On 15 March 2021, AP News published the article, “Vatican bars gay union blessing, says God ‘can’t bless sin’”. It stated:
ROME (AP) — The Vatican declared Monday that the Catholic Church won’t bless same-sex unions since God “cannot bless sin.”
The Vatican’s orthodoxy office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, issued a formal response to a question about whether Catholic clergy have the authority to bless gay unions. The answer, contained in a two-page explanation published in seven languages and approved by Pope Francis, was “negative.”
The note distinguished between the church’s welcoming and blessing of gay people, which it upheld, but not their unions. It argued that such unions are not part of God’s plan and that any sacramental recognition of them could be confused with marriage. . . .
The Vatican holds that gay people must be treated with dignity and respect, but that gay sex is “intrinsically disordered.” Catholic teaching says that marriage is a lifelong union between a man and woman, is part of God’s plan and is intended for the sake of creating new life.
Since gay unions aren’t intended to be part of that plan, they can’t be blessed by the church, the document said.
“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,” the response said.
God “does not and cannot bless sin: He blesses sinful man, so that he may recognize that he is part of his plan of love and allow himself to be changed by him,” it said. [see the Vatican document, dated 2-22-21]
There was nothing new there at all, of course. Catholic dogma (including moral and sexual teaching) is what it is, and it can’t change, by its nature. Yet there was a big stink about this, from both the far right (radical Catholic reactionaries) and far left (liberal dissidents) on the Catholic spectrum.
Those on the right don’t believe that the Holy Father is being honest, in approving such a document. They think he talks out of both sides of his mouth (deliberate “ambiguity”) and pretends to be orthodox, while in actuality he is secretly heterodox and anti-traditional (“one step forward, two steps back” etc.). It’s classic reactionary conspiratorial [anti-]thinking.
Liberal Catholics, on the other hand, are disappointed and take the position that the pope has “changed” from a progressive to a terrible orthodox Catholic. Both are wrong, and are thinking according to the groupthink playbook that their erroneous “side” has constructed. I observed on 1-18-14:
The dissidents / modernists / theological liberals / heterodox like [Pope Francis], but they don’t properly understand, and make him into their own image. . . . Reactionaries don’t like him because they falsely think he is a liberal, too, so both sides make the same error, but one likes the myth that he is supposedly modernist, and the other decries it. . . . The truth is that he is perfectly orthodox, but merely striking in style and presentation, which is a lot like Jesus and Paul.
It seems that everyone wants to make the pope (like they often do with God Himself) into their own image. Those outside the Church do this in proportion to how “contra-Catholic” or secular they are: up to and including atheists; as well as dissenting modernists and theological liberals within the Church (the “cafeteria” / pick and choose types).
These all want him to be so-called “progressive” and are more than willing to project this attribute onto him, in a huge campaign of wishful thinking, if in fact it is not there. This group includes (very much so) the media.
They long and yearn and (except for the atheists) pray for the day when a truly “enlightened” pope will come around to bring the Church out of the “Dark Ages” . . .
On the other end of the scale, the radical Catholic reactionaries, on the extreme right on the Catholic ecclesiological spectrum and a hair’s breadth away from schism, exaggerate new popes’ differences (if any) from previous popes, and become needlessly alarmed that the Church is revising or transforming itself; going to pot because of the new “liberal” pope. . . .
Thus, we have a scenario whereby folks on both the “left” and the “right” of the theological spectrum massively misinterpret what a new pope says and does. I aim to show both factions the errors and illusions of their ways.
Unfortunately, there is a third group as well: obedient, devout, observant, orthodox Catholics who understand the pope’s role and the nature and status of Catholic dogmas (which do not and cannot change), yet who are confused by something a new pope says or does. Mainstream “traditionalists” (i.e., basically those who prefer the Tridentine Mass) are a big part of this group, too, but not all of it, by any means.
On 12-7-15, I referred to a
stupid, cynical “narrative” that has been created by a long string of these trumped-up, ridiculous “incidents” (fed and fueled by the equally uncomprehending secular media, whose ramblings people enthusiastically sop up like a sponge), . . .
It’s gotten far worse since then (people being sheep and loving to jump onto bandwagons), but the wheels were already well in motion. On 2-25-16 I further elaborated in my article, “On the Endless Second-Guessing of Pope Francis”:
All of the individual “scandals” that have been brought up are either true on an individual basis or not. As I have studied the ones that I did study, I found nothing that is contrary to the faith or orthodoxy.
Now an entire narrative has been built up about the Holy Father that I don’t buy: either that he is a relentlessly imprecise incompetent (relatively more charitable take) or heterodox conspirator loose cannon (less charitable traditionalist or radical Catholic reactionary take).
When cynical or even semi- or fully conspiratorial “narratives” are built up, then the problem is that folks start to view everything through that biased, unfocused lens rather than by the facts of any given matter.
It’s quite similar to what we see in politics now. . . . People start to believe a narrative and all else is interpreted based on that. But we have to determine whether it is true in the first place as a solid premise.
That’s what we have now. Everyone appears to want to join in on the fashionable bandwagon, complaining about the pope. . . . It’s very typical postmodernist mushy subjectivism. Everything is about perception and feeling and what “everyone else” is thinking (ad populum fallacy) rather than seriously getting to the bottom of specific instances.
What is most often cited with regard to Pope Francis’ position on homosexuality is five words, “who am I to judge?”: ripped out of the overall context of his remarks to reporters on a plane, traveling to Brazil in July 2013. I have provided the full context and noted how nothing he said was in any way contrary to established Church teaching, or (specifically) the 1986 Vatican document On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons (signed by Pope Benedict XVI), or the Catechism: #2357-2359, 2396. I also cited Jimmy Akin’s defense of the pope.
If this press conference was so incredibly momentous and signaled a change in Church policy, the pope seems to have since forgotten his own alleged radical resolve. After all, he opposed so-called “gay marriage” in a Slovakian referendum in February 2015. According to one gay activist (from the same article), the pope had undergone an astonishing transformation in less than two years:
“‘It’s pretty clear that since the synod on the family last fall … the Catholic right has really gotten to the Vatican and to Pope Francis,’ said Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, in an Advocate interview. ‘It’s really crushing to a lot of people who were hoping to see policy change.’
Was that an isolated, anomalous incident? No. The Holy Father did the same thing in December 2015 as regards Slovenia (whose citizens then voted — 63.5% — to reject same-sex “marriage”). How about a third? In January 2015, the pope visited the Philippines and stated: “‘The family is also threatened by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage, by relativism, by the culture of the ephemeral, by a lack of openness to life.”
In an address on 1 October 2016, Pope Francis made his views very clear yet again:
You, Irina, mentioned a great enemy to marriage today: the theory of gender. Today there is a world war to destroy marriage. Today there are ideological colonisations which destroy, not with weapons, but with ideas. Therefore, there is a need to defend ourselves from ideological colonisations.
Terrible, dangerous, anti-traditional stuff there, huh? A New York Times article from 28 July 2015 stated about the last statement above: “His remarks were reported in the Catholic news media, but did not make headlines in the American secular media.” Really?! What a tremendous surprise! You mean, they didn’t even report it? This article actually gets it right, for a change:
When he has spoken about homosexuality, he has tended to take a pastoral approach, calling on the church to love and care for all. Yet there is also plenty of evidence that Pope Francis stands firmly on church teachings on the traditional family and opposing same-sex marriage.
Thus, we have the spectacle of a Jewish writer for the New York Times (Laurie Goodstein) understanding what Pope Francis believes about homosexuality better than a longtime Catholic journalist named Phil Lawler, and many many others over the past eight years. Like I said, nothing has changed at all. There should be no “disappointed surprise” from liberal Catholic dissidents, or renewed charges of subterfuge and equivocation from the far right reactionaries. Both scenarios are false. For more material on this question, see:
Pope Francis on Homosexual Unions (Jimmy Akin, National Catholic Register, 3-20-13)
On the Pope’s Remarks about Homosexuality (Scott P. Richert, Crisis, 8-1-13)
What Did the Pope Really Say about Gays in the Priesthood? (Fr. Regis Scanlon, O.F.M. Cap., Crisis, 8-5-13)
Report: Pope Excommunicates Priest for Supporting Gay Marriage, Female Priest (Dr. Susan Berry, Breitbart, 9-24-13)
Pope Francis’s new letter to homosexual Catholics (9 things to know and share) (Jimmy Akin, National Catholic Register, 10-11-13)
What did Pope Francis say about the children of homosexual couples? 8 things to know and share (Jimmy Akin, National Catholic Register, 1-4-14)
Judge Not (Tim Staples, Catholic Answers, 2-14-14) [Same-sex couples and homosexuality]
Pope Francis Shocks Liberals on Same-Sex “Marriage” (Paul Kengor, Crisis Magazine, 1-23-15)
Pope Francis on Apologizing to Gays (And More): 6 things to know and share (Jimmy Akin, National Catholic Register, 6-28-16)
Pope Francis, Same-Sex Unions, & Chicken Little Mass Hysteria [Dave Armstrong, 10-22-20]
Pope Francis’s Words on Civil Unions Distorted by Editing (Fr. Matthew Schneider, Through Catholic Lenses, 10-22-20)
Has Pope Francis changed Church teaching on same-sex civil unions? (Dawn Eden Goldstein & Robert Fastiggi, Where Peter Is, 10-22-20)
Those Pope Francis quotes: Video editing and media controversy” [same-sex unions controversy] (Dr. Pedro Gabriel, Where Peter Is, 10-22-20)
Pope Francis and Civil Unions: Critical Context (Mike Lewis, Where Peter Is, 10-22-20)
Has Pope Francis changed Church’s doctrine on Homosexuality? (Francis Figuero, The Reproach of Christ, 10-22-20)
Full Text Proves Francis Meant Civil Unions INSTEAD OF “Gay Marriage” (Fr. Matthew Schneider, Through Catholic Lenses, 10-24-20)
Vatican breaks silence on Pope Francis’ gay civil union remarks (Vatican says pope’s comments taken out of context) (Fox News / Associated Press, 11-2-20)
Nuncio Further Clarifies Pope on Civil Unions (Fr. Matthew Schneider, Through Catholic Lenses, 11-5-20)
With that documentary backdrop, let’s now look at what our beloved brothers and sisters on the far right and far left in the Catholic Church have blessed us with, in analyzing this latest “same-old same-old” (i.e, altogether traditional) document. First, we’ll see what reactionary and self-appointed Pope Inquisitor Steve Skojec (altogether typical of the group of far-right extremist, quasi-schismatic Catholics he is part of), writing at his site, One Peter Five, had to say:
Francis wants chaos at the local level. He wants it under the table. He wants it off the books. He uses subsidiarity to sow instability at the lowest possible tier of Catholic life, where it resonates through the entire Church. . . .
I know, gentle reader, that you know the score. But if someone you’re discussing this with can’t see through the game at this point — it has the same moves every time — I doubt they’re going to see it no matter how clearly we lay it out.
Whatever some Catholics may be telling themselves today, past is prologue, this pope is on record about such unions, and blessings or not, the bar could hardly get lower on this issue. This statement from the CDF can hardly be classified as an actual win. (Vatican Nixes German Plan for Same-Sex Blessings, But All I Feel is Déjà Vu, 3-15-21)
Not able to contain his verbal diarrhea, Skojec spewed out yet more two days later:
Here we see the heart of the problem: there was a real expectation that Francis would change the Church’s stance on this topic, and that expectation is entirely of his own making.
Recall that last October, he was on the record supporting same-sex civil unions – a first for any pope, and a direct violation of the Vatican’s own instruction in 2003, under then-Cardinal Ratzinger’s CDF, which said that “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” and that subsequently, “Under no circumstances can they be approved.” . . .
When a pope is willing to endorse something his own Church has classified as “gravely immoral” and a moral duty to oppose, all bets are off.
In sum, Skojec buys the damnable lies already long in circulation about Pope Francis’ supposed advocacy of same-sex “marriage” or “unions” or whatever. These have been refuted time and again (see the documentation above). Beyond that, it’s simply conspiratorialism, which immediately rationalizes away any reasonable objections to it, according to its pathetic brand of “insider gnosticism.” I wrote along these lines, in one of my reviews of Phil Lawler’s book, Lost Shepherd: How Pope Francis is Misleading His Flock (dated 1-1-18), regarding the related view of the indissolubility of marriage (between a man and a woman):
If Lawler wishes to assert that Francis has overthrown — or seeks to overthrow — the constant Catholic teaching on marriage, then certainly he can find passages where the pope undeniably does / seeks to do just that. So why didn’t he do that? I would say that it’s because they don’t exist. And what would Lawler say? That the pope is being deliberately secretive and conniving about his “real” beliefs? In other words, that it’s a grand evil, nefarious “jesuitical” conspiracy? Certainly, if this radical strain of thought is present in Francis, then it can be found, in a way infinitely more persuasive or compelling than the always-weak method of arguing from silence. And if it can’t, it ought not be asserted that the pope believes something that can’t be documented from his voluminous writings and talks.
And in another review of his book, I opined:
In my opinion, he [Phil Lawler] has absolutely failed to demonstrate that Pope Francis is deliberately trying to subvert or overthrow Catholic tradition. That hasn’t been even remotely proven in this book [Lost Shepherd].
There were insinuations here and there that the pope is talking out of both sides of his mouth and being two-faced: not saying what he “really” means. But anyone can say that about any person at any time and attempt to “prove” any theory whatever. That would be like saying, “Armstrong really loves Lawler’s book. He’s just saying the opposite to fool all of us.” Personally, I prefer hard facts, not “jesuitical” conspiracy theories.
The proof’s in the pudding. Lacking any serious, uncontested, incontrovertible proof that the pope has changed the Church’s doctrine on homosexuality (as if that is even possible, given the dogmas of Church and papal indefectibility), reactionaries like Skojec and fellow travelers / “useful idiots” like Phil Lawler fall back on the subjective mush and anti-rational bilge of conspiratorialism. Don’t fall for it, folks. Don’t be a fool.
Moving on to our friends on the left of the Church, who want these doctrines to change (want to, in effect, transform the Catholic Church into the Anglican “Church”), and falsely believe that the Holy Father is (or supposedly was) their big “ally”: first, we’ll examine the reaction of the folks at National Catholic Reporter. Its entire editorial staff chimed in, in the article, “Vatican’s decree on gay unions risks making Francis into a hypocrite” (3-17-21). It was a classic exhibit of the anti-traditionalism and subversion of the liberal dissident cadre in the Church:
There are many laudatory words and phrases we might use to describe the Pope Francis the world has come to know over these past eight years. Genuine. Pastoral. Open-minded. Concerned for the poor, humanity, the environment. Friend of the marginalized.
But the pope’s decision to approve the March 15 decree from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith instructing Catholic priests not to offer blessings for same-sex couples brings to mind a word that is much more bitter in the throat. Hypocrite. . . .
Forgive us if we have whiplash. Pope Francis approved this? The same man who, when asked in 2013 about a gay priest in Vatican service, famously replied: “If a person is gay and is seeking the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” . . .
We recognize, of course, that the earlier papal quips and meetings did not ultimately change the church’s teaching on human sexuality. That will take many years . . .
At NCR, we have been calling for such a dialogue on sexual ethics for years, urging a continuation of the development of the doctrine of sexuality that began in Vatican II. “This work has largely been stalled by the hierarchy’s unwillingness to loosen its rigid interpretation of millennia-old ideas about natural law and the procreation norm,” we editorialized in 2017. . . .
But we come to the point of absurdity — and hypocrisy — when a pope says he wants to welcome LGBT people into the church but then simply cannot countenance that they might want to pursue loving relationships, just like the rest of humanity. . . .
And now the pope of “building bridges and not walls” has erected another barrier.
These people are de facto (if not technically, canonical) schismatics, just as those on the far right are. They’re dissatisfied with immemorial Church teaching, just as the reactionaries are fed up with the pope. Both extremities have in common a rejection of Church and papal indefectibility. The liberals and leftists think that the Church can fundamentally evolve and change (which is not “development”) and defect and depart from apostolic and biblical tradition, while the reactionaries dangerously believe that both Church and pope can defect.
Both errors amount to a Protestant outlook of the rule of faith and Church authority, or worse yet, a radically secularist, even atheist one. Both extremist sides require a view that fundamentally lacks faith in God’s promises and protection of Holy Mother Church. This is why I am equally passionate in my denunciation of both.
Falsely and foolishly believing that the pope believed as they do about same-sex “marriages” or “unions”, now they are bitterly disappointed and crushed. And so they did what disappointed liberals in the Church always do: cite bishops who disagree with the pope and the Vatican, i.e., play one against the other, as if the Church is a democracy in its government.
The usual, utterly predictable “peanut gallery” is produced: bishops from (what a surprise!) Belgium, Switzerland, France, Germany, Australia, and good ol’ Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, who pontificated: “the understandable reaction among many to this response will be disappointment. This should prompt us in the Church… to redouble our efforts to be creative and resilient in finding ways to welcome and encourage all LGBTQ people in our family of faith.”
The leftists want such changes to occur, which is contrary to Church teaching on this topic and on Church authority in general, while the reactionaries falsely believe that it has already “officially” changed (in a way that they decry). Neither understands the dogma of indefectibility, and it is a severe lack of faith in God’s sovereignty over and protection of the Church that both have in common.
Summary: Leftists want changes to occur to unchangeable Church teaching on “gay unions” while reactionaries falsely believe that it has already “officially” changed (in a way that they decry). Both lack supernatural faith in God’s promised protection of His Church from theological and moral error.