Philly Archbishop Rebukes German Cardinal: No, Catholic Priests Cannot Bless Homosexual Unions

DENVER, CO - JULY 20: Catholic Archbishop Charles J. Chaput answers questions following a news conference on July 20, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. Chaput was announced Tuesday as the Archbishop-designate for the diocese of Philadelphia, one of the country's largest dioceses in the United States. The church in Philadelphia is …

In the wake of recent statements from German Cardinal Reinhard Marx opening the door to church blessings for homosexual couples, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput has issued a fraternal correction, reminding his brother bishop that such an act is “morally forbidden.”

In an interview with Bavarian radio, the cardinal—who is president of the German bishops’ conference as well as a member of Pope Francis’ nine-man advisory board—said he could envision church blessings for homosexual couples, but added that it would have to be up to the “pastor on the ground” rather than made into a universal rule.

In reporting on the interview, the German edition of Vatican News acknowledged that the cardinal had said that a church blessing of homosexual couples is “possible” in individual cases.

“I really would emphatically leave that to the particular, individual case at hand, and not demand any sets of rules again – there are things that cannot be regulated,” he said.

Such statements sow confusion among the faithful, Archbishop Chaput wrote in response. “Confusion is bad. It’s bad for the individual soul, and it’s bad for the health of a society.”

In his article titled “Charity, Clarity, and their Opposite,” the Philadelphia archbishop noted that recently “a number of senior voices in the leadership of the Church in Germany have suggested (or strongly implied) support for the institution of a Catholic blessing rite for same-sex couples who are civilly married or seeking civil marriage.”

While on the surface this idea “may sound generous and reasonable,” he continued, “the imprudence of such public statements is—and should be—the cause of serious concern.”

Conferring a blessing on a gay couple “would cooperate in a morally forbidden act,” he added, and would “undermine the Catholic witness on the nature of marriage and the family.” It would, moreover, “confuse and mislead the faithful.”

The problem behind such a misguided act is that blessing persons “in their particular form of life effectively encourages them in that state—in this case, same-sex sexual unions,” he said.

While we need to treat all people with respect as children of God with inherent dignity, including persons with same-sex attraction, he said, “there is no truth, no real mercy, and no authentic compassion, in blessing a course of action that leads persons away from God.”

“Jesus said the truth will make us free,” Chaput noted. “Nowhere did he suggest it will make us comfortable.”

“To rashly, or deliberately, cause confusion about a significant matter is a serious failure for any person in authority,” the archbishop wrote, and that is why “leaders have a special duty to be clear, honest and prudent in what they do and say.”

In response to the uproar occasioned by Cardinal Marx’s interview, the cardinal’s spokesman at the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising issued a correction of an English-language translation of the interview that was circulating, indicating that it did not properly reflect the position of the cardinal.

The “correction,” however, did not back away from assertions by the cardinal that there could be no universal rule regarding blessings for same-sex couples and that such decisions would need to me made by pastors locally.

Other German bishops who recently suggested that church blessings for gay couples should not be ruled out were Bishop Franz-Josef Bode of Osnabrück, the deputy chairman of the German bishops’ conference, and Bishop Dieter Geerlings of Münster.

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