What is true of the Pope's words on same-sex marriage?
Last week, Pope Francis became the centre of a controversy. He is said to be stepping towards marriage for same-sex couples. How much is true?
A statement from Pope Francis about same-sex relationships went viral prior to the Synod of Bishops last week. Francis had said that any requests for blessing of a same-sex couple or of a relationship between divorcees should “be treated with pastoral benevolence” and that the Church “cannot be judges who only deny, reject and exclude.” He called for pastoral prudence and discernment “whether there are forms of blessing, requested by one or more persons, which do not convey a false concept of marriage.”
The statement was an answer to one of the questions asked during the Synod of Bishops, which discusses the future of the Roman Catholic Church, Kristeligt Dagblad reports. Five cardinals had asked the Pope to confirm the doctrines of the Church on the issues of homosexuality and the ordination of women. They also wrote an open letter that warned the Pope that the Synod could “lead to many Catholics becoming alienated from the Church.”
“A watershed for the Catholic Church”, the National Catholic Reporter responded quickly to the words of the Pope, Dagen writes.
At the same time, much of the upheaval may be for nothing. Since marriage is a sacrament, there is no reason to believe that the Catholics will approve same-sex relationships on the same level as heterosexuals, Dagen writes. “The Church has a very clear idea of marriage: an exclusive, stable and indissoluble union between a man and a woman, naturally open to children. Only this union can be called marriage”, he writes in his answer.
Earlier this year, the Pope spoke about homosexual relationships as being “objectively seen as a sin in the Roman Catholic Church”. In the spring of 2021, he explicitly forbade priests from blessing same-sex couples, stating that God “cannot bless sin.”
BBC editor Aleem Maqbool and commentator Christy Cooney figured out what a Roman Catholic blessing actually entails, Dagen writes. A Catholic blessing, they found out, is a prayer to God to look favourably at the people being blessed. The Pope did not mention who or what is being blessed, the BBC article states. “He spoke more generally about the desire to be blessed being a request for help from God to be able to live better, which he said should not be denied to them.” In short, if this is true, the Pope would call for the blessing of the spouses, not of their relationship. A document from the Congregation for the Faith of the Vatican also states that sinful relationships cannot be blessed, but sinful people can.
At the Synod, the Pope wrote in his answer about same-sex relationships that “decisions in certain circumstances may be part of a pastoral prudence, but do not necessarily have to become a norm.”
The Synod in its form today is very different from earlier Synods. This year, it is the first time that some women have the right to vote at the meeting. For the first time in history, a large group of lay people participated as voters, Dagen explains.
The German sister Anna Mirijam Kaschner is confident in this reformed version of the Synod. “It is the first time that the Catholic Church asks for the opinion of the faithful at this level, and I think that is something fantastic”, she said to Dagen. Kaschner also attended the Synod herself as she is one of the representatives of the Nordic dioceses. She sees it as her task “to give a voice to the Catholic Churches in the Nordics and the views we have come up with.”
Another controversial issue that came up during the Synod was the ordination of female priests. However, Pope Francis has not made a decision yet. He said that the matter should be investigated more deeply first.
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