A Maltese priest has expressed his disappointment in the Church’s declaration that it will not bless unions of same-sex couples.
“On days like these, I don’t wonder why people leave but what keeps anyone who identifies as LGBTQ+ within the Church. Because as a Church, on matters relating to LGBTQ+ relationships, we have so little (not to say nothing) to offer,” Fr Josef Mario Briffa wrote on social media.
On Monday, Pope Francis signed off on a decree from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that reaffirmed old Church teachings that bars priests from blessing same-sex unions.
The news came as a big blow to same-sex couples across the world, with Pope Francis calls for greater inclusion giving hopes to many that the church would welcome same-sex couples.
Writing on social media, Briffa said:
“As a man who chose to lead a celibate life, I know too well that celibacy as a life choice makes profound spiritual sense, but only as part of a vocation, never as an imposition.”
“Celibacy has to remain a choice for it to take its profound meaning — and the Church, for one, should know this very well. Haven’t we dealt with the aftermath of enough broken celibacy and its consequences? Sexual orientation, on the other hand, is not a choice.”
“No, I’m not at all surprised at the responsum published today. Nothing new. But, yes, I’m disappointed that it offers nothing to those who ask for ‘the assistance they need to understand and fully carry out God’s will in their lives’. Actually, it transforms any kind of discourse of welcome into empty lip service.”
“Perhaps, listening to the LGBTQ+ community within the Church could be a good starting point. True listening, listening to try and understand, not listening to respond. Perhaps, one day, the LGBTQ+ community will slowly start to feel welcome. I’m afraid it’s not today.’
“Oh, to my LGBTQ+ Catholic friends: remember that your best act of protest on days like this, is not to leave, but to stay inside the Church. Stay, and be a prophetic voice.”
The doctrinal question was put to the Congregation by pastors seeking to make the Roman Catholic Church more welcoming to same-sex couples. The Congregation is the oldest among the nine congregations of the Roman Curia. It was originally founded to defend the church from heresy and is today the body responsible for promulgating and defending Catholic doctrine.
In an explanatory note accompanying the reply, the Congregation notes that Pope Francis “was informed and gave his assent to the publication” of the response.
The letter emphasised the distinction between unions and the individuals themselves, adding that the refusal to bless such unions was not an indictment of the individuals themselves.
“In order to conform with the nature of sacramentals, when a blessing is invoked on particular human relationships, in addition to the right intention of those who participate, it is necessary that what is blessed be objectively and positively ordered to receive and express grace, according to the designs of God inscribed in creation, and fully revealed by Christ the Lord,” read the reply’s explanatory note.
Because of this, it added, “only those realities which are in themselves ordered to serve those ends are congruent with the essence of the blessing imparted by the Church”.
“For this reason, it is not licit to impart a blessing on relationships, or partnerships, even stable, that involve sexual activity outside of marriage (i.e., outside the indissoluble union of a man and a woman open in itself to the transmission of life), as is the case of the unions between persons of the same sex.”
“Positive elements” within such relationships, while they are to be “appreciated, cannot justify these relationships and render them legitimate objects of an ecclesial blessing, since the positive elements exist within the context of a union not ordered by the Creator’s plan”.
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