it struggles with contemporary issues while trying to maintain its traditional teachings.

 

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