Three bishops have come to the public defence of the Church’s teaching on homosexual unions, calling German bishops’ push for liturgical blessing of same-sex unions “sacrilegious” and “contrary to the will of God”.
Archbishop Charles Chaput from the United States, Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes from Germany, and Bishop emeritus Andreas Laun from Austria, all publicly blasted the German bishops’ call for the blessing of same sex unions.
It will be recalled that in a radio interview last February 3, German Cardinal Reinhard Marx called on the Church to come up with some form of liturgical blessing for same-sex unions. Cardinal Marx is one of the most influential prelates under Pope Francis. He serves on the council of nine cardinals who are advising the Pope on Church reform. He is president of the German bishops’ conference, and president of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community.
Marx said the Church should give “closer pastoral care” to homosexuals, and “encourage priests and pastoral workers to give people in concrete situations [of homosexual unions] encouragement. I do not really see any problems there.”
“How this would be done publicly, in a liturgical form,” is “another question,” he said. “That is where one has to be reticent and also reflect upon that in a good way.”
When the interviewer asked if this could involve a formal “blessing,” the cardinal said “yes.”
In the same month, the vice president of the German bishops’ conference, Bishop Franz-Josef Bode, initiated the public discussion of these “blessings,” describing same-sex unions as “positive and good.”
Imprudent statements require a response
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia has penned a letter to priests and deacons in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, addressing the possibility of blessing rites for same-sex couples. The February 7 letter has since been published in the Catholic News Agency and other media states.
“I want to remind us all that under no circumstances may a priest or deacon of the archdiocese take part in, witness or officiate at any civil union of same-sex persons, or any religious ceremony that seeks to bless such an event,” Archbishop Chaput wrote.
“This in no way is a rejection of the persons seeking such a union, but rather a refusal to ignore what we know to be true about the nature of marriage, the family, and the dignity of human sexuality,” he continued.
“Over the past few weeks, a number of senior voices in the leadership of the Church in Germany have suggested (or strongly implied) support for the institution of a Catholic blessing rite for same-sex couples who are civilly married or seeking civil marriage,” the archbishop wrote. “The imprudence of such public statements is—and should be—the cause of serious concern. It requires a response because what happens in one local reality of the global Church inevitably resonates elsewhere—including eventually here.”
The problem, he says, is that “any such ‘blessing rite’ would cooperate in a morally forbidden act, no matter how sincere the persons seeking the blessing.”
“Such a rite would undermine the Catholic witness on the nature of marriage and the family. It would confuse and mislead the faithful. And it would wound the unity of our Church, because it could not be ignored or met with silence,” he added.
To institute such a blessing “effectively encourages them in that state—in this case, same-sex sexual unions.”
“There is no love—no charity—without truth, just as there is no real mercy separated from a framework of justice informed and guided by truth,” he writes. “Creating confusion around important truths of our faith, no matter how positive the intention, only makes a difficult task more difficult.”
“Woe to you that call evil good, and good evil”
Bishop emeritus Andreas Laun has written a strong commentary for the Austrian Catholic news website Kath.net on the recent episcopal initiatives coming out of Germany. Regarding the possibility of instituting a form of “liturgical blessing” for same-same couples, Bishop Laun was very forceful in his response:
Dear Cardinal Marx and dear Bishop Bode, there is only one Catholic answer: No! And your addition “in individual cases” is absolutely worthless, it has no argumentative force. What would St. John the Baptist have said if Herod, taking for himself his brother’s wife, would have excusingly called himself an “individual case”!
The idea to bless sinful conduct is really what Isaiah described quite vividly, as follows: “Woe to you that call evil good, and good evil: that put darkness for light, and light for darkness: that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter.” [Isaiah 5:20]
Is this not exactly what Cardinal Marx – and others who are thinking like him – are doing? …Isaiah says that such people draw unto them God’s punishment, with thick cords!
“Sacrilegeous” and “Frighteningly Naive”
“The initiative of Cardinal Marx ignores the clear Revelation of God,” wrote Cardinal Cordes in a commentary in the Austrian Catholic website kath.net. He explained that “the Church is in its pastoral care bound to Holy Scripture and to its interpretation through the Church’s Magisterium.”
Cardinal Cordes also calls the idea to bless homosexual couples “frighteningly naive.” He says:
Whoever reflects upon this for a moment, discovers the true intention of those concerned. […] In this case, people do not wish to receive God’s assistance for themselves; rather, they aim with their request at the recognition and acceptance of their homosexual way of life and its ecclesial valorization.
The German prelate adds to this analysis his comment: “An ecclesial blessing as a confirmation of a relationship which is contrary to the Will of God? That truly seems sacrilegious.”
For Cardinal Cordes, it is clear that Cardinal Marx “misunderstands here the idea of pastoral care as a form of sentimental acceptance.” He sees a “new version of situation ethics” and comments with the words “Those things that are contrary to God [“Gottwidrigkeiten”] (“intrinsice malum – intrinsically evil”) are always a sin.” With some strong words, Cardinal Cordes concludes his commentary as follows:
Or how about “in individual cases”: more encouragement for the activities of the mafiosi? Accepting pastoral care for doctors who procure abortions? Which churchman is finally so presumptuous to expect more salvation from his confused “compassion” than from listening to God’s Will? Which servant knows it better than his Master? In any case, a statement by St. Augustine shows the cardinal [Marx] his limits: “Love the erring people; but combat with hatred their error! Without pride bask yourself in possessing the truth; fight for it with meekness and goodness!” (St. Augustine in Contra litteras Petiliani, 1,31)