Canon lawyer: Belgian bishop who rejects Church teaching on homosexuality should resign
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NEW YORK, March 25, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — Well-known canon lawyer Fr. Gerald Murray has called on Bishop Johan Bonny to resign, after the bishop of Antwerp, Belgium, said he was “ashamed” of the Church for the Vatican’s reiteration of the ban on blessings for same-sex couples.
In the wake of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) responding in the negative to a question about whether blessings could be given to same-sex couples, a number of cardinals, bishops, and hundreds of priests have responded angrily, expressing their “disappointment” at the document.
Notable among the clerics who felt aggrieved at the reiteration of Church teaching was Bishop Johan Bonny. He wrote to express his anger in an op-ed for Flemish daily Het Laatste Nieuws: “I feel vicarious shame for my Church … And I especially feel intellectual and moral incomprehension. I want to apologize to all those for whom this ‘responsum’ is hurtful and incomprehensible: believing gay couples who are active in the Catholic Church, parents and grandparents of gay couples and their children, pastoral staff and counselors of gay couples. Their pain over the Church is mine today.”
The 65-year-old prelate took issue with the concept of sin, saying it was “one of the most difficult theological and moral categories to define, and thus one of the last to be tacked onto individuals and their ways of living together.”
The Vatican’s logic he described as being below “high school” level, adding that he knew “gay couples, in civil marriages with children, who form a warm and stable family, and who also actively participate in parish life,” questioning how in such a case, the Vatican could not see a resemblance to “heterosexual marriage.”
Yet while Bonny has served almost as an unofficial spokesman for dissenting clergy, Fr. Gerald Murray, a contributor to EWTN and Fox News, among others, has written in defense of the CDF’s ruling, and called for Bonny to either recant his words, or to resign.
In a recent article for The Catholic Thing, Murray wrote, “Bishop Bonny faces a decision if he is to remain true to God and the words he solemnly swore on the Bible: recant his rejection of the Church’s teaching and faithfully proclaim that teaching within his diocese. If he cannot do that, he should immediately resign.”
Murray made no apologies for his strong statement, pointing to the bishop’s “plain rejection of the Church’s teaching on the gravely sinful nature of homosexual acts and the impossibility of so-called same-sex marriage” which he described as “stunning.”
Bonny had mocked the CDF as “illogical and intellectually juvenile,” continued Murray, noting how the bishop had described same-sex relationships as resembling and even containing “actual similarities” to marriage.
“He is grateful to the homosexual couples he knows who, while scandalizing the faithful by their public proclamation of their sinful lifestyle, are active in their parishes or are even full-time Church employees,” wrote Murray.
“Is this how a Catholic bishop is supposed to teach, govern and sanctify the faithful?”
Murray referred to the 2004 Vatican document, the Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops, selecting a number of passages to highlight the magnitude of Bonny’s error:
Conforming himself to Christ, the Bishop offers an outstanding service to unity and to ecclesial communion: his conduct demonstrates that no one in the Church may legitimately command others if he does not first offer himself as an example of obedience to the Word of God and to the authority of the Church.
In exercising his pastoral ministry, the Bishop should act in the knowledge that he is the “visible principle and foundation” of unity in his diocese, but always with a view also to the unity of the whole Catholic Church. He should promote unity in faith, in love and in discipline, so that the diocese is aware that it forms a vital part of the whole People of God.
The Bishop should not fail to make known to his people the teachings and guidelines that he receives from the Holy See.
Such actions were not occurring on the part of Bonny, declared Murray. The canon lawyer went even further, pointing out that Bonny’s anger at the CDF is no novel occurrence, but another instance of his longstanding issue with the Church’s doctrine.
“Bishop Bonny did not decide to reject Church teaching on the day that the Holy See issued the Responsum. His comments reveal a longtime practical acceptance of homosexual activity as a moral good that should be respected and approved of by the faithful.”
Bonny is well known for his liberal viewpoints, and made headlines in 2016 when he called for homosexual couples, divorced and remarried Catholics, as well as cohabiting couples, to be given an ecclesial blessing as part of a “diversity of rituals” that would recognize the “exclusiveness and stability” of their unions.
Prior to that, the bishop of Antwerp represented the Belgian bishops at the 2015 Synod on the Family, in which he pushed for the undermining of Church teaching on marriage, and called on the Church to recognize the “positive or constructive elements” found outside of sacramental marriage.
In the run-up to the 2014 Synod on the Family, Bonny advocated numerous positions contrary to Catholic teaching, calling for the divorced and “remarried” to receive Holy Communion, encouraging cohabitation, and rejecting the possibility of moral absolutes. The letter prompted a comprehensive response from Voice of the Family. The pro-family organization wrote that Bonny promoted “a practical denial of the reality of good and evil, truth and untruth and an abandonment of the natural law and of the Church which is its protector.”
In light of this history and Bonny’s most recent comments, Fr. Murray called on the bishop to remember the Oath of Fidelity which he took at his installation: “I shall hold fast to the deposit of faith in its entirety; I shall faithfully hand it on and explain it, and I shall avoid any teachings contrary to it … So help me God.”
“For the good of his soul and of the souls of his flock, I pray he recants,” wrote Murray. “If he refuses and also refuses to resign, he should be removed by Pope Francis as a stumbling block, a true scandal to the faithful.”