Extraordinary response of some bishops to CDF ruling
Many German bishops, priests and theologians are not happy with Rome. They are opposed to a recent responsum released by the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith (CDF) which states that the Church lacks power to bless same-sex unions.
Even Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, himself a member of the CDF, has described the congregation’s handling of this topic as ‘a communication error’.
The Germanophones who are protesting the Church’s unchanged teaching believe the CDF’s upholding of doctrine ‘is marked by a paternalistic air of superiority and discriminates against homosexual people and their life plans.’
Choosing to distance themselves from the Vatican’s unyielding position, the Germans state that ‘the life and love of same-sex couples are not worth less before God than the life and love of any other couple.’
let me spell it out for you: every person – whatever their sexual attraction or gender identification may be at any given time – is welcome and has a home within the boundaries of the Catholic Church. Yes, everyone.
On the surface, the Church is being declared by some of its own leaders as bigoted, exclusive and hate-filled. And yet few news outlets have reported that the congregation’s note clearly distinguishes between the blessing of same-sex unions and the Catholic Church’s wholehearted welcoming and blessing of people who experience same-sex attraction, which it continues to resolutely uphold.
In case you, your loved ones, your friends and your colleagues have not heard this loudly and clearly, let me spell it out for you: every person – whatever their sexual attraction or gender identification may be at any given time – is welcome and has a home within the boundaries of the Catholic Church. Yes, everyone.
Let us not forget that Christ ‘came to call sinners’ and that the Church is first and foremost, as Pope Francis has stated, a ‘field hospital after battle’. Every soul is at war in the spiritual realms. We are either led away as captives to the world, the flesh and the devil, or we discover our truest selves in Christ who is the source of all life.
No fiercer battle is reiterated above others throughout Scripture than that of mastering the sins of the flesh. The CDF document argues that same-sex unions do not reflect God’s plan and that any sacramental recognition of them could be confused with marriage. Put simply, Catholic clergy cannot bless same-sex unions because God ‘cannot bless sin.’
The mystery that exists between one man and one woman in marriage, and the possible fruit of their union, cannot exist between two people of the same-sex, no matter how many laws are passed. At first glance, the CDF’s stance appears sterile and unmerciful.
This appears to be the Germans’ cri de coeur.
What is missing from this debate is the lived reality of individuals who are same-sex attracted and gender questioning across the globe, those who have faithfully entered the field hospital of the Church with the battle of their flesh still raging.
These men and women seek to submit the entirety of their lives to the Divine Surgeon. Their very personhood surrenders to Sacred Scripture, reflects upon and embraces the Living Magisterium, and engages with Sacred Tradition.
These often-invisible lives are those who quietly yet resolutely pursue holiness and who, usually after decades of falling back into sin and many visits to the confessional, manage to gain sight of their true God-given dignity aside from any sexual attraction or practice, LGBTQ+ label, or gender identity.
These saints-in-the-making are people alongside you in the church pews. Or maybe they lead a parish ministry. They could be your parish priest. Or even a bishop you know. Many have lived – and yes, have been loved – in a significant same-sex relationship but have been wooed by the mercy of God into a deeper understanding and revelation of the truth.
These audacious souls have dared to scratch beneath the surface of society’s glittered messaging and entertain challenging questions. They have rejected the empty promise that the blessing from a priest upon a same-sex union could provide the panacea to their lifelong desire to love and belong.
They have chosen rather to follow other sinners into the field hospital where they enter into the tomb with Christ to be resurrected with him at their appointed time. I think of ‘Adam’ who celebrated his same-sex civil partnership in the UK in 2009, later ‘marrying’ his male partner.
A decade later he was divorced and now, with the eyes of the Church, recognises that what he undertook was contrary to God and his own body’s design. Unlike the German bishops, who demand that a full portion of mercy be administered to same-sex attracted people outside of the context of truth, Adam prostrated his conscience before the Magisterium which has led him to enjoy life today above and beyond the faux-blessing of his long-term same-sex partnership.
As he often says to me, “True love does not ignore the truth and deny the facts.” The German bishops would do well to adhere to the words of Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa, who starkly warned senior churchmen of the Papal Household on Good Friday (see Page 15).
‘Pastors,’ he said, ‘need to be the first to make a serious examination of conscience.’ They ‘need to ask themselves where it is they are leading their flocks – to their position or to Jesus.’ Bishops might well be called to smell of the sheep, but the purpose of their crozier is to pull their flock away from any situation that threatens their eternal salvation. What the Germans are not realising is that their protest to reduce discrimination frighteningly increases it when it comes to the salvific journey of same-sex attracted people.
The only truly notable ‘communication error’ in this debate is not the CDF’s upholding of true marriage between one man and one woman. It is rather the failure of a unified German Church to administer an ocean of God’s mercy to every soul’s wayward sexual attractions whilst vibrantly upholding an unscathed vision of man’s God-given dignity, especially in the area of human sexuality.