Vatican News reports that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) has responded to a dubium asking “Does the Church have the power to give the blessing to unions of persons of the same sex?” The response? “Negative.”
A blessing is a sacramental, which the CDF says are “sacred signs that resemble sacraments: they signify effects, particularly of a spiritual kind, which are obtained through the Church’s intercession. By them men are disposed to receive the chief effect of the sacraments, and various occasions of life are sanctified.” While sacramentals, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, do not confer grace in the same way as the sacraments do, “they prepare us to receive grace and dispose us to cooperate with it.” The CDF goes on to say that a blessing, “encourages us to implore [God’s] protection, and exhorts us to seek his mercy by our holiness of life.”
Given what a blessing is, the CDF concludes, “it is necessary that what is blessed be objectively and positively ordered to receive and express grace, according to the designs of God inscribed in creation, and fully revealed by Christ the Lord. Therefore, those realities which are in themselves ordered to serve those ends are congruent with the essence of the blessing imparted by the Church.”
This is why the Church, consistent with the question of the dubium, does not say she will not bless same-sex unions, but that she cannot bless such unions. The Church does not have the power to do so, because same-sex unions, as unions between two persons engaged in sexual relations outside of marriage as God has designed marriage, are not ordered to serve the ends of God’s designs for creation as revealed by Christ. The Church cannot bless same-sex unions because God “does not and cannot bless sin: he blesses sinful man, so that he may recognize that he is part of his plan of love and allow himself to be changed by him. He in fact [quoting Pope Francis] ‘takes us as we are, but never leaves us as we are‘.”
The responsum goes on to say that, while same-sex unions cannot be blessed by the Church, individuals, including those with a homosexual orientation “who manifest the will to live in fidelity to the revealed plans of God as proposed by Church teaching” can be blessed.
What inspired the dubium? Apparently, there are in some countries priests who have been blessing same-sex unions. The question was put forth to the CDF and the CDF answered as one might expect it to, with an affirmation of the Church’s centuries-old teaching on the sanctity of marriage, as properly understood according to God’s designs. This ought to have come as no surprise to anyone.
Yet, it has kicked up a bit of a dust storm among those in the LGBT community, among gay Catholics, and among those who support changing Church teaching on homosexuality to affirm homosexual sexual activity and same-sex unions. There is the usual criticism that the Church is behind the times, that the Church is cruel to those gay Catholics who love the Church and desire to be part of the Church (on their terms, of course), and that the Church will lose millions upon millions of members who will no longer tolerate such a patriarchal, obtuse, archaic institution. There are those priests who immediately announced their intention to disobey the Church’s ruling and continue to bless same-sex unions.
Particularly distressing to those dissidents who thought they knew him, and other Catholics not well informed of how the Church works and of what the Church teaches, is that Pope Francis signed off the the responsum. How is it that the same Pope Francis who said, “Who am I to judge?” when asked if a man with a homosexual orientation can be a good priest if he lives a life consistent with the Church’s teaching on chastity, can now say that the Church cannot bless same-sex unions? I understand the confusion. Our culture is rather all-or-nothing when it comes to morality. As such, when it comes to questions related to homosexual orientation and activity, either you are “pro-gay”, which means you’re on board with the entire gay agenda of affirming the gay lifestyle as normative and consistent with God’s plan (because God loves everyone and that means He cannot condemn anyone or anything anyone does, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone), or you’re a complete “anti-gay” bigot who believes all gays are going to hell, condemned by a mean and nasty God who doesn’t love anyone and who, really, is only a manifestation of your own warped personality. There is no in-between. There is no nuance. There is no respect for the intrinsic dignity of the human person while affirming, as well, the communal nature of human life – all of it under God’s guiding hand and according to His holy designs.
The Church has been here before. Will people leave the Church over this? Yes, of course. More likely, most who disagree or are disheartened by this will stay in the Church and remain active on their terms, as they always have, and paying about as much attention and giving as much credence to what the Church teaches as they always have. They will find no want of priests, deacons, and religious to support them. Others will be encouraged that the Church remains the bulwark against a secular tide that has swept too many away to their doom. Such has it always been. Such will it always be. As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord, as He has revealed Himself through His holy Church.
In the Gospel According to John, the sixteenth chapter, Jesus responds to the act of faith in Him declared by the apostles with the ominous word that the time will come when they will be scattered and leave Him to be alone. But, He insists that He will not be alone, because the Father will be with Him. “I have told you this,” Jesus says, “so that you will have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world” (Jn 16:33).
You can read the responsum here.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.