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MARSA, Malta (ChurchMilitant.com) - Feeling emboldened by Pope Francis' response to questions from five cardinals on same-sex blessings, a parish in Malta is launching Masses for homosexual and heterosexual couples.
A poster published by the parish of Maria Regina in Marsa, a city in south Malta, announced that beginning Oct. 15, it would begin monthly Eucharistic services for "couples" every third Sunday of the month at 11 a.m.
On Oct. 3, parish priest Fr. Anthony Fitzpatrick announced the Masses for "couples," a day after the Vatican's Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith published the pontiff's responses to five dubia (Latin for "doubts") raised by the cardinals.
The second dubium asked the Holy Father if "the widespread practice of blessing same-sex unions is in accordance with Revelation and the Magisterium."
"Pastoral prudence must adequately discern whether there are forms of blessing, requested by one or more persons, that do not convey a mistaken concept of marriage," Pope Francis responded.
"We cannot be judges who only deny, reject and exclude," the pope added, emphasizing "pastoral charity, which should permeate all our decisions and attitudes."
Francis reaffirmed the Church's teaching that the sacrament of matrimony could only be between a man and woman and open to procreation and that the Church should avoid any other ritual or sacramental rite that contradicted this teaching.
"Unsurprisingly, the launch of the Masses for "couples" comes immediately following the pope's response to the five cardinals' dubia, one of which concerned the possibility of ecclesial blessings for same-sex couples," Philip Beattie, president of the Maltese Society for Christian Civilization told Church Militant.
Beattie, an economist and senior academic at the University of Malta, elaborated:
The poster for the Masses targeting couples and launched by Fr. Anthony Fitzpatrick, the new parish priest/chaplain of the Maria Regina Church in Marsa, clearly depicts two couples, one lesbian, the other homosexual. While one cannot judge Fr. Fitzpatrick's intentions, the message his poster conveyed is clear enough. Father Fitzpatrick's poster has seen fit to blur the difference between a true union according to God's plan and one which, by its very nature, is intrinsically disordered.
While a few Catholics in Malta contacted Church Militant expressing outrage over the poster, most Catholics and members of the parish of Maria Regina expressed overwhelming support on social media for Fr. Fitzpatrick and the Masses.
"The Lord has never rejected anyone, on the contrary, he always tells them to come to me as you are and what you are," Donatella Ellul wrote. "And thank you, Father, for not judging anyone like some who [have] nothing to do [but] point their fingers at people. Thank you for your hand in making God's house our home."
Lorraine Templeman, who appears to be pictured on her Facebook account as someone in a same-sex relationship, stated, "Well done for this initiative and hope other parishes follow through with this invitation," She added, "If you receive negative comments, ignore them. Seems everyone has become a professor these days, wanting to comment about everything and anything. It is sad that some people no longer think, evaluate and reason beyond their throat."
Church Militant contacted Fr. Fitzpatrick and asked if he had launched the Masses for "couples" with the assurance that Pope Francis "has allowed parish priests to use their discernment" in blessing same-sex couples."
"The Mass is for couples. Everyone is welcome. The house of the Lord is no one's property, and all of us need his help," Fr. Fitzpatrick replied. "I assure you that the post healed a lot of hurt that some, in the name of the Lord, caused and are causing to these people who are God's sons and daughters as much as those who sparked the issue."
"Who are we to exclude others?" the parish priest asked. "We are not urging anything, not promoting anything. We are just a welcome community."
Beattie, however, observed that "it is most unlikely that these "couples" Masses in Marsa will serve to exhort those "couples" living in an immoral, unnatural and irregular situation to live chastely according to immutable Catholic doctrine."
"It hence appears that we are already witnessing one of the first 'fruits' of the so-called 'Synod on Synodality,' and if this development in Malta is anything to go by, then we must beseech God to come to the aid of His Church, so gravely threatened by doubt, progressivist schism and rebellion, doctrinal confusion and downright error," Beattie warned.
He lamented Pope Francis' response to the dubia, calling it "confusing and ambiguous," adding "I can only express my bitter disappointment and dismay."
In his response, Beattie drew attention to an "open letter" to Pope Francis written by Fr. Joseph Illo, parish priest of Star of the Sea Church in San Francisco, California.
"My Papa Francesco, I must tell you that you are making my job as a parish priest difficult," Fr. Illo wrote in his blog after the pontiff's response to the cardinals' dubia was released. "When you promote homosexuality, Holy Father, you hurt me and my parish. When you do not speak clearly, you make my priestly task very difficult."
"You have said that two men cannot 'marry,' and that homosexual acts are wrong, but you also encourage bishops who bless same-sex unions," the priest remarked, citing the example of a college student from his parish from a Jesuit university who "married" another woman and later underwent gender reassignment surgery.
"But this college student points to you, Holy Father," Fr. Illo noted. "She says you permit blessings for homosexual unions in Germany, and that you favor priests and cardinals who promote homosexual relations. She knows that you have appointed a European cardinal who promotes homosexual unions to lead the synod."
"You are my spiritual father, Papa Francesco. Please know that you are hurting me and hurting my parish. We need you to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ clearly in a time of great confusion and hurt," the priest concluded. "If you do not teach this clearly, we parish priests cannot evangelize our people well, and all the people suffer."
On July 10, Cdls. Raymond Burke, Walter Brandmüller, Joseph Zen, Juan Sandoval Íñiguez and Robert Sarah presented a set of dubia to Pope Francis, asking for clarity on the issues of doctrinal development, the blessing of same-sex unions, the authority of the Synod on Synodality, women's ordination and sacramental absolution, Church Militant reported.