VATICAN CITY (LifeSiteNews) –– Pope Francis has effectively told clergy that they can decide for themselves whether to “bless” homosexual unions.
Responding to a dubia question submitted by five cardinals, as to whether or not the Church can ever accept as a “possible good” objectively sinful situations, such as same-sex unions, Pope Francis stated that “pastoral prudence must adequately discern whether there are forms of blessing, requested by one or more persons, that do not transmit a mistaken conception of marriage.”
On October 2 five cardinals made public a series of letters which they have sent to Pope Francis, expressing serious doubts and concerns about the Synod on Synodality and recent papal comments.
The signatories of the dubia are: Cardinals Walter Brandmüller, former prefect of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences; Raymond Leo Burke, former prefect of the Apostolic Signatura; Juan Sandoval Íñiguez, former Archbishop of Guadalajara; Robert Sarah, the former prefect of the Dicastery for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments; and Joseph Zen, the former bishop of Hong Kong.
The five cardinals had written to the Pope on July 10, and received a reply from him on July 13, in a letter dated July 11.
BREAKING: @Pontifex to clergy: Decide for yourselves whether to bless homosexual unions
— LifeSiteNews (@LifeSite) October 2, 2023
It was in the July 11 letter that the Pope responded to the five concerns made by the cardinals: namely on possible attacks on the Church’s doctrines, the possibility of homosexual “blessings,” the weight of teaching afforded to the Synod, female ordination, and the necessity of repentance in sacramental Confession.
So “vague” was the Pope’s letter, that the five cardinals wrote to him again on August 21, but this time received no reply.
Regarding same-sex “blessings,” the cardinals wrote in their July 10 letter:
According to Divine Revelation, confirmed in Sacred Scripture, which the Church “at the divine command with the help of the Holy Spirit,…listens to devotedly, guards it with dedication and expounds it faithfully” (Dei Verbum 10): “In the beginning” God created man in his own image, male and female he created them and blessed them, that they might be fruitful (cf. Gen. 1, 27-28), whereby the Apostle Paul teaches that to deny sexual difference is the consequence of the denial of the Creator (Rom 1, 24-32).
It is asked: Can the Church derogate from this “principle,” considering it, contrary to what Veritatis Splendor 103 taught, as a mere ideal, and accepting as a “possible good” objectively sinful situations, such as same-sex unions, without betraying revealed doctrine? [Emphasis original]
The letter they received from Francis was seven pages in total, with a page and a half given to responding to the issue of same-sex “blessings.”
Francis stated that “the Church has a very clear conception of marriage: an exclusive, stable and indissoluble union between a man and a woman, naturally open to the begetting of children.”
Due to only this union being “marriage,” wrote Francis, “the Church avoids any kind of rite or sacramental that could contradict this conviction and give the impression that something that is not marriage is recognized as marriage.”
However, he continued by expressing an openness to other forms of unions, including same-sex couples, being granted a “blessing.”
Nevertheless, in our dealings with people, we must not lose the pastoral charity that must permeate all our decisions and attitudes. The defense of objective truth is not the only expression of this charity, which is also made up of kindness, patience, understanding, tenderness and encouragement. Therefore, we cannot become judges who only deny, reject and exclude.
Pope Francis further stated:
For this reason, pastoral prudence must adequately discern whether there are forms of blessing, requested by one or more persons, that do not transmit a mistaken conception of marriage. Because when a blessing is requested, it is expressing a request for help from God, a plea to be able to live better, a trust in a Father who can help us to live better. [Emphasis not original]
On the other hand, although there are situations that from an objective point of view are not morally acceptable, pastoral charity itself demands that we do not simply treat others as “sinners” whose guilt or responsibility may be due to their own fault.
The Pope added that such decisions which “form part of pastoral prudence, should not necessarily become a norm.”
That is to say, that one country or diocese might deem it “pastorally prudent” to “bless” homosexual couples, while another might not.
“Canon Law should not and cannot cover everything, nor should the Episcopal Conferences claim to do so with their various documents and protocols, because the life of the Church runs through many channels in addition to the normative ones,” he added.
Cardinals respond to Pope
It was due to receipt of this letter from the Pope that the five dubia cardinals issued their August 21 correspondence, with the line: “With the same sincerity with which You have answered us, we must add that Your answers have not resolved the doubts we had raised, but have, if anything, deepened them.”
They stated in the second letter that any “blessing” of same-sex couples “might create confusion in any case, not only in that it might make them seem analogous to marriage, but also in that homosexual acts would be presented practically as a good, or at least as the possible good that God asks of people in their journey toward Him.”
The five cardinals thus asked:
Is it possible that in some circumstances a pastor could bless unions between homosexual persons, thus suggesting that homosexual behavior as such would not be contrary to God’s law and the person’s journey toward God? Linked to this dubium is the need to raise another: does the teaching upheld by the universal ordinary magisterium, that every sexual act outside of marriage, and in particular homosexual acts, constitutes an objectively grave sin against God’s law, regardless of the circumstances in which it takes place and the intention with which it is carried out, continue to be valid?
Pope Francis has not responded to this question.
Catholic teaching on same-sex ‘blessings’
In his first letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul states that homosexual actions are sinful, explaining that “neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers” will “inherit the kingdom of God,” but rather, according to his letter to the Romans, those who practice homosexuality will receive “in their own persons the due penalty for their error.”
Under the leadership of Cardinal Ratzinger in 1986, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) issued a document instructing bishops on the pastoral care of homosexual persons. The CDF admonished bishops to ensure they, and any “pastoral programme” in the diocese are “clearly stating that homosexual activity is immoral.”
Such an authentic pastoral approach would “assist homosexual persons at all levels of the spiritual life: through the sacraments, and in particular through the frequent and sincere use of the sacrament of Reconciliation, through prayer, witness, counsel and individual care,” stated the CDF.
The instruction adds:
But we wish to make it clear that departure from the Church’s teaching, or silence about it, in an effort to provide pastoral care is neither caring nor pastoral. Only what is true can ultimately be pastoral. The neglect of the Church’s position prevents homosexual men and women from receiving the care they need and deserve.
Therefore special concern and pastoral attention should be directed toward those who have this condition, lest they be led to believe that the living out of this orientation in homosexual activity is a morally acceptable option. It is not.
The DDF stated that 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.”
But as part of the response to the five dubia cardinals’ question about Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis definitive statement that it is impossible to ordain women, the Pope’s July 11 letter stated:
let us acknowledge that a clear and authoritative doctrine has not yet been exhaustively developed about the exact nature of a “definitive statement.”
It is not a dogmatic definition, and yet it is to be observed by all. No one can publicly contradict it and yet it can be the subject of study, as is the case with the validity of ordinations in the Anglican Communion.
It seems that both in practice and in writing, Pope Francis and his new vice-roy Cardinal Fernández have not come to terms with the concept of a “definitive statement,” and the impossibility of blessing what Scripture denotes as sinful.