Vatican sources hint at growing internal rift over ban on homosexual blessings
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VATICAN CITY, March 23, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — Several reports from Vatican insiders suggest that officials within the Vatican, and possibly Pope Francis himself, are angry and distancing themselves from the recent official document which prohibited blessings for same-sex couples.
On March 15, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) responded in the negative to a question about whether the Church had “the power to give the blessing to unions of persons of the same sex.”
Now, Vatican journalist Diane Montagna has noted that the website Messainlatino.it, which broke the news about the Vatican’s recent crackdown on private and traditional Masses, was reporting “post-publication complaints” about the CDF’s document.
The website reported that its sources “at the highest level” had confirmed that the “‘process’ of approving the document was anything but easy.”
It mentioned how “very strong pressure” was used in order to have the document signed “only by the Cardinal Prefect and the Archbishop Secretary, BUT without the approval nominatim of the Holy Father.”
Pope Francis “was informed and gave his assent to the publication” of the document, but did not put his name underneath, as revealed by a note on the document itself.
Furthermore, the Messainlatino.it’s sources added that there were “very strong post-publication complaints from the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life, and the Pontifical Academy for Life, as well as numerous foreign Bishops, unfortunately.”
Cardinal Kevin Farrell, who heads the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life, on Thursday suggested a way in which the CDF’s re-iteration of Church teaching in banning blessings for same-sex couples could be avoided. The cardinal seemed to be hinting at Church approval for civil unions, provided they are not called marriages, and would thus avoid the issue of having to give a blessing, which is properly part of marriage.
He equated sacramental marriage with civil unions of same-sex persons, saying that when the Church speaks about marriage, in reference to the CDF’s document, “it speaks about sacramental marriage, it doesn’t speak about civil unions. It doesn’t speak about other forms of marriage.”
Messainlatino.it’s brief write-up was in turn reported on by prominent Italian journalists Aldo Maria Valli and Marco Tossati. Both Tossati and Valli noted a recent report by dissident Jesuit-run America Magazine, in which the magazine’s Vatican correspondent Gerard O’Connell supported Messinlatino.it’s story of dissent in the Vatican about the CDF’s document.
O’Connell wrote that three Vatican sources suspected that the Pope had used his March 21 Angelus address as a means to distance himself from the CDF’s document. His anonymous sources pointed to the Pope’s choice of wording regarding the Gospel, in which “Gentiles” wish to meet Christ. He said it was significant how Francis had mentioned that Christians should witness Christ in “closeness, compassion and tenderness.”
The Pope added that this “means sowing seeds of love, not with fleeting words but through concrete, simple and courageous examples, not with theoretical condemnations, but with gestures of love.”
“Then the Lord, with his grace, makes us bear fruit, even when the soil is dry due to misunderstandings, difficulty or persecution, or claims of legalism or clerical moralism. This is barren soil. Precisely then, in trials and in solitude, while the seed is dying, that is the moment in which life blossoms, to bear ripe fruit in due time,” continued the Pope.
O’Connell’s sources suggested that with these phrases in particular, “Pope Francis appeared to be distancing himself to some extent from the C.D.F. statement.” They commented that the Pope was perhaps styling the CDF’s document as that which he criticized, namely “legalism or clerical moralism,” and “theoretical condemnations” which lead to “barren soil.”
One source, described as a “senior Vatican source … not authorized to comment publicly,” mentioned the Pope’s use of the words “closeness, compassion, tenderness,” saying that “[t]hey are the true blessing of the church and its shepherd for every person, for every situation.” The source continued: “They are the true measure of the very magisterium when it enlightens consciences and guides the faithful. Every ‘responsum’ and the doctrine in which it is couched should rise to that measure.”
A similar theme was contained in a March 22 report by Religión Digital, which also claimed that Vatican sources had confirmed that Francis had used his March 21 Angelus as a way to attack the CDF’s adherence to Church teaching, suggesting it was his way of repairing the damage caused.
The veracity of such an internal conflict, effectively pitting the Pope against the CDF, remains to be fully seen. As Tossati pointed out: “[A]s happens often in recent times in delicate Vatican questions, no journalist has access to the truth.”
Yet the Vatican expert also gave a warning about the danger which lay in referring to such anonymous sources: “Instead these speculations are very worrying, and the ambiguities, opaqueness and word-games in doctrinal writings must be taken very seriously. The confusion that is being created at this time through the usual ‘anonymous sources’ complicates everything, especially in a moment of labor and suffering for most of Catholics who discuss the contents of the Responsum.”
While the CDF’s document has been welcomed by some clergy in good standing with the Church, notably by Cardinal Gerhard Müller, the former prefect of the CDF, a growing number of bishops and hundreds of priests have responded angrily, expressing their “disappointment” at the document. Numerous clergy declared that they would ignore the ruling and “continue to bless same-sex couples.”
The dissenters are predominantly German and Austrian, but clerics all across the globe, from America to Australia, have expressed their opposition to the re-iteration of Church teaching. Many turned to Pope Francis’s controversial document Amoris Laetitia as the basis for their rejection of the CDF’s ruling, with the Belgian bishops saying they would continue to be guided by its keywords, “discern, guide and integrate.”
Indeed, such clergy are only encouraged by the Pope’s words from last October, when he noted the “incongruity” of speaking of “homosexual marriage,” and so called for civil unions instead. “But what we have to have is a law of civil union [ley de convicencia civil], so they have the right to be legally covered,” Francis declared.
“Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family. They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out, or be made miserable because of it,” he said. “What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered. I stood up for that.”