The archbishop of Utrecht has urged that the Flemish bishops be asked to withdraw their statement introducing blessing ceremonies for same-sex couples, saying the practice undermines Church teaching.
“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,” Cardinal Willem Eijk of Utrecht wrote Sept. 27 in The New Daily Compass.
“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,” the cardinal stated.
“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.”
The bishops in Flanders published Sept. 20 a model liturgy for the celebration of homosexual unions.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith affirmed in March 2021 that the Church hasn’t the power to bless same-sex unions.
Eijk noted that “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,” Pope Francis’ 2016 apostolic exhortation on love in the family.
“Distinguish, accompany, and integrate remain the main keywords of Amoris Laetitia (chapter VIII), according to the Flemish bishops,” the cardinal wrote.
“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,” he added.
“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, that 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.”
Discussing inherent objections to same-sex blessings, Eijk first noted that sacramentals, which blessings are, are analogous to 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.”
A blessing, he added, supposes not only a good intention in the recipient but also that what is blessed corresponds “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,” he taught. “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, which marriage is essentially. 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 … it is not morally permissible to bless the homosexual relationship as such.”
Eijk noted that “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 wording of the community prayer in [the Flemish bishops’] liturgical model for the blessing of gay couples suggests that same-sex relationships can be morally justified,” he wrote.
“Indeed, at 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 relationship 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.”
The cardinal affirmed that “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 … will be led astray and begin to think that lasting, monogamous same-sex sexual relationships are morally acceptable.”