Earlier this week, Edward Pentin of the National Catholic Register reported that the Church is facing pressure on multiple fronts to change her teaching that homosexuality is “intrinsically disordered”:
Pressure continues to be exerted on Church leaders to remove the language of Catholic teaching that states that homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered” and “under no circumstances can be approved” — pressure that critics believe is part of an effort by some groups and individuals to normalize the sinful behavior within the Church.
The German bishops, who are in the midst of their two-year Synodal Way that includes a reassessment of the Church’s teaching on sexual morality, are the most recent and visible group pushing to alter the teaching with a particular emphasis on changing the language which appears in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Bishop Georg Bätzing, the president of the German bishops’ conference, said in an interview in December that changes were needed to the Catechism regarding homosexuality and specifically that it should express openness to blessings of homosexual unions — a possibility rejected by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith last month.
Father Christoph Behrens, a priest of the German Diocese of Dresden, said he believed the Catechism’s language was “simply embarrassing from my pastoral and theological point of view.” The priest, whose bishop, Heinrich Timmerevers, asked him to set up a ministry for homosexuals in his diocese and who advocated same-sex union blessings last September, added: “One can only hope that not too many people read this nonsense.”
Further calls to change the Catechism’s language have also come from some American Church leaders including Cardinal Joseph Tobin. The archbishop of Newark, New Jersey said in 2019 it the language was “very unfortunate” and added that he hoped the Church would use different words in its discussion of homosexuality that would be “a little less hurtful.”
Pentin cites some other, more predictable sources of agitation for this change like James Martin. Others, like Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, who edited the Catechism in the 1990s that contains the controversial language (paragraph 2357), are only slightly more surprising. Schönborn, who has been moving in this direction for some time, has said “he considers homosexuality to be similar to other sexual sins, such as divorce and remarriage, and so implicitly not an ‘intrinsic disorder.'”
In Germany, the debate over the recent prohibition on the blessing of gay unions from the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith — with the pope’s approval — has now turned into something of a protest movement. According to Luisella Scrosati at La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana, some “2,500 German parish priests and deacons have signed up for the day of the blessing of all lovers, including homosexual couples,” and “some bishops have already made known that do not intend to impose any sanctions on the ‘rebel’ priests.” Scrosati continues:
[T]he now clearly schismatic opposition has taken remedial action, organising a day of blessing for all lovers on 10 May, specifically including homosexual couples, the main object of contention. Obviously, it is organised in German style: a website has been created with the “highly original” title #liebegewinnt (love wins), through which it is possible to register as individuals and as parishes. There is also a Google map, with flags identifying the places where the blessing celebrations will be held: helpful for the seven angels of the bowls of God’s wrath to locate their targets…
After the critical remarks on the Congregation’s Responsum by Cardinal Reinhard Marx, the president of the German Bishops’ Conference, Monsignor Georg Bätzing, the Bishop of Osnabrück, Monsignor Franz-Josef Bode, and the auxiliary bishop of Münster, Monsignor Dieter Geerlings, now move on to action. And they do so with a clearly polemical intent: “In view of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s refusal to bless same-sex couples, we raise our voices and say: we will also accompany couples in the future who are in a stable relationship and bless their relationship. We will not deny them a blessing ceremony” (see here). The emphasis on the blessing of the relationship is therefore an explicit rejection of the main thrust of the Responsum of 22 February, which stated precisely that the problem of such blessings lies not in individuals, but in “relationships or […] partnerships, even stable ones, that involve a sexual practice outside of marriage (that is, outside the indissoluble union of a man and a woman open as such to the transmission of life), as is the case with unions between persons of the same sex”.
In concrete terms, the initiative on 10 May is an invitation “to use numerous creative signs to show how many people in the church perceive the colourful diversity of people’s different life plans and love stories as an enrichment and a blessing”, by organising “a service of blessing in many places, preferably at the same time, 7 p.m. Couples taking part in this ceremony must receive the blessing that God wants to give them, without hiding away”.
Already, some 2,500 parish priests, deacons and pastoral workershave joined the initiative and made themselves available to dish out fragrant blessings, because, after all, love is love… This is in fact the level of “rationale” of the promoters of the local initiatives. In Schweinfurt, a #segentogo, a “take-away blessing” is being launched, offered “to you and your partner, no matter whom you love, how long you’ve been together, whether things are going great at the moment or you’re going through a difficult phase”. The invitation of the parish of Winnweiler is also in the spirit of inclusiveness, inviting everyone, “regardless of whether you are married or not, whether you are young or old, whether you are heterosexual or homosexual, as long as you love each other and desire the Lord’s help for your relationship”. Ask and it will be given to you!
There are those who hold out hope that Pope Francis will address this open dissent, particularly because the CDF document it exists in reaction to bears his direct approval.
But as I warned when the ruling came out, his track record on this is anything but orthodox.
In an April 13 report at Church Militant, it was also revealed that Juan Carlos Cruz, a clerical abuse survivor whom Francis appointed earlier this year to be a member of the Pontifical Council for the Protection of Minors, has said that Francis is “hurt” by the CDF declaration on same-sex blessings, even though it carries his name:
“I spoke with the pope,” Cruz told Chile’s La Tercera newspaper in an April 10 article, adding, “I don’t want to betray a confidence, but I know that the pope is a man who is very hurt by this, although ultimately he is responsible.“
Cruz was one of the victims of Chilean sexual abuse by Fr. Fernando Karadima. Francis mishandled allegations that Juan Barros, a Karadima protégé, was complicit in the abuse, when he appointed Barros as bishop of Osorno in 2015. Several years and a global PR disaster later, Francis met with Cruz to apologize in May of 2018. During that meeting, Francis allegedly told Cruz, who is an openly gay man, “God made you like this and loves you like this and I don’t care. The pope does love you like this. You have to be happy with who you are.” The following month, the pope finally accepted the resignation of Barros, as I reported here:
More from Church Militant about Cruz:
Cruz acknowledged in his interview with La Tercera that Francis approved of the responsum regarding homosexual unions and is ultimately responsible for it, even while he claimed that the pontiff is “hurt” by it and will compensate for it. Cruz said, “I feel that he will repair this situation in some way.”
I don’t know the details, but I know that he didn’t sign it. Despite that, what has been called the responsum is the responsibility of the CDF and was released anyway. That does not excuse the pope, because he is responsible for everything. The pope who I know is not a pope who would refer to the LGBT community in that way — all to the contrary.
Cruz has penned his own response to the responsum. He penned an op-ed titled “Who am I to judge?”, a reference to a statement the pope made in 2013 that was understood by some to be an approval of homosexual liaisons. In his op-ed, Cruz slammed the CDF for its seeming double standard: “Why do these men feel that they have the right to so offensively discriminate against the LGBT community with phrases such as ‘The Church cannot bless sin.’ Excuse me? Prohibited from blessing? Haven’t we seen bishops blessing [Fr. Fernando] Karadima?”
Cruz skewered CDF prefects:
They live in their own world, far removed from people and trying to defend the indefensible. We see this in the monstrous statement on same-sex unions, the slowness in examining abuse crimes, their lack of humanity and knowledge of human suffering. I know excellent people at CDF who are working to do justice and explain Catholic doctrine. But, unfortunately, prefects in the style of Torquemada’s Inquisition do what they want to continue frightening off Catholics.
All eyes are on the Vatican as these sentiments pile up. So far, there’s no additional indication from the pope on how he intends to respond.
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have seven children.