Bombshell in Belgium, Bishops Publish liturgy for the blessing of Gay unions.
SEE 3 PAGE LITURGY DOCUMENT HERE IN FLEMISH:
SEE 2 PAGE DOCUMENT IN ENGLISH HERE:
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Father Elias Leyds Responds To Belgian Bishops Blessing Same-Sex Unions
BY WILLIAM KILPATRICK
Republished below in full unedited for informational, educational, & research purposes.
In “Francis Forgives Everyone,” I suggested that the main thrust of the Francis papacy is to de-emphasize sin.
But if Francis wants to forgive everyone, he’d better hurry up before some European bishops beat him to the punch. Just recently, the Flemish bishops of Belgium published a document for the pastoral care of homosexuals, which included a liturgical blessing for same-sex couples.
As several Catholic theologians were quick to point out, however, the blessing is problematic because, unlike the general blessing at the end of Mass, it is intended to bless a specific arrangement—namely, a same-sex union.
Some fear that the proposed blessing (the Flemish-speaking bishops plan to present it to Francis later this year) could tear the Catholic Church apart. That may seem like an exaggeration, but there is good reason to believe that the Belgian bishop’s proposal is meant to bring things to a head by forcing Francis’s hand on the issue of same-sex “marriage.”
One reason to think so is that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF)—the ultimate authority on doctrinal definitions—has already made clear that “the Church does not, have and cannot have, the power to bless unions of persons of the same sex.” The document was published in March of 2021 with the express approval of Francis.
The CDF isn’t saying that a priest can’t give his blessing to a homosexual individual, only that he can’t bless a same-sex union. By the same token, the Church can’t bless the union between a man and a woman living in adultery. The problem with the “Belgian blessing” is that it is intended to bless same-sex unions—the very thing that the CDF says the Church has no power to do.
To a non-Catholic, this may seem like a tempest in a teapot, but it is, in fact, a very big deal because it constitutes a challenge to the Church’s teaching authority. The Belgian bishops are saying, in effect, that the Church has been in error to teach that homosexual acts are sinful. This puts the CDF on the spot, it puts Francis on the spot, and it puts the Church in danger of schism.
It could also prompt Francis’s resignation. Although Francis is quite obviously a friend of the LGBT movement in the Church (just look at his appointments), he seems also to have reservations about going too far too fast. Despite what some conservative Catholics may think, Francis does appear to have some fear of God—and also of the Devil. Perhaps, he would prefer to leave the decision to his successor.
Coincidentally, one of the prelates who is often mentioned as a possible successor to Francis just happens to be the top bishop in Luxembourg—the small country which borders Belgium. As president of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conference of the European Union (COMECE) Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich is also the top bishop in Europe. As an additional sign of his faith in Hollerich, Francis recently appointed him as the realtor general of the much-heralded Synod on Synodality.
But perhaps the most salient fact about Cardinal Hollerich is that earlier this year he asserted that the Church’s prohibition of sodomy is now “false” because “the sociological-scientific foundation of this teaching is no longer correct.”
Should Hollerich be elected pope and should he continue to insist that the Catholic Church’s teaching on homosexuality is erroneous, it will likely set off a firestorm of controversy both inside and outside the Church.
Another key player in this drama is Father James Martin, SJ. who is currently the most prominent Catholic advocate of the LGBT movement. Martin says that chastity is not required of homosexuals because the teaching (to remain chaste) has not been “received” by the Catholic LGBT community. Martin also states that Catholics must “reverence homosexual unions.” In short, like Cardinal Hollerich, Martin seems to be saying that existing Church teaching about homosexuality is in error.
It’s not as though Francis is firmly opposed to the position taken by Hollerich and Martin. Hollerich has said that he is “in full agreement with Pope Francis.” Moreover, Francis has showered praise on Fr. Martin, encouraged him in his work, admitted him to a private audience, and appointed him as a consultant to the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communications.
If the debate about homosexual unions does lead to some kind of schism it will most likely result in a schism between orthodox (traditional) Catholics and “progressive” Catholics like Francis, Hollerich, and Martin. The blessing of same-sex unions may well be the final straw for those Catholics who not only object to Francis’s “progressive” reforms but also doubt whether he is really the legitimate pope.
As I have suggested elsewhere, the ultimate aim of Francis and other progressives is not to reform the Church but to transform it into a humanistic rather than a supernatural faith.
Although the Church has always been in some sense a humanitarian faith, there are some crucial areas in which a purely humanistic philosophy is opposed to Christian teaching.
The main point of division is sin. Although the Church affirms that we are made in the image of God, it also maintains that we are sinners in need of a Savior. Although Christ mingled with prostitutes and tax collectors, he did not bless their sins. Rather, he told them to sin no more, and to follow him.
By contrast, humanists tend to think that people are fine the way they are. Like Francis, they may be concerned with corporate sins and sins against the environment, but not so much with personal sins.
But from an orthodox Christian perspective, minimizing sin is self-destructive. That’s because salvation from sin is the essence of the Christian story. When you take away sin, you take away the whole rationale for Christianity. If I’m okay the way I am, why do I need the “transformation in Christ” that Paul speaks of in his epistles?
The current humanist movement in the Church is not a brand-new phenomenon. It owes a lot to the modernist movement in the Church at the turn of the 20th century, and also to the human potential movement of the late 20th century. The latter merged with the popular self-esteem movement and became a powerful force in both Church and society.
The main argument of the self-esteem gurus and of their counterparts within the Church was that people who feel good about themselves aren’t tempted to do bad things. As a result, examination of conscience and frequent confession gave way to an emphasis on self-acceptance—on learning to love yourself just the way you are and on having confidence that God loves you just the way you are.
Fr. Martin is, of course, a product of this 60’s-style “follow-your-feelings” approach to morality. His fuzzy argument about the LGBT community not being bound by the rule of chastity because they haven’t “received” it is evidence of this. For Fr. Martin, the only thing that matters is that you feel good about yourself and your relationship with partner X. Nothing else is required and you can be sure that God will smile on your union.
One hitch in the self-esteem hypothesis that was apparently overlooked by Martin is that further research revealed that psychopaths and prison inmates tend to have exceptionally high self-esteem scores. Feeding one’s self-esteem doesn’t necessarily result in better behavior, and it can result in worse. Consider the recent experiments with reducing or eliminating bail, defunding the police, and giving their jobs to idealistic social workers. Such experiments often feed the sense of law-breakers that they are special, that the rules don’t apply to them, and that there should be no consequences for their behavior.
And that should give us second thoughts about the current eruption of self-acceptance theory among progressive Catholics. Certain regard for one’s self—self-respect—is good up to a point. But beyond that point, it can lead to self-absorption and self-centeredness. Catholics and other Christians are called to avoid this temptation and to examine their conscience in light of scripture and tradition. But progressives think it’s enough for people to simply celebrate themselves as they are. But “celebrate yourself” is a very slippery slope and it can lead to some dark places. Currently, for example, some elements of the pro-choice movement have been calling on women to celebrate their abortions.
Cardinal Hollerich approaches the matter from a somewhat different angle than Martin, but not one that inspires confidence in his ability to lead the Church. What’s missing in the theology of Hollerich (and also Martin) is any sense of objective morality—what Cardinal Francis Arinze refers to as “the order established by God the Creator.” According to Church teaching and tradition, the nature of marriage is revealed to us both by scriptural revelation and by natural law— “the laws of nature and of nature’s God” referred to in the Declaration of Independence. In place of the order of marriage established by God, Cardinal Hollerich offers thinly disguised relativism. Hollerich seems to think that criticism of same-sex unions is founded on outmoded biology and anthropology and must now be revised in light of recent advances in sociology and science. But he fails to explain how morality can be deduced from either sociology or science. Perhaps by polling a sufficient number of people? By consulting Kinsey? By capturing the elusive pregnant man? The effectiveness of sociologically and scientifically “correct” sex education can be gauged by the wreckage of the sexual revolution.
The damage we have already seen suggests that we can’t afford any more experiments with readjusting the order established by God to suit our own inclinations. If the Belgian bishops don’t accept natural law (which is based on biological and anatomical facts) or revealed law, then what is to be the standard? Is each person to be a law unto himself or herself?
If European bishops continue to mislead Catholics about the nature of marriage, their efforts will turn out to be much more of a curse than a blessing.
Cardinal Eijk: stop Flemish bishops from blessing gay couples
Republished below in full unedited for informational, educational, & research purposes.
The declaration of the Flemish Belgian bishops with their ad hoc liturgy for gay couples contradicts the Church’s teaching on homosexuality and a recent Vatican declaration. It’s necessary for the competent authorities to intervene now so the document is withdrawn and the Belgian bishops to obey. Cardinal Eijk Archbishop of Utrecht speaks out.
The Belgian Flemish bishops surprised many inside and outside the Church with the statement published on 20 September 2022 entitled: Being pastorally close to a homosexual person - For a welcoming Church that excludes no one. For Catholics who accept the Church's teaching, this was not at all a pleasant surprise. Indeed, in the aforementioned declaration, the Flemish bishops offer the possibility of blessing same-sex couples in a lasting, monogamous relationship.
In a statement, they also provide a model for a celebration of the Word and prayer in which the blessing of same-sex couples can take shape. Its outline is as follows:
- Opening Word;
- Opening prayer;
- Scripture reading;
- Expressing the commitment of both parties to each other, manifesting before God their mutual bond; this can be done, for example, in the following terms:
God of love and faithfulness, today we stand before You surrounded by family and friends. We thank You that we have been able to find each other. We want to be there for each other in all circumstances of life. We confidently express that we want to work for each other's happiness, day by day. We pray: grant us the strength to remain faithful to one another and to deepen our commitment. In your closeness we trust, by your Word, we want to live, given to each other for good.
- Then follows the community prayer; the community prays that God's grace may work in them to care for each other and the community in which they live; an example of this prayer is also given:
God and Father, today we surround N. and N. with our prayers. You know their hearts and the path they will take together from now on. Make their commitment to each other strong and faithful. May their home be filled with understanding, tolerance, and care. Let there be room for reconciliation and peace. May the love they share be for them joy and service to our community. Give us the strength to walk with them, together in the footsteps of your Son and strengthened by the Spirit.
- Our Father;
- Final Prayer;
This is the first time that a Bishops' Conference (or part of it) has issued a statement giving the example of a celebration of the Word and prayer to pronounce a blessing on a same-sex couple. The Flemish bishops took the remarkable step of allowing the blessing of same-sex couples based on their interpretation of certain passages from Amoris Laetitia (AL), the post-synodal exhortation issued by Pope Francis after both synods on the family in 2014 and 2015 respectively. In it, Pope Francis states, among other things, "that every person, regardless of his or her sexual orientation, is to be respected in his or her dignity and welcomed with respect" (AL 250).
Distinguish, accompany, and integrate remain the main keywords of Amoris Laetitia (chapter VIII), according to the Flemish bishops. It goes without saying that people with a homosexual orientation must also be treated with respect and have a right to pastoral care and guidance (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, nos. 2358-2359). By discernment, however, it is meant in Amoris Laetitia that people in an irregular relationship are brought to understand what the truth is about their relationship (AL 300). In short, they come to understand that their relationship goes against God's order of creation and is therefore morally unacceptable. Integration means giving people in an irregular relationship - as far as possible - a place in the life of the church. Of course, people in a sexual relationship with a person of the same sex are welcome in church celebrations, even if they cannot receive communion or actively participate in the celebration.
The Flemish bishops' statement on the blessing of same-sex couples meets with several inherent objections:
1. Blessings are sacramentals, not sacraments. The Flemish bishops also explicitly state that the blessing of same-sex couples is not a marriage. Sacramentals, on the other hand, are sacred signs that resemble the sacraments in a certain sense and that produce particularly spiritual fruits for the persons receiving the blessing, preparing them to receive the main effect of the sacraments. The sacramentals also sanctify particular situations in life (cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Responsum of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to a dubium regarding the blessing of same-sex unions, 22 February 2021). The sacramentals are to some extent analogous to the sacraments. The declaration prayer in which same-sex couples commit to each other shows an unequivocal analogy with the 'I do' that a man and a woman say to each other during the marriage ceremony. In it, in fact, the same-sex couple prays: “We want to be there for each other in all the circumstances of life ... grant us the strength to remain faithful to one another and to deepen our commitment". We also find this analogy with the Yes of husband and wife at the marriage ceremony in the community prayer: "Make strong and faithful their commitment to each other." The fear, therefore, is not unfounded: the transition from this blessing to same-sex marriage is not a big step and will be possible in the near future.
2. Blessing does not only presuppose a good intention on the part of the recipient. What is blessed must also correspond to God's order of creation. God created marriage as a total and mutual gift of man and woman to each other, culminating in procreation (Gaudium et spes, no. 48; cf. no. 50). Sexual relations between persons of the same sex cannot in themselves lead to procreation. They cannot, therefore, be an authentic expression at the bodily level of the total mutual self-giving of man and woman, in which marriage is essential. Situations that are objectively wrong from a moral point of view cannot be blessed. God's grace does not shine on the path of sin. One cannot cultivate spiritual fruit by blessing relationships that go against God's order of creation (ibid.). This, of course, does not prevent homosexual individuals from receiving a blessing. However, it is not morally permissible to bless the homosexual relationship as such.
3. The arguments in points 1 and 2 are cited in the answer given by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on 22 February 2021 to a question on the blessing of homosexual relationships. However, with their statement allowing the blessing of same-sex couples, the Flemish bishops go against the aforementioned statement of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The Flemish bishops are also bound by it.
4. In the community's prayer on the occasion of the blessing of gay couples, the Flemish bishops said that the community prays "for God's grace to work" in the gay couple to enable them to care for each other and the community they live in. However, we cannot pray for God's grace to work in a relationship that does not conform to his order of creation. The Flemish bishops do not explicitly say that same-sex relationships are justifiable. However, even the wording of the community prayer in their liturgical model for the blessing of gay couples suggests that same-sex relationships can be morally justified. Indeed, in the end, the community prays: "Give us the strength to walk with them, together in the footsteps of your Son and strengthened by the Spirit”. Do same-sex people in their same-sex relationships follow in the footsteps of Christ? So do the Flemish bishops really believe that same-sex couples in their same-sex relationship follow in the footsteps of Christ? In the sample prayer, the gay couple says: "By your Word, we want to live." But the Word of God contained in Scripture unequivocally and undeniably qualifies homosexual relationships as a sin. At the very least, in the formulation of model prayers for the gay couple and the community, there is a risk that the average Catholic, who generally knows very little about their faith today, will be led astray and begin to think that lasting, monogamous same-sex sexual relationships are morally acceptable.
5. If gay couples in monogamous, lasting sexual relationships can receive a blessing, should not the same be possible in the monogamous, lasting sexual relationships of a man and a woman living together without being married? Allowing the blessing of gay couples carries the great risk of devaluing blessings and undermining the Church's teaching on the morality of marriage and sexual ethics.
The statement of the Flemish bishops, in which they allow the blessing of same-sex couples and even provide a liturgical model for it, meets with inherent ethical objections, radically contradicts a recent ruling by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and carries the risk that it may lead Catholics to views on the morality of same-sex relationships that are contrary to Church teaching. Catholics who accept the Church's teaching, including on sexual morality, therefore fervently hope that the Flemish bishops will soon be asked by ecclesiastically competent circles to withdraw their statement and that the latter will comply.
* Cardinal, Archbishop of Utrecht