On March 15, 2021, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) responded to this dubium that had been submitted to it: Does the Church have the power to bless unions of people of the same sex?
The negative answer to this question was accompanied by an explanatory note, signed by Cardinal-Prefect Luis Ladaria Ferrer S.J., and by his secretary, Msgr. Giacomo Morandi, on February 22.
As is customary, the text had previously been submitted for approval to the reigning Pope; this is why the following is placed at the end of the note: “The Sovereign Pontiff Francis, during an audience granted to the secretary of the Congregation, was informed of the Responsum ad dubium in question, with the Explanatory Note annexed, and has consented to their publication.”
This reminder of Catholic doctrine and morality aroused strong opposition from progressive prelates and theologians.
And so, on March 18 Cardinal Kevin Farrell, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family, and Life, declared that the care and accompaniment of the Church is for everyone. According to him, this does not mean that “only those who are married in the Church receive the benefit of the pastoral care of the Church.”
Making a distinction between “sacramental marriage” and “non-sacramental marriage,” even referring to “other forms of marriage,” he asserted: “There are many different pastoral situations today in which people cannot participate fully in the life of the Church, but that does not mean that they should not be accompanied by us, and by people in parishes.”
And he insists: “I think it is very important that we all understand that the pastoral life of the Church is open to everyone.”
In Germany, more than 200 professors of theology published on March 22 a statement relayed on katholisch.de, the unofficial site of the German Bishops' Conference, in which they openly opposed the “no” to the blessing of homosexual unions on the part of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, accusing it of a “lack of theological depth” (sic).
In an interview with the newspaper Der Sonntag on March 24, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna, also protested against the response of the CDF. According to him, “this 'no' to the blessing is something that hurts a lot of people deep down,” adding that “the question of whether same-sex couples can be blessed belongs in the same category as whether it is possible to bless remarried-divorced couples or unmarried partners.”
And the Austrian prelate replied shamelessly: “If the request for a blessing is not a spectacle, that is, not a sort of crowning of an external ritual, if the request for a blessing is sincere, if it is truly the request for God's blessing for a path of life that two people, in any situation, are trying to go through, then we won’t refuse them.”
Francis’s Parallel Communication
It was in this stormy context that two journalists published articles suggesting that the Pope was distancing himself from the note from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Gerard O'Connell and Elisabetta Piqué are husband and wife. He writes for the Jesuit magazine America, she for the Argentinian newspaper La Nación. Both stories are based on the words of the Pope during the Angelus of March 21, where he calls to bear witness to Jesus “not with theoretical condemnations, but with gestures of love,” to demonstrate a distance from the refusal to bless homosexual unions.
The Vaticanist Giuseppe Nardi in the Katholisches magazine of March 22 notes the privileged relationship that Elisabetta Piqué maintains with Francis: “A biographer of the Pope, she is a faithful Bergoglian who also has close contact with St. Martha’s House.”
And she brings from the Pope this communication - informal and parallel – which is closer to the habits of Cardinal Bergoglio in Buenos Aires: “He would summon journalists to give them information on the condition of not being named personally. Elisabetta Piqué was also a past recipient and propagator of such information.”
“Shortly after Francis’ election, the Argentine philosopher and journalist Omar Bello published the biography El verdadero Francisco [‘The Real Francis,’ Edicones Noticias, Buenos Aires 2013]. Bello, who died in a car accident in 2015, presents himself in this work as a “friend and confidant” of Cardinal Bergoglio and as “the philosopher who knows Bergoglio best.”
“He describes how, while working for the Argentinian weekly Perfil, Bergoglio gave him an interview, with clear instructions: ‘You come, you ask me questions but you don’t tell anyone. You write, without telling Perfil that you questioned me. You write as if these are your own impressions. Understand?’”
Giuseppe Nardi sees, in this way of being pope, the desire not to explicitly evoke certain things for tactical reasons, so as not to anger those who are hostile to his program.
Thus “in May 2016, Archbishop Bruno Forte revealed the ins and outs of the drafting of the controversial post-synod document Amoris laetitia. Abp. Forte had been appointed by Francis as special secretary of the double synod on marriage and the family. At the municipal theater in Vasto, Abruzzo, where he presented the text, the archbishop recounted the task Francis had entrusted to him: “If we speak expressly of communion for remarried divorcees, who knows what kind of commotion ‘they’ will stir up. So we will not talk about it directly. But make sure that the premises are given, and I will draw the conclusions.”
The Roman Vaticanist comments: “The referral to ‘they’ designates those whom Elisabetta Pique and Gerard O’Connell now call the 'ultra-conservatives'.”
“In their articles, the couple insist that, from the start of his pontificate, Francis has shown an ‘openness’ towards homosexuals. He confirmed it during various meetings, for example in May 2018, with the Chilean Juan Carlos Cruz, a victim of sexual abuse and himself an avowed homosexual.”
Cruz subsequently reported, without being contradicted, what E. Piqué and G. O'Connell literally quoted: “The Pope told me, 'Juan Carlos, it doesn't matter that you are gay. It was God who made you like this and he wants you like this. The Pope loves you that way and you must love yourself too.’” It must be pointed out here that, on March 24, two days after the two journalists’ articles, the Pope appointed Juan Carlos Cruz as a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, for three years. No comment.
In La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana of March 24, Stefano Fontana sees in this incessant back and forth between official doctrine and unofficial exceptions, an approach that is more political than magisterial: “a way of saying and not of saying, of pleasing these without displeasing those. The footnotes of Amoris lætitia [opening up on a case-by-case basis the possibility of communion for remarried divorced people] are in the process of gaining ground.”
A Homosexual Pressure Group in the Church
Also in La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana of March 24, Riccardo Cascioli quotes a criticism of the Note from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, published on the Città Nuova site of March 19, from the pen of Fr. Pino Piva, close to Fr. Antonio Spadaro, the main interpreter of Francis’ thoughts.
This Jesuit, who militates for the legitimization of homosexuality within the Church, underlines “the minimal degree of authority” which has been conferred on this document: the Pope “does not approve the Responsum but is only informed of it”; moreover, “he does not order its publication, but only gives his assent.”
Riccardo Cascioli rightly underlines that Fr. Piva recalls how Francis had already practically contradicted the 2003 document of the CDF which strongly opposed the legal recognition of homosexual unions: “the reference is the famous interview [see FSSPX.News of November 6, 2020] in which, speaking of when he was still in Argentina, Pope Francis claims to have supported homosexual civil unions, keeping them very distinct from marriage.”
“A clear contrast which, for Fr. Piva, already means that the 2003 document should be totally rewritten today. In this regard, it should be noted that for Catholic progressivism, the laws are not evaluated according to their adherence to the truth, but simply in chronological order: the most recent law cancels the older one, and in this case even an interview cancels an authoritative document of the Magisterium.”
The Italian Vaticanist continues: “In any case, this step serves to validate the next one, namely: ‘this Responsum of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith will be short-lived, very short,” is not the last word on the blessing of homosexual unions.”
“The message is clear: do not worry, this Responsum was written like this 'to reassure some weak conscience in this changing era,' but it is clear that it will soon be outdated.”
“If not from new documents, we add, from practice. Given the previous ones, it is not difficult to imagine that under the pretext of the reaction to the Responsum there will be bishops and priests who will dramatically multiply the blessing of homosexual unions and no one in Rome will intervene or be called upon to intervene.”
And to conclude: “In conclusion, the picture is quite clear: what was feared by the then Cardinal Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in his letter of October 1, 1986 to the bishops of the Catholic Church ‘on the pastoral care of homosexuals, when he denounced the existence of a gay lobby within the Church that ‘exerts tremendous pressure’ to lead the Church itself ‘to accept the homosexual condition as if it was not disordered, and to legitimize homosexual acts,” comes true.
“This mentality has penetrated deeply into the common mentality of Catholics too, and in Italy a fundamental role in this sense is being played by Avvenire, the daily newspaper of the bishops. It is now a veritable assault on the Holy See, and many top positions have already been conquered. We are nearing the final assault.”