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BRUSSELS, Belgium (ChurchMilitant.com) - In a historic first, Flemish bishops have approved a liturgical rite to be used for blessing the union of same-sex couples.
On Tuesday, the Bishops' Conference of Belgium published the new liturgy on its website. The rite asks God to "bless and perpetuate this commitment of love and fidelity" between homosexual couples.
The act of rebellion defies a 2021 Vatican ruling categorically prohibiting same-sex blessings and emphatically stating, "God does not and cannot bless sin."
The bishops' quoted Pope Francis' controversial apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia by stating that "every human being, regardless of his sexual orientation, must be respected in his dignity and treated with respect."
"We want to continue on that path by giving this pastoral relationship a more structural character," the prelates explained, noting that same-sex unions, "although not a religious marriage, can be a source of peace and shared happiness for those involved."
"Pope Francis expressly asks 'these families to offer respectful pastoral guidance so that their homosexual members can enjoy the necessary support to understand and fully accomplish the will of God in their lives" (AL, §250), the statement maintained.
"Pope Francis asks to value and support the judgment of people's conscience[s], even in life situations that do not fully realize the objective ideal of marriage," the bishops said, citing the pope's words: "No one can be condemned forever because that is not the logic of the gospel" (AL, §297).
The liturgy is flexible since it is "best for those involved to discuss what content and form this prayer can take with a pastoral manager," the rite's introduction states. "Also, the difference must remain clear with what the Church understands by a sacramental marriage."
The rite for same-sex couples begins with an opening word and a prayer, followed by a Scripture reading. The liturgy does not prescribe what biblical readings might be suitable for such an occasion.
At the heart of the rite is the "commitment of both parties involved," which enables them to "express together before God how they commit themselves to each other."
The recommended model for the "prayer of commitment" reads:
God of love and faithfulness, today we stand before You surrounded by family and friends. We thank You for allowing us to find each other. We want to be there for each other in all circumstances of life.
We hereby express with confidence that we want to work on each other's happiness, day after day. We pray: Give us strength to be faithful to each other and to deepen our commitment. We trust in Your nearness; we want to live by Your Word, given to each other forever.
The commitment prayer is followed by a community prayer, where "the community prays that God's grace may work in them to care for each other and for the wider community in which they live."
The bishops suggest the following prayer as a template for the community:
God and Father, we surround N. and N. with our prayers today. You know their hearts and the path they will take together from now on. Make their commitment to each other strong and faithful.
Let their homes be filled with understanding, forbearance and care. Let there be room for reconciliation and peace. Let the love they share bring joy to them and serve them in our community.
Give us the strength to walk with them, together in the footsteps of Your Son and strengthened by Your Spirit.
This is followed by the intercessory prayers, the Lord's Prayer, the closing prayer and a blessing.
The prelates defended the new liturgical rite by claiming that "believers who live in a stable homosexual relationship also desire respect and appreciation within the faith community" and "want to be heard and recognized."
The service would confirm "their joy of knowing a steady partner, their choice for an exclusive and lasting relationship, their firm will to care responsibly for each other and their desire to be of service in Church and society," the statement observed.
In March 2021, the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith provoked outrage among homosexual activists when it issued a ruling against same-sex blessings, emphasizing how God "does not and cannot bless sin."
The CDF's responsum ad dubium (reply to a doubt) declared it illicit to bless any partnership — even stable relationships that involve sexual activity — outside of the indissoluble sacrament of marriage, in which sexual union is open to procreation.
Even though same-sex relationships may have positive elements, "which are in themselves to be valued and appreciated," these "positive elements exist in a union not ordered to the Creator's plan" and, hence, cannot justify an ecclesial blessing, the CDF document noted.
Since "there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God's plan for marriage and family," it cannot be licit to bestow a blessing imitating "the nuptial blessing invoked on the man and woman united in the sacrament of matrimony," the responsum clarified.
It reiterated that "the Church does not have, and cannot have, the power to bless unions of persons of the same sex," stressing that the Church "does not have the power over God's designs" and is "not the arbiter of these designs and the truths they express but their faithful interpreter and witness."
In two waves of rebellion during January and May 2022, hundreds of priests in Germany responded to the CDF's responsum by openly offering "gay blessings" under the banner of "#liebegewinnt" (love wins), Church Militant reported.
"We will continue to accompany people who enter into a binding partnership and bless their relationship," the #lovewins website stated. "We do not accept that an excluding and outdated sexual morality is laid on the backs of people."
Church Militant further reported how Pope Francis banished the CDF's second-in-command, Abp. Giacomo Morandi, to the bishopric of Italy's Reggio Emilia diocese as punishment for taking the lead in issuing the responsum against same-sex blessings.
Since the beginning of his pontificate, Francis has sent out ambiguous messages on the morality of homosexual relationships.
In 2020, the pontiff personally phoned homosexual couple Andrea Rubera and Dario De Gregorio to affirm their family and urge them to attend the local parish along with their children.
"Certainly not everyone will share your choice to have a family like this, but I think you should go to the parish because it is good for your children. You will see that you will find welcome; everything will be fine," Francis told the Italian couple.
The couple were "married" in Canada in 2009 and had three children in Canada through a lesbian surrogate mother. Rubera's sperm was used to create daughter Artemisia and De Gregorio's sperm was used in the reproduction of twins Chloe and Iacopo.
Italian law expressly prohibits medically assisted procreation to protect children from being turned into commodities, as well as to protect surrogate mothers from exploitation by treating them as a means to an end.