A doubt, an answer and some questions: The Vatican document on blessing same-sex unions

Participating in blessing same-sex unions is a concern for priests and pastoral agents. The challenge of understanding homosexuality is obvious. We need an inclusive theology of grace to keep the challenge in perspective, writes Raphael Gallagher CSsR.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) made public in March 2021 their answer to a doubt (dubium) that had been submitted to them about blessing unions between persons of the same sex. The laconic answer was ‘negative’. The CDF also issued an explanatory note about the decision with a commentary outlining why the Church does not have the power to give such blessings.

Public reactions within the Church were swift. Cardinals O’Malley from Boston and Turkson from Rome said the CDF response was necessary to underline the Church’s teaching on marriage as exclusively a woman-man union. Cardinal Schönborn of Vienna, Bishop Bonny of Antwerp and Bishop Dempsey of Achonry expressed varying reservations about the appropriateness of the document. Priests in England and Ireland when asked for comment used words like angry, hurtful, harsh, embarrassing, vitriolic.

The reception of the Responsum
The reception of the CDF response by the faithful is my focus. Homosexuality was not discussed at the Second Vatican Council, probably because it was not a major social issue, and, in any case, the teaching of the Church appeared absolutely clear and wholly compelling. The Sexual Offences Act 1967 (applicable to England and Wales) decriminalised consensual homosexual activity in private between people over 21. This was a catalyst for the expanding social acceptance of homosexuality.

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