In open defiance of the Vatican, Catholic bishops in Belgium on Tuesday announced the introduction of blessing ceremonies for same-sex couples in their dioceses.
The bishops of Flanders also published a liturgy for the celebration of homosexual unions.
“In doing so, they are going directly against the Vatican,” reported Nederlands Dagblad.
The Vatican published an official clarification in March 2021 that the Catholic Church does not have the power to give liturgical blessings of homosexual unions.
However, basing their argument on Amoris laetitia, Cardinal Jozef De Kesel of Mechelen-Brussels and other bishops of the Flemish-speaking part of Belgium on Sept. 20 published a document titled “Being pastorally close to homosexual persons — For a welcoming Church that excludes no one.”
The bishops’ publication contains a suggested liturgy for same-sex blessings, including prayers, Scripture reading, and parts in which the couple can “express before God how they are committed to one another.”
The bishops of the Flemish-speaking part of Belgium also announced that each diocese will appoint a person as “concrete response and fulfillment to the desire to give explicit attention to the situation of homosexual persons, their parents and families in the conduct of policy. Pope Francis also expressed this explicitly in his April 2016 apostolic exhortation on the pastoral care of families, Amoris laetitia (‘The Joy of Love’).”
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) issued its latest declaration on same-sex blessings on March 15, 2021, in a document known as a Responsum ad dubium (“Response to a question”).
In reply to the query, “Does the Church have the power to give the blessing to unions of persons of the same sex?” the CDF answered, “Negative.”
The Vatican statement, issued with the approval of Pope Francis, sparked protests and open defiance in the German-speaking Catholic world.
Organizers held a day of protest in response to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s declaration that the Church does not have the power to bless same-sex unions.
German priests and pastoral workers also openly defied the Vatican and conducted blessing ceremonies for same-sex couples.
In July, the secretary-general of the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK), said the Synodal Way — sometimes referred to as Synodal Path — was “a conscious statement against the current Catholic catechism, which has been critical and disparaging of homosexuality since the mid-1970s and still reproaches homosexual activity as sin.”
Several German bishops have recently come out in support of changes in Church teaching on sexuality and gender identity.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says: “The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided” (No. 2358).
It continues: “These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition” (No. 2358).
It adds: “Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection” (No. 2359).