Vatican: No to blessing same-sex unions

At Crux“Vatican rules out Church blessings for same-sex unions.”

A few quick comments.

The announcement is notably emphatic about treating homosexuals with respect and sensitivity. The most potentially offensive part of the announcement (“absolutely no grounds… in any way similar or even remotely analogous…”) is a quotation from an earlier document. And that quotation is overstated and polemical, which I think can be admitted even if one agrees with its position. Today’s statement shows real progress in how the official Church shows love for homosexuals – which of course doesn’t mean that all Catholic homosexuals will welcome today’s statement.

The distinction between ‘sacrament’ and ‘sacramental’ is quite traditional. And perhaps a bit too clear and distinct, given the vagaries of gradual evolution in the Church’s understanding. As of the 12th century no one knew how many sacraments there are since apparently no one had asked the question or needed the answer.

The English translation, following Vatican convention, is non-inclusive (“he blesses sinful man”). Simply at the level of PR, this usage makes an already unpalatable message even less palatable for the audience to be persuaded. Maybe someday this usage will be reexamined.

Finally, the logic in today’s statement seems airtight: if same-sex sexual unions are morally wrong, then they can’t be blessed. I’m trying to think of a tenable position in which something is morally wrong (or imperfect, or inadequate, or not yet at the fullness of what revelation demands) and yet can be blessed, and I’m coming up empty? Can anyone else help? Of course it’s a bit “IF” and that is exactly where convictions differ.

Here’s something to wonder about: Can the Catholic Church bless avowedly celibate same-sex unions? I would think so but I’m not entirely sure.

awr

 

 

 

10 comments

  1. Yes my thoughts exactly ie this ruling does not prevent blessings of celibate same sex unions (probably most common among older gay couples inclined towards a church blessing / official recognition anyway).

    My second thought – what pro gay friendly gesture can we expect Francis to make next to act as a counter-balance to this statement, given he frequently will make overtures directed to two opposing intra-church groups around the same time? For example, can we expect the Holy See or Vatican City State to formally sign up to the UNHRC declaration calling for the worldwide decriminalisation of homosexuality? After all, a UN delegation visited the Vatican last year and although a meeting with Francis did not go ahead as planned – they met Parolin instead – becoming a signatory would not be a matter contrary to dogma or official teaching! My money says stay tuned and watch this space!!

    1. “…this ruling does not prevent blessings of celibate same sex unions
      >> (probably most common among older gay couples inclined towards a church blessing / official recognition anyway.”<<

      My partner and I, an "older gay couple" partnered for 33 years,
      would beg to differ. So would the other couples we know who belong to this "demographic".

  2. On every single Sunday of my nearly 50 years as a priest I have offered “absolution” and a blessing over all who are present for Mass. Individuals, couples, children. I am quite sure that all the couples present are not married in the church or not married at all. This would include couples making an effort to raise children in the church. We offer blessings to people “living in sin” routinely, not because they’re living in sin but because they have come to Mass to seek God’s help. So there’s plenty of precedent for offering blessings over sinners (even practitioners of birth control and those engaging in sin outside of a marriage between a man and a women).

    I see clearly, though, the problem posed by two people openly living in a same sex union being publicly blessed as a couple. To do so would require a complete rethinking of the role of human sexuality. That would require the presumably chaste celibates who make all the rules to consider the unthinkable: that we need a complete rethinking.

  3. It’s worth noting that the commentary released with the statement concludes with the following paragraph:

    “This statement in no way detracts from the human and Christian consideration in which the Church holds each person. So much so that the response to the dubium “does not preclude the blessings given to individual persons with homosexual inclinations who manifest the will to live in fidelity to the revealed plans of God as proposed by Church teaching”.

  4. “I’m trying to think of a tenable position in which something is morally wrong (or imperfect, or inadequate, or not yet at the fullness of what revelation demands) and yet can be blessed, and I’m coming up empty? Can anyone else help?”

    I know of nothing that meets those criteria. Though it made me think about slavery and wondering if slaves or perhaps slave masters (more relevantly) were ever blessed in a way directly related to their involvement in slavery that viewed it in a positive light or at least a neutral light? I don’t know. And if there was a random blessing done in Latin America, for example, I am not sure how it would impact the present discussion, probably would just serve as a historically example of things that were blessed but should never have been. I am more thinking a loud.

    I did a Google search and came out blank, but the readership of this blog tends to come across a lot of non-digital content that provide answers.

    Also, could you bless something that is morally wrong but may prevent something that is even worse? I am thinking about weapons, particularly nuclear weapons. Russian tend to bless nuclear warheads. The thinking is that they have been invaded so many times, the weapons provide peace and stability through deterrence. But then are nuclear warheads wrong in themselves? Hunting rifles and probably hand guns are not.

    By the Church’s logic (and mine), sexual activity outside of marriage (man & woman) is wrong. But presumably multiple sexual partners is worse than one? So bless one to prevent the other?

  5. The language is a little confusing to me. The Dubium asks if the Church has power (German Vollmacht, French pouvoir, Latin not supplied, but I would guess facultatem) to bless unions of persons of the same sex. In the context of a sacrament, that would mean “she could try, but it would be totally without effect”; how that works with a sacramental is unclear to me. In the Explanatory Note, the use of licitness language suggests that it would be wrong, but maybe not completely ineffective. Does “validity” in any way apply to sacramentals?
    Then what sort of blessing? Blessing their home? Saying grace to bless their dinner? Remember, we already know that sacramental marriage is out of the question. Are they excluded from any blessing whatsoever as a couple? Genesis 27:38 haunts me.

  6. I am reminded of the response of priests ministering in Canada’s Arctic who,
    when asked how they dealt with couples “shacked up together” (a majority),
    explained their pastoral approach:

    The couple has been together for ten, fifteen, twenty years or longer. They are part of our community. They have brought their children forward for the sacraments. We, the community, then invite the couples to celebrate the Sacrament of Marriage for we now have something to bless.

    My partner and I have been together over thirty-three years. We have never asked anything of the Church as far as recognizing our committed relationship. We have simply got on with building a life together and to building up the communal life of the local parish wherever we found ourselves.

    After reading the CDF’s Responsum this week we both reacted similarly:
    Maybe it’s time to look at having our relationship blessed. We have something to bless.
    That “something” is constituted of much more than what the Responsum describes as “positive elements”. That “something” is called love.

    We affirm Pope Francis’s assertion referenced in the Responsum: “He [God] in fact takes us as we are, but never leaves us as we are”. We are not the people we were when we embarked upon this journey of a shared life. We are forever changed and thank God every day for the rich blessings bestowed upon us.

    Having our relationship blessed publicly would be a testimony to our experience that the Church’s current theology is not up to the task of recognizing what our family, friends and community can: We have something to bless.

    1. You do have so much to bless, Michael & Ralph. And I would gladly be a part of a liturgy of officially blessing your relationship. I tend to think of liturgies that are, let’s say, ahead of their [Vatican-sanctioned, official] time as a form of prevenient obedience… 🙂

  7. Fr. Jack: “We offer blessings to people “living in sin” routinely, not because they’re living in sin but because they have come to Mass to seek God’s help.”

    They may have come to Mass seeking help, unfortunately it is not the help the Church wants them to seek.

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