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Vatican Nixes German Plan for Same-Sex Blessings, But All I Feel is Déjà Vu

The CDF has, to the delight of many, smacked down an initiative from the German bishops to bless same-sex unions with a signoff from the pope.

As reported today by The Pillar:

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on Monday issued a response to the question “Does the Church have the power to give the blessing to unions of persons of the same sex?” That answer, signed by the congregation’s prefect, Cardinal Luis Laradria Ferrer, was “negative.”

The response was published March 15. The accompanying explanatory note from Cardinal Ladaria said the CDF’s answer had been formulated last month, and that Pope Francis had given his personal approval to its public publication.

The statement from the CDF comes just days after several senior curial officials told The Pillar that there was growing concern in the Vatican that plans for same-sex blessings, proposed by the so-called Synodal Way undertaken by the German bishops’ conference, were already being brought into practice in some places.

The same officials, including those close to the CDF, told The Pillar last week that, while the CDF and other Vatican departments were ready to respond to German challenges to Church teaching and discipline, Cardinal Ladaria and other curial department heads were waiting for a clear lead from Pope Francis before confronting the German bishops.

The CDF’s answer to the dubium, a formal question seeking clarification on Church teaching, did not specifically mention the German synodal process, or identify who had originally submitted the question for response. However, one curial official close to the CDF told The Pillar on Monday that “the answer was to Germany.”

“The dubium was asked and answered, but to publish the response was necessary because of the public confusion being created by certain bishops in Germany, and the synodal process – which is not a synod at all.”

Pope Francis has warned in the past that the German synodal assembly, which began in 2019 and is scheduled to conclude next year, has no authority to change the discipline or doctrine of the Catholic Church.

But we need to pump the enthusiasm brakes for a hot second.

Aside from the thing everyone reading this is thinking right now — “Oh, wait, you mean the Vatican ***IS*** capable of responding to dubia in a clear, public way?!?” — I have another, even more cynical response:

This looks exactly like what happened with the intercommunion debate, which was also being rammed through the German “synodal” process. And I mean exactly. 

For those who’d like a refresher, here’s a quick one:

In April, 2018, the CDF under Ladaria, with the explicit signoff of Pope Francis, “rejected the 22 February 2018 pastoral handout concerning the admittance, in individual cases, of Protestant spouses of Catholics to Holy Communion as it had been approved by the German Bishops’ Conference under the leadership of Cardinal Reinhard Marx.”

I warned people not to buy it then, because this is a repeating pattern of behavior, and there was too much evidence to the contrary. I documented the reasons for my concern.

And sure enough, just a couple of months later, Francis juked. The cups stopped moving on the shell game he’s always playing with the truth, and the McGuffin wound up right back where it started. He punted the authority to offer intercommunion to Protestants downline to the local bishops. Here’s the key reasoning for that decision, in the pope’s own words:

[T]he problem with having an entire bishops’ conference deal with such questions is that “something worked out in an episcopal conference quickly becomes universal.”

The Germans, as they are wont to do, keep trying to systematize their heresies and scandal. Francis wants chaos at the local level. He wants it under the table. He wants it off the books. He uses subsidiarity to sow instability at the lowest possible tier of Catholic life, where it resonates through the entire Church.

Will Francis do the same thing he did with intercommunion, leaving same-sex unions to the local ordinary? Likely. Although perhaps not explicitly. He could hide behind a provision of canon law when he did the intercommunion gambit; this latest gayness will be couched, no doubt, under a pastoral provision, perhaps even in reference to Amoris Laetitia and its infamous footnote. More likely than not, this will be handled in a way that is never made public. The Vatican will simply refuse to enforce its own guidelines on this, and will not punish any bishop or priest who does things “the German way.”

If they go this route, which I expect they will, it’ll look good on the surface, because “The CDF said no, with papal approval!” Of course, any real examination will reveal the truth — and they’re counting on the fact that most people will never look deeper than the surface.

If you’re running into pushback from people who don’t believe that Francis would be on board with this in practice, if not on the books, I could document his historic position as “the first pope to endorse same-sex civil unions.” I could remind people that despite the dispute, his close friend, Archbishop Fernandez, said he was neither mistranslated nor taken out of context when he said it. (I also devoted a big chunk of podcast #72 to this.) I could even point to all the gay and gay-friendly prelates he has surrounded himself with.

I know, gentle reader, that you know the score. But if someone you’re discussing this with can’t see through the game at this point — it has the same moves every time — I doubt they’re going to see it no matter how clearly we lay it out.

Whatever some Catholics may be telling themselves today, past is prologue, this pope is on record about such unions, and blessings or not, the bar could hardly get lower on this issue. This statement from the CDF can hardly be classified as an actual win.

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