Conservative Bishops Worldwide Joins Nigeria Bishops Conference, Rejects Pope’s Stand On Blessing Gay Couple
As the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) made public its stance on the recent pronouncement of the Pope Francis on same-sex marriage, stating that the teachings of the Catholic Church on marriage have not changed.
The bishops, in a statement signed by Lucius Ugorji, Archbishop of Owerri diocese, and Donatus Ogun, Bishop of Uromi, stated that the blessing of same-sex unions goes against God’s law and the teachings of the church.
The bishops explained in the statement that the declaration of the Pope seeks to explain the various forms of blessing that can be given to persons or objects in the Catholic Church, including the possibility of blessing people in irregular unions.
The CBCN said such unions include divorced and remarried couples whose previous marriages had not been annulled, those living in same-sex unions, those in polygamous unions, in concubinage, etc.
However the Conservative bishops worldwide are objecting to Pope Francis’ decision to permit church blessings on same-sex couples, but the global church remains divided on the issue as bishops in some European countries, where priests for years have been holding ceremonies to bless gay couples are embracing the move.
Bishops in Malawi and Zambia, as well as the principal archdiocese of Kazakhstan this week prohibited priests from offering blessings, while bishops in Ukraine said they are concerned that the wording of the pope’s declaration could suggest the church’s approval of same-sex relationships, reports The Wall Street Journal.
In Zambia, the bishops declared they will not abide by the Vatican guidelines so they can “avoid any pastoral confusion and ambiguity as well as not to break the law of our country which forbids same-sex unions and activities, and while listening to our cultural heritage which does not accept same-sex relationships.”
Pope Francis on Monday issued the guidelines saying that gay couples can be blessed by the church, while not endorsing same-sex marriages, raising an outcry from conservative church leaders.
Thursday morning, the pope, delivering his Christmas message to Vatican officials, did not mention the new policy but instead called for continued vigilance “against rigid ideological positions that often, under the guise of good intentions, separate us from reality and prevent us from moving forward.”
Meanwhile, Germany’s Catholic bishops in March voted to adopt formal ceremonies blessing same-sex relationships, and Bishop Georg Bätzing, who heads the German bishops’ conference, said he is thankful for the new guidelines, which said that the blessings must not be part of an official liturgy but instead be spontaneous.
In the United States, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops stressed that the pope’s document does not change the church doctrine that marriage is the union of one man and one woman and does not include same-sex unions.
Still, even though the conference generally opposes what it sees as Francis’ liberalization of the church, opinions are varied among church leaders across the country.
Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago insisted that the Chicago archdiocese welcomes the declaration, “which will help many more in our community feel the closeness and compassion of God.”
Some Catholic leaders, though, are warning that the pope’s declaration may create a permanent split in the church, pointing to stark disagreements over the issue in the Anglican Communion.
Conservative Anglican churches, which include some in Africa where nearly half of the world’s estimated 100 million Anglicans worship, have broken with sister churches that back liberal teaching and views on homosexuality. This includes the Episcopal Church in the United States.
Further, a dozen leading Anglican archbishops, mainly from the global South, called to break with the Church of England after it decided to allow blessings of gay relationships.
Thus the CBCN assured the entire people of God that the teaching of the Catholic Church on marriage remains the same. It added that the declaration affirms the Catholic Church’s teaching on marriage as an “exclusive, stable, and indissoluble union of a man and woman. members of the church in same-sex unions can be blessed or prayed for individually, the Catholic Church would not bestow any liturgical or formal blessing on their union.
“There is, therefore, no possibility in the Church of blessing same-sex unions and activities. That would go against God’s law, the teachings of the Church, the laws of our nation, and the cultural sensibilities of our people,” the bishops added.
Pope Francis recently agreed to the blessing of same-sex couples under certain circumstances. The blessings are, however, outside the formal or liturgical traditions of the church, devoid of any kind of ceremony or wedding.