Catholic bishops in Belgium on Tuesday announced the introduction of blessing ceremonies for same-sex couples in their dioceses.
The bishops of Flanders also published a liturgy for the celebration of homosexual unions.
The Vatican published a clarification in March 2021 that the Catholic Church does not have the power to give liturgical blessings of homosexual unions.
However, basing their argument on Amoris laetitia, Cardinal Jozef De Kesel of Mechelen-Brussels and other bishops of the Flemish-speaking part of Belgium on Sept. 20 published a document titled “Being pastorally close to homosexual persons — For a welcoming Church that excludes no one.”
The bishops’ publication contains a suggested liturgy for same-sex blessings, including prayers, Scripture reading, and parts in which the couple can “express before God how they are committed to one another.”
The bishops of the Flemish-speaking part of Belgium also announced that each diocese will appoint a person as “concrete response and fulfillment to the desire to give explicit attention to the situation of homosexual persons, their parents and families in the conduct of policy. Pope Francis also expressed this explicitly in his April 2016 apostolic exhortation on the pastoral care of families, Amoris laetitia (‘The Joy of Love’).”
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) issued its latest declaration on same-sex blessings on March 15, 2021, in a document known as a Responsum ad dubium (“Response to a question”).
In reply to the query, “Does the Church have the power to give the blessing to unions of persons of the same sex?” the CDF answered, “Negative.”
The Vatican’s official response on same-sex blessings from 2021 says, in part:
Blessings belong to the category of the sacramentals, whereby the Church “calls us to praise God, encourages us to implore his protection, and exhorts us to seek his mercy by our holiness of life.” In addition, they “have been established as a kind of imitation of the sacraments, blessings are signs above all of spiritual effects that are achieved through the Church’s intercession.”
Consequently, 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. Therefore, only those realities which are in themselves ordered to serve those ends are congruent with the essence of the blessing imparted by the Church.
For this reason, it is not licit to impart a blessing on relationships, or partnerships, even stable, that involve sexual activity outside of marriage (i.e., outside the indissoluble union of a man and a woman open in itself to the transmission of life), as is the case of the unions between persons of the same sex. The presence in such relationships of positive elements, which are in themselves to be valued and appreciated, cannot justify these relationships and render them legitimate objects of an ecclesial blessing, since the positive elements exist within the context of a union not ordered to the Creator’s plan.
Furthermore, since blessings on persons are in relationship with the sacraments, the blessing of homosexual unions cannot be considered licit. This is because they would constitute a certain imitation or analogue of the nuptial blessing invoked on the man and woman united in the sacrament of Matrimony, while in fact “there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.”
The declaration of the unlawfulness of blessings of unions between persons of the same sex is not therefore, and is not intended to be, a form of unjust discrimination, but rather a reminder of the truth of the liturgical rite and of the very nature of the sacramentals, as the Church understands them.