‘Anti-pope.’ ‘Blasphemous.’

— Criticism of Francis comes in strident terms.

Gerhard Müller receives his biretta cap, making him a cardinal, from Pope Francis in February 2014. Today, he is one of Francis’s leading critics.

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Pope Francis is facing some of the most vociferous objection to papal authority in decades, in language that might have stunned past popes.

German Cardinal Gerhard Müller derided the pope’s new guidance allowing priests to bless same-sex couples as “blasphemy.” One Italian priest found himself rapidly excommunicated after he referred to Francis in his New Year’s Eve homily as an “anti-Pope usurper” with a “cadaverous gaze, into nothingness.” Still holding on to his title is Italian Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, who recently dubbed the pontiff a servant of Satan and announced a seminary to train priests free from the “deviations of Bergoglio” (Francis’s name before becoming pope).

Some of this resentment is long-simmering. Almost as long as he’s been pope, Francis has been confronted by dissenting church traditionalists. Viganò, for one, has previously called for Francis’s resignation.

The death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI had been widely expected to clarify any muddiness about the hierarchy in Vatican City, leaving just one figure wearing papal white within its ancient walls. A year later, the voices questioning Francis’s basic authority have only grown louder, at the same time that bold, legacy-cementing moves by the 87-year-old pope have prompted broader backlash within the church.

Francis is experiencing a level of reproach that some observers say is the fiercest since Pope Paul VI reaffirmed the church’s ban on artificial birth control in 1968. Today’s criticism is further amplified by social and digital media. An even more striking distinction, though, may be the overt disdain some clerics are showing to a man seen by Catholics as the Vicar of Christ atop the Throne of Saint Peter.

“What we’re seeing under Francis is to a very high degree [the kind of dissent] we saw in 1968,” said Austen Ivereigh, the pope’s biographer. “But what’s new is the lack of respect, the lack of deference to papal authority, which has become somehow permissible in this pontificate in a way that I’ve never seen before.”

>The opposition to Francis is “unprecedented,” said John Carr, a former longtime lobbyist for the U.S. bishops conference who founded Georgetown University’s Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life. “It is strong, it is narrow, and it is about power — ecclesiastical, economic and political power.”

“They didn’t say John Paul [II] wasn’t pope. They didn’t say Benedict was illegitimate. This is part of a larger project to undermine his credibility.”

The rise in anti-Francis rhetoric doesn’t seem to reflect or have affected his public standing — his popularity remains the envy of politicians in many countries. But the barrage of criticism presents a direct challenge to his papacy and renews an age-old question for the Roman Catholic Church: How far is too far when you fault a pope?

Blessings for same-sex couples

A same-sex couple receives a blessing outside Cologne Cathedral on Sept. 20. Clergy in Germany began bestowing such blessings before the pope’s recent guidance.

The number of Catholic clerics loudly and proudly announcing their intent to disregard the pope grew last month after Francis shifted Vatican guidance and authorized priestly blessings of same-sex couples and other “irregular” relationships, as long as those benedictions are kept separate from marriage.

Some clerics heralded the decision as long overdue, a move that puts Francis’s past statements about a more welcoming church into practice. The declaration “is a step forward,” wrote Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, “and in keeping not only with Pope Francis’s desire to accompany people pastorally but Jesus’s desire to be present to all people who desire grace and support.”

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops — at times an epicenter of criticism of Francis — was muted in its reaction, saying in a statement that the pope was simply affirming that “those who do not live up to the full demand of the Church’s moral teaching are nevertheless loved and cherished by God.”

Even some bishops loyal to Francis, however, appeared genuinely confused over how such blessings were meaningfully different from condoning same-sex unions, and how the Vatican could support same-sex blessings while maintaining that homosexual tendencies are “intrinsically disordered” and homosexual acts immoral. The Vatican’s stance is that the new ruling marks an expansion of the role of blessings in the church rather than any acceptance of homosexuality, and that the seconds-long benedictions by no means validate the legal or sexual relationships of same-sex couples.

And then there were those who rejected the guidance outright. The African bishops conferences issued an extraordinary joint statement on Thursday, attesting to their allegiance to Francis but at the same time saying members could not carry out the blessings he suggested without “exposing themselves to scandals.” Two bishops in Kazakhstan, in a letter forbidding their priests to obey the Vatican edict, “respectfully” said the pope was not walking “uprightly according to the truth of the Gospel.”

“Of course, it is a crisis of authority,” one of those bishops, Athanasius Schneider, said in an interview with The Washington Post. He is critical of bishops who show outright disrespect to Francis, such as Viganò. But, he added, “the pope is losing the firmness of his words and authorities.”

He continued, “If I will be punished for [saying] this, it will be for me an honor, because I will be punished only for the truth.”

The Vatican released an extraordinary “clarification” last week, stating that while bishops and priests could exercise personal judgment in offering such blessings, there were no grounds to consider the declaration approved by the pope “heretical, contrary to the Tradition of the Church or blasphemous.”

And yet two days later, Cardinal Robert Sarah, a senior cleric from Guinea, wrote in apparent defiance: “We are not opposing Pope Francis, but we are firmly and radically opposing a heresy that seriously undermines the Church, the Body of Christ, because it is contrary to the Catholic faith and Tradition.”

Unusually public criticism

Participants in the Synod of Bishops follow Pope Francis on monitors in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican on Oct. 4.

Seen as the heirs of Saint Peter, popes possess “supreme, full, immediate, and universal” authority, according to doctrine, over what is today a church of 1.3 billion Catholics. Despite widely held perceptions that Catholics consider popes infallible, they are viewed as such in very rare instances — with the last universally accepted time being in the 1950s, when Pope Pius XII declared the Assumption of the Virgin Mary into heaven, body and soul, as a fundamental article of Catholic faith.

Under church norms, clerics may question the pope — albeit in respectful, reasonable ways.

Francis has shown significant tolerance for dissent, but his patience may be wearing thin. In recent months, one critic, Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Tex., was stripped of his diocese. Another, Cardinal Raymond Burke, who frequently spoke at conservative conferences that excoriated Francis, lost his pension and Rome apartment.

“In the case of both Strickland and Burke, the amazing thing is that [Francis] took so long to do it,” said Ivereigh, the biographer. “No previous pope would have put up with anything like that.”

John S. Grabowski, a professor of moral theology and ethics at Catholic University in D.C., said that such criticism is hardly unique in papal history. Consider the 11th-century split between the Roman and Eastern Orthodox churches, he said. That was a severe break far greater than anything Francis faces now.

The more frequently cited point of comparison is the 1960s, when the majority of a papal commission on artificial contraception advised approving its use. Shortly afterward, Pope Paul VI, wrote “Humanae Vitae,” a high-level papal document reiterating traditional teaching and classifying the use of the birth-control pill and other artificial contraception as a sin. Some bishops conferences and theologians rejected the document, saying Catholics should honor their own consciences.

The 1968 contraception ruling “was the last big time when we had such a strong disagreement with something that came out of the Vatican,” said the Rev. Thomas Reese, a political scientist and longtime journalist who has written several books about the inner workings of the Catholic Church. “But bishops did not criticize [Pope Paul VI] so publicly, the way that some of them are with Pope Francis.”

“I’m stunned at the criticism of Pope Francis by conservatives,” said John McGreevy, a historian of Catholicism and provost at the University of Notre Dame. This extremely public nature of papal criticism, he said, is totally new and modern. As contributing factors, he cited a changed media landscape that provides a platform for outspoken critics such as Strickland or Viganò, as well as the rise of populist impulses around the world.

“The attacks on the institution are symbolic of a populism you would have thought Catholicism would be immune to, because it’s the ultimate bureaucratic institution,” he said.

Some experts said the fact that Benedict is no longer around to temper conservative dissent could be working against Francis.

Same-sex blessings were “the first important action [Francis] took after Ratzinger’s death,” said Alberto Melloni, a Rome-based church historian, referring to Benedict by his pre-papal name. “But this time Ratzinger is no longer there to tell the others: ‘Who cares if you don’t like it, he is the pope and you need to obey.’”

The pushback from dioceses on the same-sex marriage ruling stands somewhat apart from the cluster of fringe extremists who have scandalized even lesser critics of the pope with their incendiary language.

The Italian priest excommunicated on Jan. 1, for instance, is part of a group of Roman Catholic priests, many of them now excommunicated, who hold an almost Trumpian belief that Benedict remained the “true pope” even after his retirement, and that Francis has never been legitimate.

In an interview, the priest, Ramon Guidetti, said he had received emails from U.S. lawyers volunteering to appeal his case within the Vatican.

“I’m no expert on geopolitics but I can grasp something,” he said. “There will be presidential elections soon in the U.S., so basically all those Catholics who are against Bergoglio, who do not recognize him as a Roman pontiff, possibly connected to Trump’s movement, have seized on the chance to offer their support.”

Complete Article HERE!

Francis counts his blessings

— Has the pope’s statement on same-sex marriage created more problems than it solves?

“Fiducia Supplicans” should probably be seen as a culmination of Pope Francis’s personal engagement with the issue of same-sex love, which began with his 2013 remark in response to a question about gay Catholics: “Who am I to judge?”

By Miles Pattenden

Pope Francis has endorsed same-sex couples; or he hasn’t; or he allows them to be blessed but only as separate individuals. The news out of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of Faith (DDF) following the publication of Fiducia Supplicans (a declaration “on the pastoral meaning of blessings”) has been various and confusing.

Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, the DDF’s beleaguered Prefect, last week had to issue a press release “clarifying” the declaration’s reception and interpretation.

Fernández, like Pope Francis, claims to be clear about two things:

  • The blessings discussed in Fiducia Supplicans are not a substitute for marriage — nor should they be confused as offering anything sacramental or equivalent to marriage.
  • The Catholic Church’s teaching on homosexuality remains unchanged — that is to say, the Church regards homosexual feelings as regrettable but not sinful. Consummating an act of same-sex love is, however, wrong because all non-potentially procreative sex and all sex outside of marriage is contrary to God’s will for humanity.

This latter position is consistent with the various stances that individual popes, cardinals, and theologians have taken over the course of the twentieth century and during the first two decades of the twenty-first.

Of course, it does not satisfy gay Catholics who argue that the perception that God is against same-sex love is a product of historical bigotry rather than divine revelation. They, moreover, point to the fact that most heterosexual Catholics also routinely ignore the Church’s teachings on sex outside marriage — and this does not stop priests and bishops agreeing to marry them.

Conservative Catholics, on the other hand, sometimes seem to worry that even framing the situation in such terms (hate the sin, love the sinner) is just a cover for those who would prepare the ground to change Church teaching.

Juxtaposing God’s unlimited love and mercy with a somewhat petty, arbitrary prohibition on a particular loving act can be argued to be highlighting an inconsistency in the Church’s position — even if there are sound theological reasons to defend it.

What “Fiducia Supplicans” tried to do

Fiducia Supplicans should probably be seen as a culmination of Pope Francis’s personal engagement with the issue of same-sex love which began with his now celebrated (or notorious) 2013 remark in response to a question about gay Catholics: “Who am I to judge?”

Gay Catholics, and liberal Catholics, have pinned their hopes on him to usher in reform ever since — on this issue and on other issues relating to women in the Church, clerical marriage, divorced Catholics, and sex outside marriage. Conservatives and traditionalists, by contrast, have grown increasingly suspicious.

Last year, Francis responded to five “dubia” (or questions) which a group of conservative cardinals sent to him. From the outside, their effort appeared to be intended to box him in on these subjects — and on the gay question, in particular. In fact, they opened something of a Pandora’s Box, because they gave him the chance to avoid an outright condemnation of being in a gay relationship.

The pope reasoned, magnanimously, that:

In our relationships with people, we must not lose the pastoral charity, which should permeate all our decisions and attitudes. The defence of objective truth is not the only expression of this charity; it also includes kindness, patience, understanding, tenderness, and encouragement. Therefore, we cannot be judges who only deny, reject, and exclude.

He invoked a concept of “pastoral prudence”, which dictates that a priest:

must adequately discern whether there are forms of blessing, requested by one or more persons, that do not convey a mistaken concept of marriage. For when a blessing is requested, it is expressing a plea to God for help, a supplication to live better, a trust in a Father who can help us live better.

In a way, Fiducia Supplicans just repeats this message, clarifying a somewhat ambiguous further statement that Francis made: “Decisions that may be part of pastoral prudence in certain circumstances should not necessarily become a norm.”

The main points the text makes are simply that blessings are ubiquitous in Christianity, they have different meanings, and they need not take on specific ritual or liturgical forms. They can be “spontaneous” and, when spontaneous, they need not be taken to mean something specific. In this way, it is possible to “bless” gay couples (or anyone else) without condoning their lifestyle or actions.

One can sympathise with Cardinal Fernández in thinking that the pope’s 2023 answer to the dubium raised more questions than it answered and might have merited a timely interpretative statement to settle debate about it. But Fiducia Supplicans has patently not settled debate — in large part because neither side is willing to accept it at face value. Both supporters of reform to the Church’s teaching on homosexuality and opponents believe it sets down a marker that will be used in new ways.

Critiquing “Fiducia Supplicans”

For liberal Catholics, Fiducia Supplicans can seem, in some ways, a mere acknowledgement of the obvious: that God is moved by love and mercy and that the point of blessings is to recognise and give thanks for that.

For Cardinal Fernández, the document’s point is probably something different. It attempts to diffuse the issue by defining a series of propositions on which the pope has allowed significant speculation to build.

For instance, if a “blessing” is simply a spontaneous gesture of thanks to God — what is referred to in Fiducia Supplicans as an “ascending” blessing — then it is hardly something that any reasonable person could confuse with the sacramental rite of marriage.

On the other hand, if the blessing is what the document terms a “descending” blessing — a request to God to extend his grace — then it is little more than a prayer. It is an act that asks God to grant something which he may or may not do — but what it asks God remains ambiguous.

Too Jesuitical by half?

The conservative fear about Cardinal Fernández’s interpretation of the blessing of gay couples is this: a gay couple can understand it as a blessing on their union and their friendship, but a conservative priest can, with equal legitimacy, understand it as exhorting God to help the couple, through his grace, to see the error of their ways.

Fernández may think this takes the theological heat out of the matter — by allowing different parties to believe it has different effects — but it does not.

At the moment, no conservative priest will consent to bless a gay couple, which makes the proposition just advanced seem ridiculous. Yet one can imagine why a conservative priest might be anxious that the pope is preparing the ground to require him to do so by creating a Jesuitical loophole for his conscience which can later be closed. The Church of England appears to be going through much the same process of self-inflicted contortions with regards to its own “gay marriage” debate.

These arguments, moreover, form part of wider critiques against Francis and his approach to the pontificate. Conservatives now also criticise Fernández for showing a deplorable lack of judgement.

The apparent naïveté in promulgating Fiducia Supplicans and then clarifying it damages the papacy, as an influx of requests for papal blessings on parchment sheets (a special kind of document all Catholics can request from the Vatican) for same-sex couples now shows.  Francis has thus been put in a bind, which he may not have intended. As Christopher Altieri notes:

he can’t refuse [these requests] without appearing stingy and legalistic — “rigid” is a word for it — but he can’t grant them without violating both the letter and the spirit of the very declaration that created the conundrum in the first place.

Yet Fiducia Supplicans surely also represents yet another papal grab for authority over Church teaching. In defining so closely what is a blessing — spontaneous or otherwise — it implicitly removes discretion from bishops about how to judge the actions of their own priests. This is no more popular than when Francis curbed their licence to authorise the Tridentine Latin Mass.

Such arguments have force, moreover, because gay blessings are just one front in the battle. Recent reports that Francis is being urged to allow priests to marry or even to let lay people have a say in the process for electing his successor are alarming conservatives just as much. And with the battle on so many fronts, it is not clear how best to oppose the pope. It is not even clear which of these causes, if any, he is most serious about advancing in the perhaps short time he has left.

2024 could be a turbulent year for the Catholic communion. No doubt all Catholics are praying for wisdom from all sides as they try to resolve amicably the forces unleashed.

Complete Article HERE!

Promise of change but much more to do after pope’s same-sex blessing decision

1 of 2 | Leo Egashira, a leader with Dignity/Seattle, a faith community of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender Catholics, in Seattle on Dec. 22, 2023.


When Pope Francis met in October with leaders of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics at the Vatican, Seattle’s Leo Egashira said it was a pivotal moment.

Given the “glacial” pace of change for the church, he said the picture of LGBTQ+ Catholic leaders meeting with the pope would have been unthinkable even 10 years ago.

Egashira, who was a longtime board member of DignityUSA, a U.S. organization that advocates for LGBTQ+ Catholics and is involved in the Global Network, said the meeting was a “tacit blessing” and an opening that portends great hope for change in the church.

Then last month’s decision by Pope Francis to allow blessings for same-sex couples took that change a step further.

“I think it’s an acknowledgment that our voices are being heard, and that the leaders are realizing that all people are part of the church and that it’s not an exclusive club,” Egashira said. “I think that the current pope has a very pastoral leadership style, and that pastoral leadership style calls for inclusivity.” Egashira described a pastoral approach as seeing and addressing the personal and spiritual needs of an individual as opposed to judging people for their adherence to specific rules.

But, he said, it is just a first step. “Eventually, I hope it does lead to not only acceptance, but support for LGBTQ Catholics,” he said. “Acceptance is the lowest minimum bar. And this is a step toward that. But I think people deserve and want much more than that.”

Egashira was born into a Seattle Japanese American Catholic family and is a member of the Central District’s multicultural Immaculate Conception Church. He is one of only two of his surviving eight siblings who is still part of the church. Egashira said most of his siblings no longer found the church to be aligned with their beliefs or relevant to their lives.

As a proud gay man, Egashira is determined to stay and fight for change in the church from within.

While the focus of DignityUSA has long been on inclusion for LGBTQ+ Catholics, Egashira emphasizes that addressing misogyny and patriarchy in the church are also critical to making progressive change.

“The basic cause of homophobia is misogyny,” he said. “You’re not going to be able to address homophobia … or transphobia adequately without addressing misogyny. It’s the fear and hatred of women that animates transphobia and homophobia.”

Bishop Edward Donalson III, of the Center for Ecumenical and Interreligious Engagement at Seattle University and a board member of Faith Action Network, agrees.

Bishop Edward Donalson III is with the Center for Ecumenical and Interreligious Engagement at Seattle University and is a board member of Faith Action Network.

Donalson said at the root, it’s the “hatred of the feminine” that undergirds homophobia. “All anti-LGBTQ ideology is moored in misogyny and cis hetero patriarchy — not just patriarchy, it’s a specific cis hetero patriarchy,” he said. “Cis” is shorthand for cisgender, or a person whose gender identity aligns with the gender they were assigned at birth.

It’s important to understand, Donalson said, that the pope’s statement on blessing same-sex couples does not change Catholic theology.

“It does not make same-gender marriage sacramental,” Donalson said. “And that’s an important distinction, both for Catholics who are worried that their church is changing and for LGBTQ folks who might be somewhat deceived by what the messaging is, or somewhat confused by the messaging.”

But, he said, the statement does acknowledge the humanity of LGBTQ+ Catholics who choose to be legally married in the places around the world where legal marriage is an option. It’s not surprising that it came from Francis, Donalson said, because “everything about Pope Francis has been a clear indicator that he has an eye toward compassion. And this is directly in line with his eye toward compassion.”

Yet most importantly, Donalson said the pope’s statement is an opportunity for the church to have a deeper conversation about what it means to bless and what it means to marry. “I think what the pope has done is presented an opportunity for the church to interrogate itself,” he said.

Donalson said that despite all that could be said about the church, it creates community and a place for people to connect to something bigger than themselves worldwide. “People — particularly post pandemic, in an era of absolute isolation — are drawn to places of community, compassion, care,” he said.

Egashira said it’s a deep commitment to caring for all people through charitable work and pastoral care that represents the best of the church.

“The core tenets are, I think, unassailable. And almost anyone can live with it. It’s this when you get all the trappings, the institutional trappings and the power and the politics that go along with it, that it becomes perverted,” he said.

“In times past … the Catholic Church has been the strongest proponent of civil rights and equality,” Egashira said. “And so that aspect I do like, but the fact that in its own house that it has a severe form of misogyny, severe homophobia, it’s really hard to reconcile that with many of the good actions of the Catholic Church.”

Complete Article HERE!

How to deal with same-sex unions?

— It’s a question fracturing major Christian denominations

FILE – Shelby Ruch-Teegarden, of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, joins other protestors during the United Methodist Church’s special session of the general conference in St. Louis, Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. United Methodist rules forbid same-sex marriage rites and the ordination of “self-avowed practicing homosexuals,” but progressive Methodist churches in the U.S. have increasingly been defying these rules.


Catholics around the world are sharply divided by the Vatican’s recent declaration giving priests more leeway to bless same-sex couples. Supporters of LGBTQ inclusion welcome the move; some conservative bishops assail the new policy as a betrayal of the church’s condemnation of sexual relations between gay or lesbian partners.

Strikingly, the flare-up of debate in Catholic ranks coincides with developments in two other international Christian denominations — the global Anglican Communion and the United Methodist Church — that are fracturing over differences in LGBTQ-related policies.

Taken together, it’s a dramatic illustration of how – in a religion that stresses God’s love for humanity – divisions over marriage, sexuality, and inclusion of gays and lesbians are proving insurmountable for the foreseeable future in many sectors of Christianity.

Ryan Burge, a political science professor at Eastern Illinois University and pastor of an American Baptist church, says it’s become increasingly difficult for Christian denominations to fully accommodate clergy and congregations with opposing views on same-sex relationships, particularly as such marriages have become legal in much of Europe and the Western Hemisphere.

“A lot of denominations are in the position where you have to make a decision — you can’t be wishy-washy anymore,” said Burge, a specialist in religious demographics. “That’s the tension they’re facing: how to keep older conservatives in the fold while attracting younger people.”

For global denominations — notably Catholics, Anglicans and United Methodists — Burge sees another source of tension: Some of their biggest growth in recent decades has been in socially conservative African countries where same-sex relationships are taboo.

“African bishops have this ammunition,” Burge said. “They say to the West, ‘We’re the ones growing. You have the money, we have the numbers.’”

Kim Haines-Eitzen, a professor of religious studies at Cornell University, said Christianity — throughout its history — has been divided over differing theological views, such as whether women could be ordained as clergy.

FILE - Same-sex couples take part in a public blessing ceremony in front of the Cologne Cathedral in Cologne, Germany, on Sept. 20, 2023. Pope Francis formally approved allowing priests to bless same-sex couples, with a new document released Monday Dec. 18, 2023 explaining a radical change in Vatican policy by insisting that people seeking God's love and mercy shouldn't be subject to "an exhaustive moral analysis" to receive it. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, File)
Same-sex couples take part in a public blessing ceremony in front of the Cologne Cathedral in Cologne, Germany, on Sept. 20, 2023. Pope Francis formally approved allowing priests to bless same-sex couples, with a new document released Monday Dec. 18, 2023 explaining a radical change in Vatican policy by insisting that people seeking God’s love and mercy shouldn’t be subject to “an exhaustive moral analysis” to receive it.

“Christianity is incredibly diverse — globally, theologically, linguistically, culturally,” she said. “There are bound to be these incredibly divisive issues, especially when bound up in scriptural interpretation. That’s what keeps world religions alive — that kind of push and pull.”


Among Christian denominations, the Anglican Communion is second only to the Catholic Church in geographic spread. Divisions over marriage, sexuality and LGBTQ inclusion have roiled the communion for many years, and they widened Dec. 17, when Church of England priests offered officially sanctioned blessings of same-sex partnerships for the first time.

The Church of England’s ban on church weddings for gay couples remains, but the decision to allow blessings has infuriated several conservative Anglican bishops from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Pacific.

FILE - The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby walks through Westminster in London on Sept. 14, 2022. Welby, the top bishop of the Church of England and ceremonial leader of the Anglican Communion, says he won’t personally bless any same-sex couples because it’s his job to unify the world’s 85 million Anglicans. That hasn’t appeased some conservative bishops, who say they no longer recognize Welby as their leader. (Richard Heathcote/Pool Photo via AP)
The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby walks through Westminster in London on Sept. 14, 2022.

Caught in the middle is the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby — the top bishop of the Church of England and ceremonial leader of the Anglican Communion.

Welby says he won’t personally bless same-sex couples because it’s his job to unify the world’s 85 million Anglicans. That hasn’t appeased some conservative bishops, who say they no longer recognize Welby as their leader.

The decision to allow blessings of same-sex couples followed five years of discussions about church positions on sexuality. Church leaders apologized for a failure to welcome LGBTQ people but also affirmed the doctrine that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.

“What we have proposed as a way forward does not go nearly far enough for many, but too far for others,” said Sarah Mullally, bishop of London.


A slow-motion breakup is underway in the United Methodist Church. A few years ago, it was the third-largest denomination in the United States, but a quarter of U.S. congregations have recently received permission to leave over disputes involving LGBTQ-related policies.

Of the more than 7,650 departing churches, most are conservative-leaning congregations responding to what they see as a failure to enforce bans on same-sex marriage and the ordaining of openly LGBTQ people.

There’s no firm estimate of how many members are leaving, as some who belong to departing congregations are joining other UMC churches. But UMC officials are preparing to cut denominational agencies’ budgets in anticipation of lower revenues from church offerings.

FILE - Pope Francis arrives to celebrate mass at the John Garang Mausoleum in Juba, South Sudan, Sunday, Feb. 5, 2023. Catholics around the world are sharply divided by Francis’ December 2023 declaration giving priests more leeway to bless same-sex couples. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia, File)
Pope Francis arrives to celebrate mass at the John Garang Mausoleum in Juba, South Sudan, Sunday, Feb. 5, 2023. Catholics around the world are sharply divided by Francis’ December 2023 declaration giving priests more leeway to bless same-sex couples.

United Methodist rules forbid same-sex marriage rites and the ordination of “self-avowed practicing homosexuals,” but progressive Methodist churches in the U.S. have increasingly defied these rules.

Conservatives have mobilized like-minded congregations to exit; many are joining the new Global Methodist Church, which intends to enforce such rules.

More than half of United Methodist members are overseas, many in conservative African churches. When UMC delegates meet this spring, they’re expected to debate proposals to liberalize ordination and marriage policies, and make it easier for overseas churches to leave.


Presaging the UMC schism, several other mainline Protestant denominations over the past two decades endured splits resulting from irreconcilable differences between supporters and opponents of LGBTQ inclusion. For example, after the Episcopal Church ordained an openly gay bishop in 2003, some dioceses and conservatives formed the Anglican Church in North America.

Similar liberal/conservative differences prompted hundreds of congregations to leave the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) after they embraced LGBTQ-inclusive policies.

Some conservative denominations — such as the Southern Baptist Convention and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — have adhered firmly to policies that reject recognition of same-sex relationships and ordination of openly LGBTQ people. These policies have prompted departures, but no major schism.

Brent Leatherwood, president of the Southern Baptists’ public policy commission, reiterated the SBC’s position in a statement asserting that the Vatican — under Pope Francis — “has been on a trajectory that seems destined for the allowance of same-sex marriage.”

FILE - The Rev. Catherine Bond, left and Reverend Jane Pearce react after being blessed at St John the Baptist church in Felixstowe, England, on Sunday, Dec. 17, 2023 after the use of prayers of blessing for same-sex couples in Church of England services were approved by the House of Bishops. (Joe Giddens/PA via AP, File)
The Rev. Catherine Bond, left and Reverend Jane Pearce react after being blessed at St John the Baptist church in Felixstowe, England, on Sunday, Dec. 17, 2023 after the use of prayers of blessing for same-sex couples in Church of England services were approved by the House of Bishops.

“The reality is marriage has been defined by God … It is a union between one man and one woman for life,” Leatherwood said. “Southern Baptists remain anchored in this truth.”


The world’s second-largest Christian communion, after the Catholic Church, is the Eastern Orthodox Church, with an estimated 220 million members, concentrated mostly in Eastern Europe and Western Asia. To a large extent, Orthodox Christians disapprove of same-sex marriage and relationships.

In Greece, where the government is pledging to legalize same-sex marriage, the Orthodox Church has expressed strong opposition.

Russia’s Orthodox Church has supported tough anti-LGBTQ legislation enacted with the support of President Vladimir Putin.


Debate over LGBTQ inclusion hasn’t been as divisive in the world’s other major religions as in Christianity.

In the Muslim world, there’s widespread disapproval of same-sex relationships and same-sex marriage; many Muslim nations criminalize homosexuality. However, some LGBTQ-inclusive mosques have surfaced in North America and other places.

Among Jews around the world, there are varying approaches to LGBTQ issues, but relatively little high-profile rancor. Orthodox Judaism disapproves of same-sex marriage and sexual relations, while they’re widely accepted in the Reform and Conservative branches.

In Hinduism and Buddhism, there is no universal, official position on same-sex marriage. Many practitioners of the two faiths disapprove of such unions; some communities are more accepting.

Complete Article HERE!

Vatican defends Pope Francis allowing blessings for same-sex couples

Pope Francis leading Wednesday General Audience in Paul VI Audience Hall in Vatican City on Jan. 3.

By Jacob Knutson

The Vatican on Thursday defended Pope Francis’ recent decision to allow priests to bless same-sex couples, after bishops around the world condemned the doctrine.

Why it matters: The dissent underscored a wider divide between traditionalist and more conservative Catholic leaders on Francis’ goals for the institution and its future membership.

  • Even though the new policy both did not condone same-sex marriages and condemns such marital arrangements as “irregular situations,” some bishops in Europe, Africa and other parts of the world almost immediately vowed to not implement it, AP reports.

Driving the news: The Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, the church department in charge of Catholic doctrine, in a statement Thursday said dissent to the policy reflected a “need for a more extended period of pastoral reflection.”

  • It also noted that the policy may be a delicate subject in countries that strictly outlaw homosexuality.
  • But such countries are few, per the department, adding that church leaders under governments with those laws have a wider responsibility to defend human dignity.

However, it said dissent to the new policy cannot be described as doctrinal opposition, as the policy reaffirms the church’s long-standing beliefs around marriage and sexuality.

  • The policy and the same-sex blessings it allows should not be considered “heretical, contrary to the Tradition of the Church or blasphemous,” the department said.
  • It said bishops can adopt the blessings with “prudence and attention to the ecclesial context and to the local culture.” But they cannot totally ban priests from giving the blessing.

Details: The new policy stresses that blessings for same-sex couples don’t represent an approval of same-sex marriages or unions, must not be given at the same time as a civil union and cannot resemble weddings in any way.

  • The strongest voices among the dissenting bishops criticized the policy as being contradictory and an affront on the churches’ beliefs on the sacrament of marriage and sexuality.
  • Other bishops downplayed the novelty of Francis’ new policy, saying it merely restates the Vatican’s traditional doctrines around marriage, according to AP.

The big picture: Making the church more welcoming LGBTQ+ people has also been a part of Francis’ agenda. He’s also emphasized social justice issues like the environmental and protections for the poor.

However, he has done so while at the same time having to uphold the church’s historical views.

  • The balancing act has in part produced a doctrine that stresses that gay people be treated with dignity and respect. At the same time, it denounces gay sex as being “intrinsically disordered.”

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