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VATICAN CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) - The pro-gay head of the German Bishops' Conference is firing back after the Vatican issued a declaration categorically ruling out the possibility of blessings for same-sex couples as "illicit" and "unlawful."
God "does not and cannot bless sin," the responsum ad dubium (reply to a doubt) published Monday by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith states unambiguously, responding to proposals for same-sex blessings being promoted in some ecclesial contexts.
The responsum declares it illicit to bless any partnership — even stable relationships that involve sexual activity — outside 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 document notes.
But 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 CDF insists that its ruling, approved by Pope Francis, "is not intended to be a form of unjust discrimination" but rather because "God loves every person and the Church does the same" it rejects "all unjust discrimination."
However, it reiterates that "the Church does not have, and cannot have, the power to bless unions of persons of the same sex" adding in an appended commentary 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."
The CDF responsum further explains that "sacramentals" require the "right intention" of recipients as well as necessitating that which is blessed to be "objectively and positively ordered to receive and express grace, according to the designs of God inscribed in creation and fully revealed by Christ the Lord."
"Therefore, only those realities which are in themselves ordered to serve those ends are congruent with the essence of the blessing imparted by the Church," the document states.
"The Vatican did well to reject blessings of same-sex unions and override Pope Francis's earlier remarks (at best confusing, at worse morally wrong)," remarked Prof. Robert Gagnon, a biblical scholar famous for his definitive book on The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics.
"However, their comment, 'the negative judgment on the blessing of unions of persons of the same sex does not imply a judgment on persons,' is confusing," Gagnon noted. "While it is true, as the commentary goes on to say, that 'men and women with homosexual tendencies "must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity,"' those who engage in egregious and unrepentant immoral conduct risk exclusion from God's kingdom (1 Cor 6:9-10)."
Chairman of the German Bishops' Conference Bp. Georg Bätzing hit back at the responsum within hours of its publication, arguing that such complex questions had "no easy answers."
Bätzing argued that the CDF had responded to the dubium "in the negative" on the basis of "Church teaching as reflected in several Roman documents."
However, "in Germany and in other parts of the Universal Church," Dr. Bätzing noted, "there have been discussions for a long time as to how this teaching and teaching development can generally be advanced with sound arguments — on the basis of fundamental truths of faith and morality, ongoing theological reflection and also in openness to newer results of the human sciences and the living situations of today's people."
The Synodal Path of the German Bishops' Conference "therefore endeavors to discuss the topic of successful relationships in a comprehensive way that also takes into account the necessity and the limits of Church teaching development," Bätzing insisted.
Renegade German bishops have stepped up their campaign for same-sex blessings since Germany legalized "gay marriage" in 2017, and many Protestant denominations capitulated to offering a blessing ceremony and, in some cases, even a full wedding.
"I'm not for 'marriage for all,' but if two homosexuals enter a same-sex relationship, if they want to take responsibility for each other, then I can bless this mutual responsibility," then auxiliary Bp. Dieter Geerlings of Münster said.
A month later, Bp. Franz-Josef Bode of Osnabrück suggested offering blessings to homosexuals who were civilly "married" and active in the church in order "to accompany them with pastoral care and in the liturgy."
The Central Committee of German Catholics called for same-sex blessings in 2015 to "build bridges between church doctrine on marriage and the family and the world that believers are living in today."
In 2019, German Cdl. Reinhard Marx insisted that homosexual couples can receive a blessing in the church "in the sense of pastoral care," qualifying that the blessing would not imply that the gay partnership was a marriage-like relationship.
Responding to the question of the pastoral care of homosexuals, a 1986 CDF letter explained that "an essential dimension of authentic pastoral care is the identification of causes of confusion regarding the Church's teaching."
The CDF letter warned of "gravely erroneous" scriptural exegesis "which claims variously that Scripture has nothing to say on the subject of homosexuality, or that it somehow tacitly approves of it, or that all of its moral injunctions are so culture-bound that they are no longer applicable to contemporary life."
Nineteen of the 20 regional churches of the mainline Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) began offering blessings for same-sex couples even before the state law changed, while five offer full church weddings after the law came into force.