Is queer theology compatible with Catholicism?

— U.S. Catholic readers weigh in on how queer theology informs their faith.

By Caleb Murray

Growing up in a conservative evangelical church, the closest I came to understanding queer theology was in narrow, binary terms. Queer theology was theology that debated whether or not the Bible approved or disapproved of queer people. The boundary lines of queer theology mirrored other hot button issues (Abortion—good or bad? Homosexuality—good or bad?). The parameters of what counted as “queer” theology were so narrow (and laser-focused on sexual ethics) that the theological inquiry was effectively drained of all nuance; queer theology was reduced to a moral either/or.

As a straight, heterosexual teenager, I didn’t see myself in these debates, but I did have the nagging sense that—like the abortion debate—the militant my-side-is-right-ism was shortchanging a fascinating and complicated field. This leads me to an intentionally cheeky and provocative claim: There should be no “queer theology,” because all theology is queer. This statement may appear oxymoronic, self-defeating, or something else entirely. I say this not to erase a subfield of theological inquiry, but to reframe an entire field.

All theology is queer. So long as queerness stands for difference, inclusion, and creative upheaval, I will stand by my strange proclamation that all theology is, was, and will continue to be queer.

Scripture and millennia of interpretive tradition have revealed a queer God—a strange God, a mysterious God, a God of radical difference. In the incarnation, God obliterates metaphysics, mixing immanence and transcendence, spirit and matter. In the Eucharist, Catholics affirm a queer belief that accident, substance, and essence are transubstantiated. In mystical prayer, theologians have long queered and (mis)gendered the soul.

But what really is “queer?” Much like the concepts, identities, and orientations that it circumscribes, queerness is broadly and diversely defined by activists and academics alike. Difference (and difference of opinion) is all but baked into what it means to be queer and to define queer. To put it bluntly, for theorists and theologians, activists and self-identifying queer folks, queerness does not come with a one-size-fits-all definition.

Many thinkers and activists have shown how queerness might function as a creative or alternative mode of seeing and experiencing the world. Many philosophers, theologians, and gender theorists define queerness in opposition to the “norm”: For example, if heterosexuality is normative (the default social “norm”), then queerness is understood in the inverse (non-normative, countercultural, or transgressive). Such thinkers have argued quite convincingly that there’s a “problem with normal”: Try defining “normal” heterosexuality in a manner that would include every “straight” person, and you quickly realize that there is no stable category we might confidently label “normal.” Is a celibate, cisgender, heterosexual priest “normal?” Is it “unnatural” for a dad to raise his children while his wife works?

With questions such as these, one quickly realizes that there is no unitary “normal” out there. The observable reality of difference and diversity in the world pops the “normal” bubble. Queerness turns “normal” on its head and teaches us that none of us are very “normal,” and that is a good thing.

If queerness is about more than just same-sex attraction, what is queer theology? For many religious scholars, queer theology is—to put it simply and broadly—theology about queer people. As the theologian Linn Tonstad summarizes, “Queer theology [often] indicates theologies in which 1) sexuality and gender are discussed 2) in ways that affirm, represent, or apologize for queer persons.” Theologians, especially those who write and think along the lines of queer theology, ought to reaffirm the breadth of what queerness is and can be.

Queer theology isn’t just about gay and lesbian people; queer theology isn’t just about non-heterosexual sexual ethics; queer theology isn’t just about contemporary gender politics. Queer theology—if approached capaciously and with humility—is disruptive, creative, and new. Queer theology challenges us to look differently. Queer ways of thinking, inquiring, and arguing might undercut the very logic that attempts to demarcate, bracket, and contain Christian discourse. In useful, productive, or surprising ways, queer modes of knowing might destabilize rigid categories and stultifying traditions. Shouldn’t all theology do this? Doesn’t God exceed every feeble category we create? To pigeonhole queer modes of knowing to the self-contained box labeled “queer theology” is to shortchange Christian theology writ large.

To push this argument a step further, I do not think that theologians ought to merely “queer” theology by finding apologetic examples of homosocial belonging or same-sex love in church history and doctrine; they must acknowledge with humility and embrace with earnestness the possibility that Christian theology is always already queer.

Within scripture and the Christian tradition, readers may find apologetic resources, passages that affirm queer existence, and arguments of acceptance. For example, Romans 8:38 reminds us that nothing can separate us from God’s love. In Psalm 139 the poetic speaker declares that God knows everything about God’s creation, that God created humanity with love and intention, and that God will never abandon anyone. In no uncertain terms, 2 Corinthians 5:19 presents a theology of absolute forgiveness and generous reconciliation—ours is not a scorekeeping God, and in Christ God “no longer count[s] people’s sins against them.” But I am after something other than arguments of rebuttal.

To be clear, these are good resources, and I believe Bible verses that unequivocally affirm a God of infinite love and forgiveness eclipse the various passages pulled by bigots about pre-Judaic marriage law or the direction of fabric warp and weft. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. In my estimation, arguments of rebuttal represent a fraction of what queerness can do for Christian thought and practice. So, with this definition of queer in mind, is it really possible that all Christian theology is queer?

It is difficult to approach scripture and the Christian tradition from outside of “normal.” Indeed, the church has an entire category for the maintenance of normality and tradition: orthodoxy. Orthodoxy draws a line between things that are normal and things that are not—things that are inside the fold and things that are beyond the pale. However, if we try to read the Bible and experience the Christian tradition with new eyes and open hearts—our vision and attachment not yet bound by orthodoxy—we are reminded that Christianity and its sacred texts are often rather strange, abnormal, countercultural, and transgressive.

Reread the Beatitudes and they start to sound a little queer. Reconsider the Trinity and you start to see something homosocial or even homoerotic in its structure of mutuality and God’s self-desire for God’s self. Contemplate the sacred mystery, which revolves around transubstantiation, and you might catch a glimpse of an ineffable God who makes a habit of shattering our categories and expectations.

For hundreds of years Christians have gendered the soul. From medieval mystics to Protestant reformers, the male soul has often been theologized as feminine so that the soul might pursue a heterosexual union with Christ the bridegroom. If one’s sex, gender identity, and gender expression are thoroughly embodied, then it takes some mental gymnastics to “gender” the soul. Again, something queer is going on here. In order to avoid a gay spiritual union with Christ, there is a long tradition of cisgender men affirming the transgender status of their souls. Just as souls might transmigrate from earthly to heavenly bodies, the selective gendering of the embodied soul throws a queer wrench into the way things work. What is the line between material things and ideal objects? Where does spirit end and matter begin? Does the human man’s “female” soul retain its feminine identity, even after the man’s earthly, bodily death?

Queerness haunts the New Testament. Some might argue that Jesus and his male disciples share homosocial bonds—instances of camaraderie and same-sex intimacy, kisses, and declarations of love and fealty. But much of this is anachronistic, a ham-fisted projection of contemporary gender and sexuality categories onto misunderstood history.

But this cuts both ways. Categories are not static. Words and meanings shift over time. Take the creation myths for example. Genesis gives us two conflicting accounts of creation. In one telling, God creates a singular, androgynous human. In another, God creates Man and Woman. This certainly says something about the theological rigor of the “it’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve” polemicists who pick a few passages from Genesis while ignoring neighboring paragraphs. Queer theology should not fall for the same reductionism. Instead, queer theology should champion complicated, conflicting, and category-busting inquiry.

Queer theology isn’t about cherry-picking passages that support one’s agenda while ignoring verses that don’t. Indeed, there are passages of scripture that do not square with contemporary LGBTQ politics. I am not after a simple apologetics that “prove” the moral acceptability of certain gender identities and sexual preferences once and for all. Queer theology, as a broader project, should encourage creative, surprising, and even upsetting ways of looking at scripture and tradition.

Queerness—its categorization and its conventions, its advocates and its malcontents—has much to offer Christian thought and practice. The apologists and the bigots will continue to lob their scripture verses at each other, but it is my hope that sincere followers of Christ will listen to queerness’s countervailing promise. It is the promise of approaching things differently, seeing old ideas in a new light, reencountering ancient practices with an openness to renewed life and a future marked by greater justice, lasting peace, and unbridled love. Christ’s ministry witnesses to the queer workings of the divine. His message is and was disruptive, contrarian, and mystifying. Christ’s message to his contemporaries speaks to us today: What you take to be normal might just be average. Don’t settle, you deserve abundant life.

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Catholic Church

— The most important stories from the Vatican in 2023


In a year that began with the funeral of his predecessor, Pope Francis, who marked the 10th anniversary of his own election in March, stepped up his reforms of the Catholic Church, and by year’s end he could point to a series of wins in shoring up Vatican finances, reducing corruption and enacting his plan for a more welcoming and inclusive church. He had also marginalised several outspoken critics.

But 2023 also exposed the weaknesses of this pontificate. Under Francis, the church continued to stumble in dealing with sexual abuse, extending the perception the hierarchy still doesn’t take the problem seriously. Despite concerted diplomatic efforts, the Pope failed to project real influence over foreign affairs, especially in the major conflicts in Ukraine and the Mideast. His age and his medical scares, meanwhile, had many Vatican players considering a church under Francis’ own successor.

Vatican St Peters Synod 291023
Pope Francis presides over a Mass for the closing of the 16th General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, in St Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, on 29th October, 2023.


But as the following top stories of 2023 from the Vatican show, Francis steadily made news by pushing his vision for the church despite the challenges.

1. Pope Francis strengthens his position inside the Vatican and beyond
For much the first 10 years as pontiff, Pope Francis lived in the shadow of the previous pope living inside the Vatican. With Pope Benedict XVI’s funeral on 5th January, Francis was finally able to move past the Benedict era, cementing his legacy while eliminating opposition in and outside the Vatican.

In early January, papal critic Cardinal George Pell died in a Roman hospital due to complications from hip replacement surgery. Pell had issued memos to fellow prelates calling Francis’ pontificate “a catastrophe.”

In June, Francis sent a delegation to investigate the diocese of Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas, a vocal opponent of Francis’ pontificate, and in August rapped his American conservative critics for, he said, replacing faith with ideology. By November, Strickland had been fired from his post, and soon after the Pope removed Cardinal Raymond Burke, who had replaced Pell as the de facto leader of conservative opposition, from his Vatican apartment and took away the cardinal’s stipend.

The Pope also solidified his position at the Vatican by appointing a close friend and fellow Argentine, Monsignor Victor Manuel Fernández, to lead the Discastery of the Doctrine of the Faith. Francis later made Fernández a cardinal, along with 20 others. The Pope has now appointed a majority of the cardinals who will elect his successor.

Pope Francis adjusts his skull cap at the end of his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at The Vatican, on Wednesday, 15th March, 2023
Pope Francis adjusts his skullcap at the end of his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, on 15th March, 2023. Francis passed his 10th anniversary as Pope on 13th March.


2. The Synod on Synodality shows a new way to govern the church
The month of October saw a major summit of Catholic bishops and lay individuals at the Vatican, called the Synod on Synodality, convened by Francis to address issues raised by worldwide listening sessions in local dioceses. The gathering considered questions ranging from LGBTQ inclusion to female ordination to church structure.

Ahead of the summit, in April, Francis made an unprecedented decision to allow lay Catholics, including women, to have a vote at the synod. Its lively discussions were for the most part kept under wraps at the Pope’s urging, but reports showed that the most time was spent on the roles of women and laypeople.

The final document emerging from the synod did not usher in the sweeping changes some had hoped for – and others had feared. Instead, it suggested that synodality, a way of governing the church through dialogue, was the church’s future. While the Catholic world waits for the second part of the summit, scheduled to take place next fall, it’s up to the Pope to discern and guide its impact.

3. The church moves toward LGBTQ acceptance
Beginning with his famous 2013 response to a question about LGBTQ Catholics – “Who am I to judge?” – Francis has signaled a new acceptance despite church teaching about homosexuality. In an interview with The Associated Press in January, the Pope stated that “being homosexual isn’t a crime.”

A June document summarising the discussions at the synod called for the “radical inclusion” of LGBTQ Catholics, underscoring the importance of this topic to many Catholics around the world. Francis had invited Rev James Martin, a prominent advocate for LGBTQ inclusion in the church, to take part in the gathering.

In a written response to a series of questions by five conservative cardinals in October, Francis opened the door for the blessing of same-sex couples. In December, a declaration by the Vatican’s department for doctrine sanctioned priests to bless same-sex and “irregular” couples, provided the practice not resemble a wedding.

In another document by the doctrinal department, the Vatican approved trans individuals for baptism and to act as godparents. A trans community from the outskirts of Rome was invited to join the Pope for his yearly lunch for the poor at the Vatican.

Russian Orthodox clergy and Patriarch Kirill, right side of table, meet with Cardinal Matteo Zuppi and Roman Cathoic delegates at the Patriarchal Residence in Danilov Monastery, in Moscow, Russia, on Thursday, 29th June, 2023
Russian Orthodox clergy and Patriarch Kirill, right side of table, meet with Cardinal Matteo Zuppi and Roman Catholic delegates at the patriarchal residence in Danilov Monastery, in Moscow, on 29th June, 2023.

4. A Pope between two wars
Francis has been active in his efforts to promote peace in Ukraine and the Holy Land. In May, he appointed the president of the Italian bishops conference, Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, to act as peace envoy in Ukraine. The cardinal visited Kyiv, Moscow, Washington and Beijing to offer mediation in the conflict and joined with other religious representatives to make an appeal for peace.

But Francis was harshly criticised for praising the imperial past of the tsars while speaking to Russian students in August, and his refusal to assign blame to one side or the other in the Ukraine war caused backlash and frustrated his diplomatic outreach. Meanwhile, his use of the term “terrorism” to describe the activities of both Israel and Hamas in the Middle East was met with anger and dismay by some.

5. The shadow of sexual abuse in the Rupnick case
Rev Marko Rupnik, a Jesuit artist who was expelled from his congregation after credible accusations of sexual, spiritual and psychological abuse of adult women,deeply divided the church and underlined the challenges that remain in the institution’s handling of sex abuse cases. The Diocese of Rome, led by Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, had to issue a formal apology for allowing the priest to remain active in his parish despite the accusations against him.

6. A historic sentence for a historic Vatican trial
Closing the year, a Vatican tribunal sentenced nine individuals – including Cardinal Angelo Becciu – with punishments ranging from fines to significant prison time for their various roles in a controversial real estate deal that had cost the Vatican millions. It was the first time a cardinal was tried and convicted of financial crimes in the church, signaling a new era in the Vatican’s financial reform efforts.

Though many of the accused will appeal, the sentences, after a trial that lasted almost three years, were interpreted as a decisive win for the Pope and his reforms of the Vatican’s notoriously corrupt and mismanaged finances.

7. Health scares curb papal visits
In March, Francis was admitted to the hospital for a respiratory infection that caused him to skip liturgical functions and celebrations. In June, Francis underwent a hernia surgery and had to stay at the hospital for nine days. He was sick again in November with an inflammation of the lungs, which kept him from attending the COP28 summit for the environment in Dubai. But despite his ailments, Francis, who turned 87 in December, shows few signs of slowing down.

Complete Article HERE!

Gay marriage debate still rages in religious circles.

— Here’s why.

By Ryan Sanders

Last week, Pope Francis announced that the Catholic Church will allow priests to bless same-sex couples, a move that is already drawing a ferocious backlash. That same day, The New York Times published another report on the slow-motion implosion of the nation’s second-largest Protestant denomination, largely over the issue of gay marriage and LGBTQ rights. While the legal standard of marriage equality in America was decided in 2015 with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell vs. Hodges, debate in the religious sector still rages.

That’s because in these circles, the highest authority isn’t the Constitution, it’s the Bible; and the issue of marriage isn’t just about equality or progress, it’s about interpretation of ancient Greek and Hebrew texts.

Eight years is plenty of time to establish legal precedent, but in the project of redefining an institution that has lasted millennia, it’s the blink of an eye.

Having worked in church ministry for a decade, I’m familiar enough with the arguments around this issue to offer a short explanation of them. I’ll seek to be fair to all sides.

Both testaments of the Bible contain condemnations of gay sexual behavior. In the Hebrew Bible, the practice is explicitly forbidden: “Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman,” Leviticus commands its male readers. In the New Testament, it’s issued as a warning: “Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” Gay sexual activity is variously labeled detestable, unnatural, or an abomination depending on the translation. In fact, nowhere does the Bible mention homosexuality in a favorable light. Reflecting those teachings, the modern Vatican has pronounced gay sex “intrinsically disordered.”

But there’s more nuance in this issue than it may seem. Eight years after Obergefell, the various interpretations of these passages have sorted the faithful into several overlapping factions.

Behavior vs. identity

One dividing line is about proclivity. There are generally three camps here.

Camp 1: Homosexuality is sin

Not only is gay sexual activity condemned in the Bible, but so is the desire for it. This isn’t explicit in any biblical text, but this camp infers it.

Backing off the popular 1980s talking point that sexual orientation is a choice, this group has shifted the choice issue away from attraction to identity. They assert that if orientation isn’t a choice, embracing it is. A Christian who experiences same sex attraction shouldn’t identify as gay. They should reject that identity and fight the gay agenda that seeks to normalize homosexuality.

This is the camp that has produced conversion therapy programs that seek to “pray the gay away.” This is also the camp that most often makes arguments about church purity, asserting that the presence of gay people in the church endangers children or dilutes the church’s witness.

This camp can’t condone LGBTQ people in any sort of church leadership.

Camp 2: The Bible condemns gay sex, but not gay people

Sexual desire toward a person of the same sex should be treated like any sexual desire. It should be categorized under “temptation” and kept under control.

Indeed, there are many places where the Bible preaches this very thing, regardless of gender or circumstance. The faithful are told to “flee from sexual immorality,” “make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires,” “abstain from sexual immorality” and “put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.”

For people in this camp, orientation itself is not sinful, but succumbing to temptation is. But there’s one big caveat: since no sexual activity outside heterosexual marriage between co-religionists can be condoned, that means celibacy for the gay Christian. This camp promotes what are called “Side B” Christians: openly gay and celibate.

It also means this camp can support ordaining gay celibate ministers.

Camp 3: The Bible doesn’t condemn monogamous gay relationships

This camp is small and often misunderstood. Opponents of this view often assume that departing from a traditional view of marriage means abandoning Biblical teaching. But people in this camp point out that there are extenuating circumstances in many (though not all) of the Bible passages that condemn gay sex.

For instance, in the famous story of God’s judgment at Sodom — the passage from which we get our word sodomy — there were several awful things going on, not least of which was gang rape.

So biblical injunctions against gay sex are really about other things like rape, pederasty, promiscuity, excess, idolatry, syncretism or even being inhospitable. Monogamous gay marriages weren’t part of the cultural imagination for the Bible’s human authors. They can be blessed by Bible-affirming churches.

This camp sometimes notes how uneven biblical examples of marriage are. For instance, polygamy is common in the Old Testament with no condemnation of the practice. So are arranged marriages. And there’s no small amount of hypocrisy in modern Christians who oppose gay marriage laws but do not oppose no-fault divorce laws.

A related topic here is the degree to which ancient culture may have influenced the writers of sacred texts. That’s an important point though a fraught one because it opens other large topics for debate: namely, the authority of Scripture itself, the authority of church leaders (or anyone else) to interpret it, and the question of whether modern culture is influencing a more inclusive interpretation.

Civil vs. religious marriage

Parallel to the debate over behavior and identity, there’s another dispute over the definition of marriage and who gets to choose it. Here, there are at least four camps. Maybe more.

Camp 1: Marriage must align with traditional biblical interpretation

God has given us moral standards for our own good. Societies thrive when they follow them. A nation whose laws and customs adhere to biblical standards will be a nation with less injustice and more flourishing. Therefore, society should define marriage the way the Bible defines it.

This approach often leaves little room for minority biblical interpretations like those from Camp 3 above, and often leads Christians to wage culture war.

Camp 2: The traditional Christian view of marriage must compete in a marketplace of worldviews

God has given us moral standards for our own good, but to impose those standards on a society where not everyone is Christian contradicts the meaning of free exercise. Faith cannot be coerced. In a pluralist society, a nation must define its own standards of good behavior. If religious people want those standards to adhere to their sacred text, they can influence the cultural debate like any other group.

This approach often leads Christians to support organizations that promote strong marriages and healthy families within the church.

Camp 3: Christians shouldn’t expect governments to affirm their beliefs

On many issues, not just marriage, Christians should not expect the moral standards of their nation to match their own. The church was always meant to be a minority voice, “salting” society with a countercultural way to live.

This approach allows Christians to embrace legal standards for gay marriage, while rejecting it in their faith communities. People in this camp see no reason the church’s definition of marriage should match the government’s.

Some readers might be surprised to learn that this was the approach favored by the famous apologist C.S. Lewis. Though the context was divorce, not gay marriage, Lewis wrote, “There ought to be two distinct kinds of marriage: one governed by the State with rules enforced on all citizens, the other governed by the Church with rules enforced by her on her own members. The distinction ought to be quite sharp, so that a man knows which couples are married in a Christian sense and which are not.”

People in this camp may see an opening for churches to “bless” unions endorsed by the government without upending church doctrine.

Camp 4: The traditional way is not the loving way

The church must reexamine its doctrine of marriage and bring it up to date.

Redefining marriage to include LGBTQ people is not a diversion from biblical teaching but a reclamation of the biblical message of love that has been stained by ancient patriarchy or Victorian prudishness.

Churches in this camp are often described as “gay-affirming” and preach that the Bible’s message of love is Christianity’s central theme and overrides competing passages about sexual ethics, which are culturally bound.

Slippery slopes

Finally, there is a debate over the church’s purity.

The traditionalist blogger Luigi Casalini called the pope’s announcement heresy last week. “The church is crumbling,” he wrote. Another called it “an invitation to schism.” Indeed, a 2021 missive from the Vatican’s own department of doctrine said the church couldn’t bless gay unions because “God cannot bless sin.”

The logic here is that people in same sex unions are openly embracing behavior the Bible condemns. The church can’t bless that attitude, just as it can’t bless an open marriage or the marriage of two atheists. The issue is not sexual orientation, it’s alignment with the church’s core beliefs.

The counter argument is worth mentioning: All people in all unions are sinners, and churches seem to have no qualms about blessing the marriage of a man and woman who both drink too much, for instance, or who cheat on their taxes, or who hate their enemies, without contrition.

When you start withholding sacraments as a strategy for behavior modification, you lose the grace that underlies the sacraments.

Still, many who may agree with blessing gay unions rather than performing gay marriages may fear that one will lead to the next.


These three debates are independent of one another. Being in the most conservative camp on one issue doesn’t necessarily place you there on another issue, though there is certainly lots of overlap on that Venn diagram.

It also must be said that each of these views can be held in good faith by people of genuine devotion. Being in Camp 1 doesn’t make you a homophobic hatemonger, and being in Camp 3 doesn’t make you a godless apostate.

Do bigots and apostates use theology as cover? Of course. But these kinds of debates require precision, not bad faith assumptions.

Finally, as should be clear by now, these ideas are debated only among people who must square their lifestyles and viewpoints with the Bible. Adherents to other religions have their own, similar conflicts (the Quran also condemns gay behavior, for instance). And secular readers aren’t affected. In fact, to someone who doesn’t recognize any moral authority in the Bible, all of these arguments must seem hopelessly backward.

For each of the viewpoints above, there are mountains of writing and research: points, counterpoints, sermons and tomes. There are also lots of related topics that get pulled into these debates, from anthropology to tax exemptions.

But these are the undercurrents of the conflict. When churches split or priests vent about marriage and sexuality, these are the waters they are treading. They are troubled waters, indeed.

Complete Article HERE!

Joy and alarm in bishops’ responses to Fiducia Supplicans

— Many bishops issued clarifications following local reaction to the document, but these varied considerably in their explanation of the text.

The Palazzo del Sant’Uffizio, seat of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith.

By Patrick Hudson , Munyaradzi Makoni

Bishops across the world have issued responses to last week’s publication of a Vatican document on blessings for couples in “irregular” relationships, Fiducia Supplicans.

Numerous bishops, particularly in Europe and the US, welcomed the document’s “new idea” of blessings, though many emphasised that it did not provide approval for any “irregular” situation, including same-sex couples.

The document’s chief author Cardinal Víctor Fernández, the prefect of the Dicastery of the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF), said that Fiducia Supplicans recognised “the possibility of blessing couples in irregular situations and same-sex couples without officially validating their status or changing in any way the Church’s perennial teaching on marriage”.

Many bishops issued clarifications following local reaction to the document, but these varied considerably in their explanation of the text.

The Archbishop of Salzburg Franz Lackner, who heads the Austrian bishops’ conference, told the public broadcaster Österreichischer Rundfunk that it meant that priests “can no longer say no” when asked for a blessing by any couple.

He expressed “joy” at the recognition that “love, loyalty, and even hardship are shared with one another” in irregular couples.

Lackner’s German counterpart, Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg, similarly emphasised that the document “points to the pastoral importance of a blessing that cannot be refused upon personal request”, while in France the Archbishop of Sens and Auxerre Hervé Giraud said that it promotes “another idea of blessing, a blessing of growth and not a blessing of pure recognition”.

“I myself could give a blessing to a same-sex couple, because I believe it’s based on a beautiful idea of blessing, according to the Gospel and the style of Christ,” Archbishop Giraud told La Croix.

“Pope Francis is trying to move away from the simple ‘permit-prohibit’ to place people under God’s gaze in order to lead them back to safer paths. Blessing opens these safer paths.”

In the Philippines, the president of the bishops’ conference Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Kalookan issued a statement welcoming Fiducia Supplicans on 20 December, saying it was “clear in its content and intent” and “does not require much explanation”.

This followed a notice of “episcopal guidance” issued by Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan on 19 December, detailing “categories of blessings” to which the DDF document had now added “blessings of mercy”.

He said that “asking for mercy is a request for pity and for remedy” and that “when a Catholic priest prays a blessing of mercy on a couple in an irregular situation…he is asking God to have pity on both of them and to give them the grace of conversion so that they can regularise their relationships”.

In a letter to all African and Madagascan bishops dated 20 December, Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo, president of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), requesting their assistance in composing “a single synodal declaration, valid for the whole African Church” on Fiducia Supplicans.

“The ambiguity of [Fiducia Supplicans], which is open to many interpretations and manipulations, causes much confusion among the faithful and I believe that, as pastors of the Church in Africa, we must express clarity on this question in order to give a clear direction to our Christians,” he said.

Cardinal Ambongo’s letter came after African bishops had made a variety of responses to the document.

Malawi’s bishops published a four-point clarification, “having noted certain erroneous interpretations of this declaration that have generated interest, fears and worries amongst Catholics and people who look up to the Catholic Church for moral, spiritual and doctrinal guidance”.

It emphasised that Fiducia Supplicans upholds existing teaching on marriage and does not allow blessings on same-sex unions as such, concluding that “to avoid creating confusion among the faithful, we direct that for pastoral reasons, blessings of any kind and for same-sex unions of any kind, are not permitted in Malawi”.

Bishops in neighbouring Zambia issued a similar directive, saying that the document should be “taken as for further reflection and not for implementation in Zambia”.

In Cameroon, a statement signed by the bishops’ conference president Archbishop Fuanya Nkea of Bamenda condemned “semantic abuses designed to distort the value of realities and the true meaning of the notions of family, couple, spouse, sexuality and marriage”.

Declaring total opposition to homosexuality, it said that “differentiating between liturgical and non-liturgical contexts in order to apply the blessing to same-sex ‘couples’ is hypocritical” and forbid all such blessings.

Few other bishops on the continent issued such explicit prohibitions, though most emphasised that “you are blessing the people and not the union”, in the words of Bishop Matthew Kwasi Gyamfi of Sunyani, president of the Ghanaian bishops’ conference.

“In blessing persons, we do not bless the immoral actions they may perform but hope that the blessing and prayers offered over them as human persons will provoke them to conversion and to return to the ways of the Lord,” the Kenyan bishops’ conference said in its response.

A statement signed by the president of the Southern African Catholic Bishops Bishop Sithembele Sipuka of Umtata said: “The document makes it clear that it is not putting forward a change of doctrine about marriage to include people of the same sex.”

The statement said that Fiducia Supplicans “may be taken as a guide with prudence” and said the conference “will guide further on how such a blessing may be requested and granted to avoid the confusion the document warns against”.

Bishops in Burkina Faso made a similar commitment to further clarification in future.

In the US, many episcopal responses to Fiducia Supplicans were concerned with what Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver said was the failure of “the secular media to accurately report what was written in the document”.

He was typical in emphasising that such blessings “can never be seen as legitimising sin” and “should be done with discretion, preferably privately to avoid scandal and confusion”.

A response from the United States’ Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) focused on the “distinction between liturgical (sacramental) blessings, and pastoral blessings, which may be given to persons who desire God’s loving grace in their lives”, as articulated in the document.

“The Church’s teaching on marriage has not changed, and this declaration affirms that, while also making an effort to accompany people through the imparting of pastoral blessings because each of us needs God’s healing love and mercy in our lives,” it said.

In a statement to his Archdiocese of Boston, Cardinal Seán O’Malley emphasised that the Pope “has not endorsed gay marriage” but provided “clarity to how to impart [God’s] blessings”.

“Priests imparting these blessings need to be careful that it should not become a liturgical or semi-liturgical act, similar to a sacrament,” he said.

Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago said that the approach espoused in Fiducia Supplicans “will help many more in our community feel the closeness and compassion of God”.

Bishop David Walkowiak of Grand Rapids, Michigan, said that the document “reaffirms an appropriate pastoral response to people who express a request for these prayers”.

“These spontaneous, private prayers and blessings are given routinely. They are nothing new,” he said.

Bishop Robert Barron of Winnona-Rochester, in his capacity as chairman of the USCCB Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth, issued a statement affirming that “the declaration does not constitute a ‘step’ toward ratification of same-sex marriage nor a compromising of the Church’s teaching regarding those in irregular relationships”.

It was, he said, “very much congruent with Pope Francis’s long-held conviction that those who do not live up to the full demand of the Church’s moral teaching are nevertheless loved and cherished by God and invited to accept the Lord’s offer of forgiveness”.

In a letter to the priests of the Dioceses of Trondheim and Tromsø in Norway, Bishop Erik Varden OCSO said that their “ability to combine responsible theological intelligence with Chrisian charity and pastoral tact” was key to the request in Fiducia Supplicans for “pastoral sensibility”.

He noted the “sincerity, humility, and strength” of Catholics who ask for a blessing at Mass when they cannot receive communion as an instance of blessing individuals in irregular circumstances.

Bishop Varden said that the document provided criteria for the application of “pastoral blessings”, emphasising that they should be private without any “legitimising” intention.

Considering its reference to Scripture, he argued that “a Biblical blessing is rarely an affirmation of a status quo” but instead “confers a call to set out, to be converted”, outlining instances of Christ’s “manifested sternness” which “must count as paradigms of pastoral blessing”.

A response from the Polish bishops’ conference, while not criticising the DDF, expressed serious reservations about the blessings, saying that “avoiding confusion and scandal is virtually impossible” when blessing same-sex couples.

The statement made extensive reference to the Vatican’s 2021 responsum which excluded any possibility of blessing same-sex unions, concluding that “individual people living in complete abstinence” could be blessed “in a private way, outside the liturgy and without any analogy to sacramental rites”.

The Roman Catholic bishops of Ukraine issued a statement on 19 December in response to “a storm of reactions and misunderstandings regarding questions of morality and doctrine” in Fiducia Supplicans.

They criticised its “ambiguous wording”, finding that “merciful acceptance of [a sinner] and express disapproval of his sin is not very clearly visible in the text”.  They also argued that same-sex relationships and irregular heterosexual relationships should not be considered in the same way.

“What we missed in the document is that the Gospel calls sinners to conversion, and without a call to abandon the sinful life of homosexual couples, the blessing can look like approval,” the statement said.

The head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church said that Fiducia Supplicans had “no legal force” on Ukrainian Catholics, as it “interprets the pastoral meaning of blessings in the Latin Church, not the Eastern Catholic Churches”.

In a communiqué on 22 December, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk said that his Church had a distinct understanding of blessings, drawn from “its own liturgical, theological, canonical, and spiritual heritage”.

Within this tradition, “the blessing of a priest or bishop is a liturgical gesture that cannot be separated from the rest of the content of the liturgical rites” and “has an evangelising and catechetical dimension [so] can in no way contradict the teaching of the Catholic Church about the family as a faithful, indissoluble, and fertile union of love between a man and a woman”.

“Pastoral discernment urges us to avoid ambiguous gestures, statements, and concepts that would distort or misrepresent God’s word and the teachings of the Church,” the communiqué concluded.

A statement from the Archdiocese of Astana in Kazakhstan was exceptional in its explicit criticism of Pope Francis, claiming that he had departed from the “truth of the Gospel” and asking him “to revoke the permission to bless couples in an irregular situation and same-sex couples”.

The statement, signed by Archbishop Tomash Peta and his auxiliary Bishop Athanasius Schneider, warned of “the great deception and the evil that resides in the very permission to bless [such] couples”, calling such a blessing “a most serious abuse of the Holy Name of God”.

“Therefore, none, not even the most beautiful, of the statements contained in this declaration of the Holy See can minimise the far-reaching and destructive consequences resulting from the effort to legitimise such blessings.”

Archbishop Peta and Bishop Schneider said that these would make the Church “a propagandist of the globalist and ungodly ‘gender ideology’” and prohibited any such blessings in the archdiocese.

Cardinal Gerhard Müller, the former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (now the DDF), published a lengthy criticism of Fiducia Supplicans, denying the validity of “pastoral blessings” bestowed by priests as distinct from Church teaching – and calling it “a sacrilegious and blasphemous act” for a priest to attempt such.

“Given the unity of deeds and words in the Christian faith, one can only accept that it is good to bless [irregular] unions, even in a pastoral way, if one believes that such unions are not objectively contrary to the law of God,” he said.

“It follows that as long as Pope Francis continues to affirm that homosexual unions are always contrary to God’s law, he is implicitly affirming that such blessings cannot be given.”

Amid such reactions, comment from the Vatican focused on the document’s basis in tradition.  Prof Rocco Buttiglione of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences wrote on Vatican News that Fiducia Supplicans was “almost a revolution” but “every authentic revolution is also simultaneously a return to the origins, the missionary presence of Christ in human history”.

He said that the blessings had a “paternal” character which provided “a response to a specific pastoral urgency of our time”, recognising the “rebellious belonging” of many who are bonded to the Church.

Cardinal Fernández maintained that his document wholly affirmed the Church’s teaching on marriage, but said that “does not prevent us from making a gesture of paternity and closeness, otherwise we can become judges who condemn from a pedestal”.

He told US-based news site The Pillar that the “pastoral blessing” outlined in the text was like that offered to any sinner, emphasising the need “to grow in the conviction that non-ritualised blessings are not a consecration of the person, they are not a justification of all his actions, they are not a ratification of the life he leads”.

“I do not know at what point we have so exalted this simple pastoral gesture that we have equated it with the reception of the Eucharist,” he said. “That is why we want to set so many conditions for blessing.”

Fiducia Supplicans prohibits liturgies for the “spontaneous” blessings of couples, and Cardinal Fernández explained that “ritualised forms of blessing irregular couples” were “inadmissible”, specifying Germany as an instance where bishops needed “clarifications” from the DDF.

Regarding the ambivalent or hostile reception of the document in Africa and elsewhere, he said that “prudence and attention to local culture could admit different ways of application, but not a total denial of this step being asked of priests”.

He said he recognised the concerns of bishops in Africa and Asia, particularly in countries where homosexuality is illegal, and emphasised that each was responsible for the document’s interpretation within his diocese.

“What is important is that these bishops’ conferences are not holding a doctrine different from that of the declaration signed by the Pope, because it is the same doctrine as always, but rather they state the need for study and discernment, in order to act with pastoral prudence in this context,” the cardinal said.

Pope Francis reportedly said that the document insisted that “people must be welcomed” in the Church but it did not affect the doctrine of marriage.

“It does not involve the sacrament of marriage. It doesn’t change the sacrament,” he told priests at a meeting in Rome on 21 December, according to Fr Antonio Vettorato FdCC.

Complete Article HERE!

Pope has blessed.

— What about Church?

For the LGBTQ+ community, the Pope’s inclusive tone may come as a Christmas blessing, but with caveats and mixed reactions, its impact on everyday life remains uncertain, given the restrictions on gay rights in many countries.

By Stanley Carvalho

The recent approval by Pope Francis allowing priests to bless unmarried and same-sex couples appears to mark a significant change of stance for the Catholic Church. It aligns with his longstanding viewpoint since his election as Pope. The latest declaration is likely to be interpreted in different ways, with some reading much into it.

For the LGBTQ+ community, the Pope’s inclusive tone may come as a Christmas blessing, but with caveats and mixed reactions, its impact on everyday life remains uncertain, given the restrictions on gay rights in many countries.

The Vatican document made public on December 18 allows Roman Catholic priests to administer blessings to same-sex couples, provided they are not part of regular Church rituals or liturgies nor given in contexts related to civil unions or weddings.

The document referred to “the possibility of blessings for couples in irregular situations and same-sex couples without officially validating their status or changing in any way the Church’s perennial teaching on marriage.”

It noted that priests should decide on a case-to-case basis and should not prevent or prohibit the Church’s closeness to people in every situation in which they might seek God’s help through a simple blessing. This effectively means authorising priests to offer non-sacramental blessings to same-sex couples, and the blessings should in no way resemble a wedding, which the Church teaches can only happen between a man and a woman.

It must be pointed out that the Vatican holds that marriage is an indissoluble union between man and woman and has long opposed same-sex marriage. The Pope’s ruling is seen widely as a landmark one, a historic shift in the Church’s thinking, but it is not quite the case; it is more like old wine in a new bottle!

Since his election as head of the Catholic Church in 2013, Pope Francis has adopted a conciliatory tone towards the LGBTQ+ community, much to the dismay of conservatives, both the clergy and the laity.

In his early days as Pope, when asked about gay priests, his response was, “Who am I to judge?”.

In the 2020 documentary film Francesco, the Pope called for civil union laws for same-sex couples. It was perhaps his clearest and most emphatic statement on the issue. But in 2021, the Pope, shockingly, approved a Vatican document that ruled against blessing same-sex unions. That negative ruling is now overturned.

Moreover, the latest ruling is, in some ways, a recognition of what has been going on in some European parishes for years, where same-sex couples receive blessings in open worship services, as testified by some priests.

However, Pope Francis’s ruling to document his approval marks a step forward that sends out a message of tolerance and inclusivity to places where LGBTQ+ people are discriminated against or even criminalised for entering into relationships.

In fact, Catholic bishops in certain countries support laws that discriminate against LGBTQ+ people and criminalise same-sex relationships, something the Pope himself acknowledged earlier this year, saying that such bishops need a process of conversion.
Commenting on the ruling on X (formerly Twitter), Fr. James Martin, an American Jesuit priest who administers to
the LGBTQ+ community, termed the document “a major step forward.”

The document, he said, “recognises the deep desire in many Catholic same-sex couples for God’s presence in their loving relationships. Along with many priests, I will now be delighted to bless my friends in same-sex unions.”

While there will be challenges in several countries that oppose same-sex relationships, the bigger challenge could be within the Catholic church and community itself. The conservatives are likely to see the Pope’s ruling as conflicting with the traditional church doctrine that is opposed to “sinful relationships.”

Ulrich Lehner, Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame, denounced the Vatican declaration as the most unfortunate public announcement in decades.

“Its imprecise language invites misunderstanding and will sow confusion. Moreover, some bishops will use it as a pretext to do what the document explicitly forbids, especially since the Vatican has not stopped them before. It is—and I hate to say it—an invitation to schism,” he said in a statement widely publicised.

It would be naïve to think that the Pope’s declaration will not be interpreted in different ways in the coming days. There is bound to be some misunderstanding and confusion, as Professor Lehner noted. The subject is likely to generate much discussion across the world.

However, regardless of the reactions and interpretations, what rings out loud is Pope Francis’s consistent stance on extending a larger welcome to LGBTQ+ and same-sex people. Only this time the emphasis is on blessing, the distinction between a simple pastoral blessing and a liturgical blessing, and the many contexts in which they occur.

Complete Article HERE!