Belgium Bishops Defy Pope Francis

The bishops of Belgium, acting in direct defiance of Pope Francis and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), have published a document that recommends a liturgy for blessing same-sex marriages that includes prayers, Scripture, and “parts in which the couple can ‘express before God how they are committed to one another.'”

In March of 2021, the CDF provided a responsum (response) to a dubium (inquiry) on the matter: “Does the Church have the power to give the blessing to unions of persons of the same sex?” The CDF’s answer: “Negative.”

The CDF explained its position at the time:

“Blessings belong to the category of the sacramentals, whereby the Church ‘calls us to praise God, encourages us to implore his protection, and exhorts us to seek his mercy by our holiness of life’[4]. In addition, they ‘have been established as a kind of imitation of the sacraments, blessings are signs above all of spiritual effects that are achieved through the Church’s intercession’[5].

“Consequently, in order to conform with the nature of sacramentals, when a blessing is invoked on particular human relationships, in addition to the right intention of those who participate, 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, only those realities which are in themselves ordered to serve those ends are congruent with the essence of the blessing imparted by the Church.

“For this reason, it is not licit to impart a blessing on relationships, or partnerships, even stable, that involve sexual activity outside of marriage (i.e., outside the indissoluble union of a man and a woman open in itself to the transmission of life), as is the case of the unions between persons of the same sex[6]. The presence in such relationships of positive elements, which are in themselves to be valued and appreciated, cannot justify these relationships and render them legitimate objects of an ecclesial blessing, since the positive elements exist within the context of a union not ordered to the Creator’s plan.”

Pope Francis approved the responsum from the CDF to the dubium.

So, now Pope Francis and the CDF must act. What will they do? The Church is facing a crisis. Even powerful cardinals are directly and publicly acting in defiance of the pope and the magisterium (the teaching authority of the Church), and leading Catholics into moral heresy. This is not unprecedented in Church history, of course. But it cannot be ignored. The ball is in Francis’ court. He has a responsibility to affirm the 2000-year-old teaching of the Church, which is God’s revelation given to us in Christ for the sake of our salvation. The Church’s condemnation of homosexual relations in based in Scripture. It cannot be changed. Those who demand that it be changed are assuming an authority they do not have – an authority even the Church does not have.

In response to the claim that the Church should bless same-sex unions, the CDF wrote in its commentary on the responsum: “This all implies a power that the Church does not possess, because she does not have the power over God’s designs, which would otherwise be rejected and denied. The Church is not the arbiter of these designs and the truths they express, but their faithful interpreter and witness.”

The Church must continue to be the “faithful interpreter and witness” to the “designs and truths” revealed by God in Christ. What will Pope Francis do? He cannot do other than defend the teaching of the Church and discipline those who walk astray from that teaching. He must act quickly, lest those who reject Church teaching and defy the pope and magisterium are emboldened by Francis’ silence or inaction, and lest the faithful lose confidence that Francis has the backbone required to defend the faith against her enemies, even her enemies within the Church, even her enemies within the College of Cardinals.

In the Gospel According to Luke, Jesus says, “Things that cause sin will inevitably occur, but woe to the person through whom they occur. It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin” (Luke 17:1-2).

Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.

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