Man-woman marriage remains the standard for the vast majority of Christians as the Catholic Church issues a statement re-asserting the orthodox, Biblical doctrine of marriage as being between a man and a woman.
The statement is by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) – the Catholic Church’s doctrine commission – and endorsed by Pope Francis. With a firm “no”, it answers the lobbying for change by some groups within the Catholic and other churches.
The Catholic Church cannot bless same sex unions because they are contrary to God’s design for humankind, an official commentary explains. For a marriage to be blessed by the church it needs to fit the “designs of God inscribed in creation, and fully revealed by Christ the Lord”.
“Relationships, or partnerships, even stable, that involve sexual activity outside of marriage” do not correspond, for they are “outside the indissoluble union of a man and a woman open in itself to the transmission of life.”
The Catholic Church cannot change what God has decreed: “[The Church] does not have the power over God’s designs, which would otherwise be rejected and denied. The Church is not the arbiter of these designs and the truths they express, but their faithful interpreter and witness.”
A distinctively Catholic reason to reject the blessing of same-sex relationships is that marriage is sacramental (not quite a sacrament) – and defined as a means of blessing. In the stilted English of the official translation, the CDF statement says: “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.”
The CDF is answering people who have taken some statements by Francis as an indication he is opening the way for same-sex blessings. The statement shuts and bolts the door. It is structured as a “responsum” (answer) to a dubium (question); the dubium is “Does the Church have the power to give the blessing to unions of persons of the same sex?” And the responsum: “Negative.”
LGBTIQ persons are welcome at church, the CDF asserts. “The Christian community and its Pastors are called to welcome with respect and sensitivity persons with homosexual inclinations, and will know how to find the most appropriate ways, consistent with Church teaching, to proclaim to them the Gospel in its fullness,” the statement outlines. “At the same time, they [the LGBTIQ community] should recognise the genuine nearness of the Church – which prays for them, accompanies them and shares their journey of Christian faith – and receive the teachings with sincere openness.”
The responsum declares that while same-sex relationships cannot be blessed, same-sex persons can be. While this has been widely reported, the CDF’s careful qualification should also be noted. “The answer to the proposed dubium does not preclude the blessings given to individual persons with homosexual inclinations, who manifest the will to live in fidelity to the revealed plans of God as proposed by Church teaching.”
God, and therefore the church, cannot bless sin. Instead he draws sinful people to him. The CDF puts it this way – “But he does not and cannot bless sin: he blesses sinful man, so that he may recognise that he is part of his plan of love and allow himself to be changed by him. He in fact ‘takes us as we are, but never leaves us as we are.’”