Thursday, August 31, 2023

Oh these German Bishops; blessing same-sex couples


Berlin archbishop permits same-sex blessings with impunity

A German archbishop has told priests they can confer blessings on same-sex couples without fear of punishment.

The move by Archbishop Heiner Koch of Berlin opens the gates to church services for the blessings of couples who “cannot or do not want to marry sacramentally”.

In a five-page, 2,000-word letter, the archbishop told the priest of his archdiocese that “it is no longer possible to say that all who are in any so-called irregular situation are in a state of mortal sin and have lost sanctifying grace”.

“Acknowledging the goodness of a relationship is a way of speaking well of God to those people,” he wrote, according to reports.

He quoted Amoris Laetitia, the 2016 apostolic exhortation of Pope Francis on the pastoral care of families, to emphasise however that a blessing did not infer approval or legitimisation but the acknowledgement that “we all remain guilty people who need the edifying grace of God for our path in life”.

“Pope Francis emphatically calls for pastoral discernment,” wrote Archbishop Koch, adding that the Pontiff “gives the local churches, the pastors, a lot of leeway in dealing with people in so-called ‘irregular’ situations”.

He urged priests to use their judgement in deciding who was eligible for such blessings and said he hoped the archdiocese would succeed in “preserving unity in diversity”.

The archbishop also reminded priests that Archbishop Víctor Manuel Fernández, the Argentine prefect-designate of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, whom the Pope will make a cardinal next month, is open to same-sex blessings as long as they remain distinctive from marriage.

Archbishop Koch said such blessings would not be “a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak”.

But at the same time as he permitted priests to confer same-sex blessings, he said he would not perform such ceremonies in person until the Pope had explicitly permitted them to take place.

Instead, he said he would continue to personally abide by the 2021 decree of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that prohibited such blessings.

Italian Archbishop Giacomo Morandi was understood to have been the driving force behind the publication of the responsum ad dubium that upheld the illegitimacy of liturgical blessings for same-sex couples. 

Pope Francis subsequently removed Archbishop Morandi from his post as secretary of the CDF and demoted him to diocesan Bishop of Reggio Emilia-Guastalla, Italy, but the decree remains in force.

Archbishop of Berlin said in his letter that the German bishops are seeking to intensify their talks with the Vatican about the official prohibition of same-sex blessings.

Last year, the Belgian bishops published an order of service for the blessings of same-sex couple without sanction from the Vatican.

It is expected the subject of same-sex blessings will emerge during the Synod on Synodality in Rome this October. 

Among the personal guests of Pope Francis is the U.S. Jesuit Fr James Martin, one of the foremost apologists for the global gay rights agenda in the Catholic Church.

The synod was this month criticised by Cardinal Raymond Burke, former prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, in a foreword to new book called The Synodal Process Is a Pandora’s Box: 100 Questions & Answers by Julio Loredo de Izcue and José Antonio Ureta, because it could open the door to ideology and schism within the Church.

Speaking to Jesuits in Portugal earlier this month, the Holy Father accused American conservative Catholics, however, of choosing ideology over their faith.

On the subject of homosexuality, Francis said: “Everyone has their own space in the Church”, and added that priests must “help people live so that they can occupy that place with maturity, and this applies to all kinds of people.”

Pope Francis said he disliked it when people “look at the so-called ‘sins of the flesh’ with a magnifying glass, just as we have done for so long for the sixth commandment”.

“If you exploited workers, if you lied or cheated, it didn’t matter, and instead sins below the waist were relevant,” he said.

Fears of a schism resulting from the redefinition of Church teaching extend beyond American conservatives, however, since many Catholics are likely to reject such changes.

They include Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze, who attended the Second Vatican Council and who served under both Pope St John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI as Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

In an interview last year with The Catholic Herald, Cardinal Arinze warned Catholics of the dangers of parting company with traditional moral teachings.

Cardinal Arinze said: “If two men unite to run a legal or lawyers’ chamber, they can be blessed.  If two women unite to run a shop to sell rice or clothes, they can be blessed.

“But if two men or two women form a union which they call a same-sex union, then their motive is presumed to involve acts which are an offence against God’s natural ordering and so should not be blessed.”

Divine law – encompassed in the Ten Commandments – can never be redefined or changed by anyone in the Church, he explained.

Nor would attempting to dispense with Church teachings to align with contemporary secular mores result in greater popularity, he said. 

Instead, it could produce a schism, which would be extremely damaging for the Church and societies.

Rather, the antidote to the challenges of the age is, for Cardinal Arinze, in the first place greater faithfulness to the Gospel.

“Our effort has to be, with God’s grace, to strive each day to live with greater fidelity to the Gospel,” he said.

“St Paul wrote in Romans 12:2, ‘Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind’.

“When the Lord Jesus sent the Twelve Apostles he didn’t give them directives entirely agreeing with the world of their time – the Greek world and the Roman world. 

“If the Church agreed with the world on everything we wouldn’t have martyrs at all, beginning from the Apostles – and St Stephen, St Lawrence, St Thomas More, St Maria Goretti. 

“They wouldn’t give their lives if they had agreed with the world on all the details of suggestions put in front of them. 

“No-one likes to be killed but they valued their faith more than human life … if we live in that faith evangelisation will continue.”

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