Archbishop prohibits same-sex blessings, admonishes Pope Francis: 'Great deception'

Pope Francis leaves after delivering a speech at the Atomic Bomb Hypocenter Park on November 24, 2019, in Nagasaki, Japan.
Pope Francis leaves after delivering a speech at the Atomic Bomb Hypocenter Park on November 24, 2019, in Nagasaki, Japan. | Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images

A Catholic archbishop in Kazakhstan reportedly issued a formal repudiation of the Vatican doctrinal office's guidance this week allowing priests to offer blessings to same-sex couples. He accused the Catholic Church of propagating "gender ideology."

Tomash Peta, who has served as metropolitan archbishop of the Archdiocese of Saint Mary in Astana since 2003, prohibited any form of blessing for same-sex couples and also publicly admonished Pope Francis, asking him to revoke the guidance he signed off on this week, according to The Catholic Herald.

The Vatican's Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a declaration Monday titled "Fiducia Supplicans," which provided "a broadening and enrichment of the classical understanding of blessings, which is closely linked to a liturgical perspective."

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The declaration allows "spontaneous pastoral blessing" for "same-sex couples" and other couples in "irregular situations," though it clarified that the blessing is not akin to marriage and that such relationships are still sinful.

"It is precisely in this context that one can understand the possibility of blessing couples in irregular situations and same-sex couples without officially validating their status or changing in any way the Church's perennial teaching on marriage," the guidance says.

"This Declaration is also intended as a tribute to the faithful People of God, who worship the Lord with so many gestures of deep trust in his mercy and who, with this confidence, constantly come to seek a blessing from Mother Church."

The declaration warned that "one should neither provide for nor promote a ritual for the blessings of couples in an irregular situation."

"At the same time, one should not prevent or prohibit the Church's closeness to people in every situation in which they might seek God's help through a simple blessing," the Vatican document added.

In his Tuesday statement, also signed by Auxiliary Bishop Athanasius Schneider, Peta said, "[t]he fact that the document does not give permission for the 'marriage' of same-sex couples should not blind pastors and faithful to the great deception and the evil that resides in the very permission to bless couples in irregular situations and same-sex couples."

"Such a blessing directly and seriously contradicts Divine Revelation and the uninterrupted, bimillennial doctrine and practice of the Catholic Church," the prelates continued.

"To bless couples in an irregular situation and same-sex couples is a serious abuse of the most Holy Name of God, since this name is invoked upon an objectively sinful union of adultery or of homosexual activity."

Peta and Schneider accused the Vatican of causing "far-reaching and destructive consequences" by legitimizing such blessings, which they argued effectively reduces the denomination to "a propagandist of the globalist and ungodly' gender ideology.'"

Citing their oaths as successors to the apostles and their charge to preserve the deposit of the faith, Peta and Schneider exhorted and prohibited the priests and faithful in their archdiocese from performing any form of blessing for couples in an "irregular situation" or same-sex relationship.

"It goes without saying that every sincerely repentant sinner with the firm intention to no longer sin and to put an end to his public sinful situation (such as, e.g., cohabitation outside of a canonically valid marriage, union between people of the same sex) can receive a blessing," they wrote.

The two concluded by referencing Galatians 2, in which Paul recounts opposing Peter to his face for behaving inconsistently with the Gospel.

Claiming he "does not walk uprightly according to the truth of the Gospel," the bishops asked Francis "to revoke the permission to bless couples in an irregular situation and same-sex couples, so that the Catholic Church may shine clearly as the 'pillar and ground of the truth' (1 Tim 3:15) for all those who sincerely seek to know the will of God and, by fulfilling it, to attain eternal life."

The latest guidance from the Vatican has also prompted responses from some U.S. bishops, with many reaffirming the Catholic Church's teaching that marriage is between one man and one woman while noting that the guidance does not change official  teaching on the subject.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops stressed that the declaration from the Vatican made a "distinction between liturgical (sacramental) blessings, and pastoral blessings, which may be given to persons who desire God's loving grace in their lives."

"The Church's teaching on marriage has not changed, and this declaration affirms that, while also making an effort to accompany people through the imparting of pastoral blessings because each of us needs God's healing love and mercy in our lives," the USCCB statement reads. 

In the Archdiocese of Boston, priests were advised to "be careful" that their prayers don't "become a liturgical or semi-liturgical act, similar to a sacrament."

Bishop Andrew Cozzens of the  Diocese of Crookston in Minnesota said in a statement that it's "impossible" to bless a same-sex union because "any sexual-union outside of the marriage of one man and one woman is contrary to the Gospel." But he said churches can "bless individuals who are not yet living in full accord with the Gospel, even those in a same-sex union."

Cardinal Blase Cupich of the Archdiocese of Chicago said in a statement the declaration keeps with "Jesus' desire to be present to all people who desire grace and support."

"Here in the Archdiocese of Chicago, we welcome this declaration, which will help many more in our community feel the closeness and compassion of God," Cupich stated. 

The guidance has drawn mixed reactions abroad.

In Kenya, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops released a statement explaining that the new guidance is "causing anxiety and even confusion among the Christians, and in general the people of God."

The chair of the German bishops' conference praised the Vatican for addressing the hot-button issue in "a theologically moderate and calm language."

"The declaration applies theological categories and terms in a responsible manner," the German conference chair's statement reads. "It draws a clear line between unwavering fidelity to the teachings of the Church and the pastoral requirements of an ecclesial practice that wants to be close to people."

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