Cardinal Eijik: the Flemish Bishops Must be Stopped
While a muzzle seems to have been imposed in Rome, Cardinal Eijk of Utrecht spoke out today and called for the Flemish bishops to stop their intention to introduce gay blessings.
(Rome) When the Flemish bishops presented a liturgy for gay couples a week ago, which is in obvious contradiction to the Church's teaching on homosexuality and to the recent guidelines of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Santa Marta apparently gave the order to remain silent on the matter. No one in the Roman Curia has spoken out since then, which can be interpreted as "submissive silence." Cardinal Willem Jacobus Eijk, Archbishop of Utrecht in the Netherlands, spoke today. Since the Flemish are also ethnically Dutch, Cardinal Eijk is the hjighest-ranking, closest neighbour to the Flemish bishops of Belgium, who have gone astray. Today, La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana (NBQ) exclusively published the statement by the Dutch cardinal. The headline was chosen by the Catholic online daily newspaper.
Blessing of homosexual couples: The Flemish bishops must be stopped
By Willem Jacobus Cardinal Eijk
The Belgian-Flemish bishops surprised many inside and outside the Church with the statement published on 20 September 2022: "Pastorally close to homosexual people: For a welcoming Church that excludes no one". For Catholics who accept the Teaching of the Church, this was by no means a pleasant surprise. In the aforementioned declaration, the Flemish bishops offer the opportunity to bless homosexual couples with a lasting, monogamous relationship.
In a statement, they also provide a model for a celebration of the Word and a prayer in which the blessing of homosexual couples can take shape. It is structured as follows:
- Opening word; - Opening prayer; - Scripture reading; - express the commitment of both interested parties to each other by expressing their mutual solidarity before God; this can be done, for example, by the following formulations:
God of love and fidelity, today we stand before you, surrounded by family and friends. We thank You for finding each other. We want to be there for each other in all life situations. We express with confidence that we want to work day after day for each other's happiness. Let us pray: Give us the strength to remain faithful to one another and deepen our commitment. We trust in Your closeness, through Your Word we want to live, to give ourselves to each other for good.
- Then follows the community prayer, in which, according to the Flemish Bishops, one prays that the grace of God will work in the couple; it is the grace that enables it to care for one another and for the community as a whole; an example of this prayer is also given:
God and Father, today we surround N. and N. with our prayer. You know their hearts and the path they will walk together from now on. Make sure that they are firm and faithful to each other. May their home be filled with understanding, tolerance and care. There should be room for reconciliation and peace. May the love they share with each other be their joy and service to our community. Give us the strength to walk with them in the footsteps of Your Son and strengthened by the Spirit.
- intercessions; - Our Father; - Final prayer; - Blessing.
It is the first time that a bishops' conference (or part of it) has issued a statement giving an example of a celebration of the Word and prayer to give the blessing to a same-sex couple. The Flemish bishops have taken the remarkable step of allowing the blessing of homosexual couples on the basis of their interpretation of certain passages of Amoris Laetitia (AL), the post-synodal letter published by Pope Francis after the two synods on the family in 2014 and 2015 respectively. In it, Pope Francis declares, among other things, "that every human being, regardless of his sexual orientation, must be respected in his dignity and received with respect" (AL 250).
According to the Flemish bishops, distinguishing, accompanying and integrating are the most important keywords of Amoris laetitia (Chapter VIII). It goes without saying that people of homosexual orientation must also be treated with respect and have a right to pastoral care and counseling (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, Nos. 2358-2359). However, in Amoris laetitia, the distinction means that people who are in an irregular relationship are made to understand what the truth is about their relationship (AL 300). In short, they come to understand that their relationship violates God's order of creation and is therefore morally unacceptable. Integration means giving people who live in an irregular relationship a place – as far as possible – in the life of the Church. Of course, people who are in a sexual relationship with a person of the same sex are welcome at church celebrations, even if they cannot receive communion or actively participate in the celebration.
The Declaration of the Flemish Bishops on the Blessing of Homosexual Couples encounters several inherent objections:
1. Blessings are sacramentalia, not sacraments. The Flemish bishops also explicitly declare that the blessing of same-sex couples is not marriage. The sacramentals, on the other hand, are sacred signs that resemble the sacraments in a certain way and that have special spiritual effects on the recipients of the blessing, preparing them to receive the main effect of the sacraments. The sacramentals also sanctify certain situations of life (cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Responsum of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on a dubium on the blessing of same-sex partnerships, 22 February 2021). The sacramentals are in a way analogous to the sacraments. The presented example of an explanation by which homosexual couples commit themselves to each other shows a clear analogy to the "yes" that a man and a woman give each other at the wedding. In it, the same-sex couple prays: "We want to be there for each other in all situations of life ... give us the strength to remain true to each other and deepen our commitment". We also find this analogy to the "yes" of man and woman at the wedding ceremony in the community prayer: "Let your promise be strong and faithful for each other". So the fear is not unfounded: the transition from this blessing to same-sex marriage is not a big step and will be possible in the near future.
2. A blessing does not only require good intentions on the part of the recipient. What is blessed must also correspond to God's order of creation. God created marriage as a perfect and reciprocal gift of man and woman for one another, culminating in procreation (Gaudium et Spes, n. 48; cf. n. 50). Sexual relations between persons of the same sex can not lead to reproduction. Therefore, on the physical level, they cannot be an authentic expression of the total mutual devotion of man and woman, which is marriage by its very nature. Situations that are objectively wrong from a moral point of view cannot be blessed. God's grace does not shine on the path of sin. One cannot produce spiritual fruit by blessing relationships that run counter to God's order of creation (ibid.). Of course, this does not preclude homosexual people from being blessed. However, it is not morally permissible to bless the homosexual relationship as such.
3. The arguments of points 1 and 2 are set out in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's response of 22 February 2021 to a question on the blessing of homosexual relationships. However, with their declaration allowing the blessing of homosexual couples, the Flemish bishops contradict the above-mentioned declaration of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The Flemish bishops are also bound by it.
4. In the prayer of the community on the occasion of the blessing of homosexual couples, the Flemish Bishops said, the community prays that "God's grace may work in homosexual couples" so that they can care for each other and for the community as a whole. However, we cannot pray that God's grace will work in a relationship that does not coincide with His order of creation. The Flemish bishops do not explicitly say that same-sex relations can be justified. Yet even the wording of community prayer in its liturgical model for blessing homosexual couples suggests that same-sex relationships may be morally justified. So at the end, it is prayed: "Give us the strength to follow in the footsteps of your Son together with them and strengthened by the Spirit." Are same-sex people following in Christ's footsteps in their same-sex relationship? So do the Flemish bishops really believe that same-sex couples follow in the footsteps of Christ in their same-sex relationship? In the example prayer, the homosexual couple says, "By Your Word, we want to live." But the Word of God contained in Scripture clearly and undeniably classifies homosexual relationships as a sin. At the very least, in formulating the model prayers for the homosexual couple and the community, there is a danger that the average Catholic, who generally knows very little about his faith, will be misled and begin to believe that lasting, monogamous same-sex sexual relations are morally acceptable.
5. If homosexual couples who live in permanent, monogamous sexual relationships can be blessed, shouldn't the same be possible for monogamous, permanent sexual relations between a man and a woman who live together without being married? Allowing the blessing of homosexual couples carries the great danger that the blessing will be devalued and the Church's teaching on the morality of marriage and sexual ethics will be undermined.
The Declaration of the Flemish Bishops, by which they allow the blessing of same-sex couples and also present a liturgical model for it, encounters inherent ethical objections, radically contradicts a recent judgment of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and carries the risk of leading Catholics to views on the morality of same-sex relationships that contradict the Church's teaching. Catholics who accept the Church's teaching also with regard to sexual morality therefore fervently hope that the Flemish bishops will soon be asked by ecclesiastical circles to withdraw their declaration and that they will comply with it.
Introduction/Translation: Giuseppe Nardi Image: NBQ