Monday, February 26, 2024

U.S. Bishops: Vatican Declaration Does Not Change Church Teaching on Marriage

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops at its fall plenary assembly meeting November 14 in Baltimore.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops at its fall plenary assembly meeting November 14 in Baltimore.

A Vatican-issued declaration on blessing “same-sex couples” and couples in other “irregular situations” does not change the Catholic Church’s teaching that marriage is between a man and a woman, according to a statement issued by the United States bishops.

The Dicastery for the Doctrine of Faith issued a declaration on December 18 titled Fiducia Supplicans, which opened the door for priests to pastorally bless same-sex couples. However, the declaration also makes clear that such blessings cannot be performed in a way to resemble marriage and conveyed a distinction between a pastoral blessing and a sacramental blessing.

“The [declaration] articulated a distinction between liturgical (sacramental) blessings and pastoral blessings, which may be given to persons who desire God’s loving grace in their lives,” Chieko Noguchi, the executive director of public affairs at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, said in a statement Monday.

“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,” Noguchi added.

Fiducia Supplicans states that the Church cannot permit a liturgical blessing for same-sex couples because it would “offer a form of moral legitimacy to a union that presumes to be a marriage or to an extra-marital sexual practice.”

Yet, the declaration states that the prohibition on liturgical blessings does not preclude priests from offering “spontaneous” pastoral blessings, which are “meant for everyone.” It adds that such blessings are for those who “do not claim a legitimation of their own status but who beg that all that is true, good, and humanly valid in their lives and their relationships be enriched, healed, and elevated by the presence of the Holy Spirit.”

The document emphasizes that such “spontaneous” pastoral blessings “should not become a liturgical or semi-liturgical act” and “should never be imparted in concurrence with the ceremonies of a civil union, and not even in connection with them” and cannot “be performed with any clothing, gestures, or words that are proper to a wedding.”

Bishop Timothy Senior released a statement on December 18 regarding the declaration, saying, “The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops provides some clarity on this declaration, which I share here to help answer those questions:

“The Declaration issued today by the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF) articulated 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,” he said.

“As we near Christmas and the celebration of our Savior’s birth, let us all strive to be ever more faithful disciples of Jesus, while also being instruments of healing and communion in our world,” the bishop said.

(Photo by Joe Bukuras/CNA.)

Catholic News Agency

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