Archbishop Charles Scicluna has defended a controversial document by the Vatican office responsible for doctrine, which he himself forms part of, against the blessings of same-sex unions.
Scicluna, who is Adjunct Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said the Vatican body’s statement reiterates long-established Church doctrine and that bishops are still encouraged to provide dignified and compassionate pastoral care to all members of their flock, including LGBT+ people.
“In its Response of 15 March 2021, what the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) has done is to reiterate long-established Church doctrine,” the Archbishop said when questioned by Lovin Malta. “So, in that sense, it is not breaking new ground.”
“However, as Pope Francis has repeatedly reminded us, we bishops have a duty to promote and encourage the dignified and compassionate pastoral care of all members of our flock, including members of the LGBT community.”
“In fact, the CDF stressed that this community is to be welcomed ‘with respect, compassion and sensitivity’ avoiding every sign of ‘unjust discrimination’. The Church has a long tradition of holy friendships that are blessed by the mutual sharing of gifts and, to quote Seneca (Ad Lucillum 5,7), the partnership of all things (consortium rerum omnium). Such friendships are a blessing in themselves.”
Last month, Pope Francis signed off on a decree from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that reaffirmed old Church teachings that bar priests from blessing same-sex unions. The decree said that while God “blesses sinful man”, he cannot bless sin itself.
The news came as a disappointment to several Catholic same-sex couples around the world, seeing as the Church was starting to show serious signs that it was ready to become much more welcoming.
Pope Francis himself said last year that he thinks same-sex couples should be allowed to have “civil unions”.
Even in Malta, the Church has taken a more favourable stance in recent years. It didn’t campaign strongly against the introduction of civil unions, and eventually gay marriage, as it had done against divorce.
Scicluna himself is widely seen as being in favour of LGBT+ rights and in 2019 had sent progressive priest Fr Kevin Schembri to Xarabank for an interview on LGBT issues which made international headlines.
In this interview, Schembri said it cannot be wrong to be gay because God created people that way as part of his plan for mankind.
“When a person knows at the bottom of their heart that they are gay, they are recognising the way God created them, and are accepting themselves,” he said.
Lovin Malta asked Scicluna whether Schembri was wrong and, if not, how his statement is in line with the recent CDF statement. However, the Archbishop chose not to answer.
A few Maltese priests have criticised the Vatican’s recent declaration, with Fr Rene Camilleri warning the Church seems to still be stuck in the past.
“Blessing people is not a matter of doctrine, and it’s high time we stop playing God and arrogantly deciding who can, and who can not, be blessed,” he wrote. “In the meantime we continue to bless houses, new premises, monuments and animals, but same-sex couples, God forbid!”
Fr Josef Mario Briffa said he wonders why any LGBT+ people remain within the Church, urging them to remain within the institution as an act of protest ahead and telling them they’ll one day be seen as a prophetic voice.
Cover photo: Archdiocese of Malta
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