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May 28, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) – When Monsignor Philippe Bordeyne, until now rector of the Catholic Institute of Paris, takes over the presidency of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for the Science of Marriage and the Family next fall, he will ensure that the “new paradigm” introduced into family ministry by Amoris laetitia, and in particular its controversial chapter 8, is observed.
Vaticanist Sandro Magister’s article on Bordeyne’s proposal to establish the possibility of a blessing – private and individual – for homosexual partners in a stable union, with a view to accompanying them on their path to holiness, has already provided an insight into the most topical aspect of the new political line of the renewed and renamed John Paul II institute.
These reflections are part of an essay that the theologian has just published in the Catholic Institute of Paris magazine Transversalités. It is a text that deserves to be studied more closely, because Bordeyne’s proposal is part of a whole and concludes a line of reasoning whose rupture with the traditional teaching of the Church seems obvious, even if the author denies it.
Bordeyne advocates a change in approach to homosexuals and the Church’s teaching on sexuality, from pastoral welcoming to “integration” through “discernment,” eventually leading to the reception of the sacraments in spite of an “irregular situation” – words he does not approve of.
From the discussions during the synods on the family and the resulting Apostolic Exhortation, Philippe Bordeyne draws this statement: “This pastoral and doctrinal body of work offers homosexual persons elements of discernment to guide their affective and moral life before God and to make it part of a process of spiritual growth.” In the context, a change of life is not a prerequisite.
Where the Church has always condemned homosexual acts as “against nature”, i.e. contrary to God’s plan, unworthy of man’s nature and subject to particular reprobation, Bordeyne’s article evokes in passing the hierarchy of sins and, as a note, underlines together with Amoris laetitia that “the Church possesses a solid body of reflection concerning mitigating factors and situations.” This appears to aim at dissociating the notion of mortal sin from the homosexual act, and justifying this new approach.
At the end of Bordeyne’s piece, there is a desire to bless a person because of his or her homosexual inclination: to bless, to speak well of, to invoke divine benevolence upon a person specifically because of his or her involvement in a relationship with a person of the same sex. This is the epitome of inversion.
Analyzing Bordeyne’s arguments on the care of homosexual unions
With that in mind, let us turn to the article by the future president of the John Paul II institute: The Catholic Church in the process of discernment in the face of homosexual unions. This work, says Bordeyne, is the direct result of Amoris laetitia, even if the question of homosexual couples was not openly raised in that text.
From the outset, the text focuses on the so-called “integration” acquired through “discernment,” and in passing, flays St. Paul’s warning on the reception of communion, as Amoris laetitia had already done in its number 186: “The Eucharist demands that we be members of the one body of the Church. Those who approach the Body and Blood of Christ may not wound that same Body by creating scandalous divisions and discrimination among its members. This is what it means to ‘discern’ the Body of the Lord, to acknowledge it with faith and charity both in the sacramental signs and in the community; those who fail to do so eat and drink judgment against themselves.”
In his article, Bordeyne retains only the beginning and the end: “The Eucharist demands that we be members of the one body of the Church… Otherwise, one eats and drinks judgment against oneself.”
This is a shift in meaning, to say the least: while it is true that St. Paul is forcefully speaking of the correct attitude towards your neighbor, his strong words warning us against receiving the Body of Christ unworthily, urging an examination of conscience, are about something much wider than welcoming and caring for the poor. They reveal an external reverence for the reality of the sacrament – the Mass is not a meal like any other – and of being in a state of grace with a good interior disposition.
Now Bordeyne’s entire article aims to subjectivize this notion of good interior disposition.
He also acknowledges from the outset, and this deserves to be pointed out, that “pastoral evolutions were, in history, correlated with doctrinal evolutions in moral matters.”
While Bordeyne recalls the traditional doctrine on marriage, he also points out the “limits” of “universal prescriptions,” arguing that the teaching of Francis “complements” that of Pope John Paul II by emphasizing “the singular dimension of personal decision.” Bordeyne invites us to go beyond Veritatis Splendor, hand in hand with St. Alphonsus Liguori, whose “‘pastoral discernment’ was aimed at ‘leading people to the state of grace and keeping them there,’ taking into account their capacities, their specific context and the bad habits they had acquired in the past.”
Apart from the fact that this is a matter of spiritual direction and not of general pastoral care, it is quite likely that St. Alphonsus would be surprised to be summoned to support a reflection on the “integration” of self-asserted and rights-demanding homosexuals.
Quoting Saint Thomas Aquinas “for whom norms are always referred to the pursuit of the ‘good’”, Bordeyne then describes the situation of homosexual unions which involve people who cannot live in continence, or who cannot bear solitude, or who, having fallen into sexual promiscuity, resolve to live with only one “loved one” in order to “achieve affective and relational stability,” or those who do not want to consider separation because of the “children welcomed into the homosexual union” – or even those who make the “choice of marriage” in the name of their children’s security.
This recalls the line of reasoning of Amoris laetitia which evokes the good of the children of a civil remarriage to suggest that a continent life, when separation is not an option, is not necessarily the “good” that must be implemented.
It is therefore sufficient to aim for “the good here and now,” at the conclusion of a particular discernment, that “must not be analyzed as a choice of the lesser evil, but rather as the will to implement the possible good.” This perspective, Bordeyne adds, “makes it possible to restore the moral dignity of people who, in conscience, perform acts that they know all too well do not correspond to the universal norm, but which proceed from a discernment before God about what is, today, the good within their reach.”
These acts, in plain terms, are sodomy.
But after all, why bother? “No one can be condemned forever,” Bordeyne repeats after Amoris laetitia.
Not surprisingly, the author refers to Cardinal Blase Cupich, known for his advanced ideas, quoting from his February 9, 2018 speech in Cambridge, where he presented “six new principles of interpretation of reality” from Amoris laetitia. The ideas were those such as this, summed up by Bordeyne: “Decisions made in conscience by couples and families reflect God’s personal guidance in the particular circumstances of their lives…” Better yet, the Church welcomes “God’s self-revelation in the concrete realities of family life.”
In other words, if one reads this right, it is God Himself who manifests Himself in a decision to remain in a civil remarriage, or to establish a stable union with a partner of the same sex.
This, according to Bordeyne, sums up the “paradigm shift” brought about by Amoris laetitia, and it is indeed just that. It would seem that this is the right way to propose “itineraries of growth on the path of holiness” in these times of changing morals. Bordeyne believes we have reached the times of “typical paths of holiness” on which the Church now “accompanies” the faithful, and “about which we did not dare to speak openly in the past.”
And here is the punch line: “We can therefore hope that this movement towards more spiritual realism will eventually contribute to a renewal of the Christian theology of sexuality, precisely because human sexuality, which is ultimately quite undetermined, admits of atypical forms and expressions.”
The traditional teaching on the continence of the unmarried is here seriously undermined. With regard to “the paths of holiness in the homosexual condition,” Bordeyne assures us, Amoris laetitia has “allowed for a less dolorous, more positive approach.” He sees this as a call “to realism in faith, in accordance with the Thomistic adage: ‘Gratia non tollit naturam, sed perfecit.’” Grace does not abolish nature, it perfects it. But in fact, Bordeyne proposes perfecting nature by building on that which is against nature.
Certainly, Bordeyne evokes the possibility of abstinence and the “non-genital” dimensions that love for a person of the same sex can take on; but he wonders “how to accompany people who do not achieve abstinence,” by valuing “interpersonal relationships” without focusing solely on homosexual “acts,” and by naming, together with the people concerned, “that which is most beautiful in their relationship.” Here again, we are rather in the domain of spiritual direction, to which is added the sweeping under the carpet of the objectivity of serious sin.
Then Bordeyne once again appeals to the “Thomistic tradition” through a “proven principle of moral discernment:”
namely, that honoring the inclination to preserve one’s life, inscribed in the lives of living beings, deserves great moral consideration…Let us not forget that many homosexual persons struggle, during their adolescence and sometimes much longer, with the temptation of despair or suicide. That they have managed to overcome it justifies the recognition by pastors of their journey to holiness.
Continuing his reflection on discernment, Philippe Bordeyne then turns to the “specific spiritual attitudes” of those who “in conscience” decide not to live according to the universal norm: “discretion and humility.” Here he quotes Cardinal Schönborn, who encourages “discrete communions” in this situation. This refers to reception of Holy Communion of homosexuals who assert their lifestyle and remain in it without the intention of moving away from it.
Thus after the communion of the divorced and civilly remarried, here is that of the homosexuals proudly living as a couple, and who are encouraged to hide, a little, to “avoid the scandal or the demoralization of other faithful who struggle to remain faithful to God in this area.”
Bordeyne compares such discretion to St. Paul’s recommendations regarding “dietary prohibitions,” but he forgets to say that these dietary prohibitions were not obligatory in themselves, but were advocated if the consumption of meat sacrificed to idols would risk scandalizing the weakest, i.e. driving them to evil. This is not exactly the same situation.
Are there any Catholics who would not understand the fact that homosexuals can come to receive Communion? Bordeyne thinks so, and explains:
Members of the Church must be mutually attentive to the spiritual path of each person, being careful not to scandalize those who, because of their weakness, find it difficult to enter into a process of discernment about the hierarchy of norms, about the conflict between them, and about particular cases. Consideration of the potential for scandal should encourage those in same-sex unions to seek discretion when approaching the Eucharistic table after a process of discernment about what is possible in their lives. (…) Nevertheless, Christian communities, for their part, have a responsibility to form the faithful in the complexity of moral judgment, so that they may better understand its irreducibility to an immediate application of the general law. Such formation is an integral part of the pastoral accompaniment of a Christian community in its journey toward holiness.
Wouldn’t it be more appropriate, given the degree of ignorance of so many Catholics today, to instill in us better knowledge of faith and morals?
It is at this final point that Bordeyne speaks of the possibility of giving a blessing to homosexual persons, either through the “universal prayer” or through a private blessing to “accompany their love, their union or the child they have welcomed,” and “in order to avoid giving in to the claims, explicit or implicit, of legitimizing homosexual unions by analogy with marriage.”
Bordeyne adds, “Similarly, in the case where a prayer of blessing is envisaged, it would be appropriate to stick to a blessing of the persons, discarding formulations that would bring their union to mind too directly.” If this is not done “too” directly, are discreet allusions okay?
In the same vein, Bordeyne judges that it “would be desirable” – this is just a wish, though – that the minister should “proceed successively to two personal prayers of blessing, in order to mark the difference with the prayers of nuptial blessing,” so that the members of the cohabiting couple, as such, can “grow in availability to grace.”
The future president of the John Paul II Institute even goes so far as to “form the wish that [the Catholic Church] would dare to root” this pastoral work “in liturgical prayer, which is the place par excellence where Christ manifests his presence and his saving power to the Church.”
Bordeyne has clearly lined up with those who reject the responsum of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith affirming the impossibility of blessing homosexual unions. Some will say that Bordeyne too rejects such a blessing, because he rejects the blessing of unions. But he does ask for a specific blessing for homosexual persons in a union, which logically amounts to invoking divine benevolence on active homosexuality.