HomeForeignPope's Directive To Bless Same-Sex Couples Tears Catholic Clerics Apart

Pope’s Directive To Bless Same-Sex Couples Tears Catholic Clerics Apart

Pope’s Directive To Bless Same-Sex Couples Tears Catholic Clerics Apart

India’s most senior Cardinal has defended Fiducia Supplicans – the controversial new Vatican text approving non-liturgical blessings for same-sex unions – in the face of a rebellion by bishops against the document spreads into Europe and Africa.

Increasing numbers of prelates are rejecting the new directive, however.

Bishops in such countries as Ukraine, Brazil, Kenya, Rwanda, Zambia, Cameroon, Malawi, Nigeria, Angola, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Sao Tome and Principe, and Kazakhstan openly refusing to allow the blessings of same-sex couples in their dioceses.

Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai said giving blessings is a widely accepted custom, a “natural” for his country, calling it “an affirmation of our spirituality and a gift”.

“Jesus never refused a blessing … that’s the idea,” he said, explaining his position in an interview with Crux.

The cardinal, a close adviser to Pope Francis, spoke shortly after the Hungarian bishops became the first major European church to reject the demands of the document by telling priests they must avoid blessing same-sex couples and others in irregular relationships.

His intervention is rare because, although most bishops have remained publicly silent about the document since its publication earlier this month, few have chosen to endorse it.

Increasing numbers of prelates are rejecting it, however, with bishops in such countries as Ukraine, Brazil, Kenya, Rwanda, Zambia, Cameroon, Malawi, Nigeria, Angola, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Sao Tome and Principe, and Kazakhstan openly refusing to allow the blessings of same-sex couples in their dioceses.

On Wednesday, the Hungarian bishops’ conference collectively issued a statement to say priests must always avoid blessings “for couples who live together in a mere partnership, in a marriage that is not valid in the Church or in a same-sex partnership”.

In Britain, the Confraternity of Confraternity of Catholic Clergy, to which 500 priests belong, also issued a statement before Christmas to say the blessings of such irregular relationships were “pastorally and practically inadmissible”.

Cardinal Gracias argued, however, that in his opinion Fiducia Supplicans has been misunderstood.

“There is no change at all in the Church doctrine of a marriage between a man and a woman. The tradition of the Church, the magisterium is very clear and there is no contradiction at all,” he said.

India’s most senior cardinal has defended Fiducia Supplicans – the controversial new Vatican text approving non-liturgical blessings for same-sex unions – as a rebellion by bishops against the document spreads into Europe.

Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai (pictured with Pope Francis) said that in Indian culture, asking for and giving blessings is a widely accepted custom, a “natural” for his country, calling it “an affirmation of our spirituality and a gift”.

“Jesus never refused a blessing … that’s the idea,” he said, explaining his position in an interview with Crux.

The cardinal, a close adviser to Pope Francis, spoke shortly after the Hungarian bishops became the first major European church to reject the demands of the document by telling priests they must avoid blessing same-sex couples and others in irregular relationships.

His intervention is rare because, although most bishops have remained publicly silent about the document since its publication earlier this month, few have chosen to endorse it.

Increasing numbers of prelates are rejecting it, however, with bishops in such countries as Ukraine, Brazil, Kenya, Rwanda, Zambia, Cameroon, Malawi, Nigeria, Angola, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Sao Tome and Principe, and Kazakhstan openly refusing to allow the blessings of same-sex couples in their dioceses.

On Wednesday, the Hungarian bishops’ conference collectively issued a statement to say priests must always avoid blessings “for couples who live together in a mere partnership, in a marriage that is not valid in the Church or in a same-sex partnership”.

In Britain, the Confraternity of Confraternity of Catholic Clergy, to which 500 priests belong, also issued a statement before Christmas to say the blessings of such irregular relationships were “pastorally and practically inadmissible”.

Cardinal Gracias argued, however, that in his opinion Fiducia Supplicans has been misunderstood.

“There is no change at all in the Church doctrine of a marriage between a man and a woman. The tradition of the Church, the magisterium is very clear and there is no contradiction at all,” he said.

“The blessing is like when a person is going on a journey, when they have come on a pilgrimage, they want a blessing asking God to be with them,” he said. “Everybody has a right to God’s love and God’s compassion, calling the teaching on blessings in the document a “natural consequence” of this principle.’

Explaining his position to Crux, Cardinal Gracias said: “I once met the Prime Minister, and he asked for prayers. I assured him of our prayers and our blessings.

“Our Indian mentality is so inclusive, understanding people of other religions and other faiths. All are searching for God, all are searching for the truth, all are searching for spirituality.”

Cardinal Gracias also said that Fiducia Supplicans is consistent with his own pastoral practice with the LGBTQ+ community.

“In the past I have said this and I want to say it again, they are part of our family, they need our pastoral care. I have met them when they have come to me sometimes privately in my office.”

As a concrete example, in October 2018 the late Indian fashion designer Wendell Rodricks met Gracias. Rodricks also headed a group called the “Global Network of Rainbow Catholics,” which worked on the pastoral care of LGBTQ+ Catholics. The purpose of the meeting was for Rodricks to ask Cardinal Gracias’s blessing on a plan to open a hotline for the LGBTQ+ community, in part to them being closer to the church.

In a social media post after the meeting, Rodricks described his deep emotion when Cardinal Gracias responded positively.

“I was moved to tears when Cardinal Gracias not only gave his total approval and support but also agreed to advise his clergy to be more compassionate and less condemning of the LGBTQ community,” he wrote.

“At the end of our meeting, His Eminence placed his hand on my head and blessed me in a special way: ‘Christ bless us for the work we are doing for society’. Suffice to say I felt blessed, grateful and immensely joyful. In smog-filled Bombay, my heart felt a rainbow in the sky,” Rodricks wrote.

Cardinal Gracias insisted that such blessings do not court doctrinal confusion.

“I think people have interpreted it as meaning a step forward towards giving a sacramental marriage,” he said. “Absolutely not. I can say that categorically, at 100 per cent.”

Cardinal Gracias said he’ll use his own social media channels to try to dispel any confusion.

“One of the interactive question and answer sessions I will have on the Archdiocese of Bombay YouTube channel, which has 122,000 subscribers, this is the first thing I will take up. I will take the question and explain in detail that it has been instrumentalised, misunderstood and misinterpreted much more than is normal,” he said.

CATHOLIC HERALD

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