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Latvian bishop at Synod: If someone is living in sin, we can’t tell them that’s all right

Bishop Pablo Virgilio S. David of Kalookan, Philippines (left), Cardinal Leonardo Steiner, archbishop of Manaus, Brazil (center), and Archbishop Zbigņev Stankevičs of Riga (right) all spoke at the Synod press conference on Oct. 18, 2023. / Credit: Daniel Ibáñez

Vatican City, Oct 18, 2023 / 13:28 pm (CNA).

In response to a question about blessing same-sex unions, a Latvian archbishop at the Synod on Synodality warned that telling someone living in sin that “everything is all right” places that person in great spiritual danger.

Speaking at a synod press conference on Oct. 18, Archbishop Zbigņev Stankevičs of Riga, Latvia, said that the Church teaches that people with same-sex attraction should be accepted with respect, quoting Pope Francis that there is room for everyone in the Church.

“We welcome with love and respect, but true love cannot be separated from truth because if love is separated from truth, it is no longer love,” Stankevičs said.

“If there is a person living in sin and we tell this person, ‘Everything is all right with you, it’s OK, go ahead,’ we do harm because this person is in danger. When he dies, he will be in great danger,” he added.

The archbishop also spoke about the complementarity of men and women and in favor of giving women “more room in the Church, but without changing what is in the Gospel and what is in tradition of the Church.”

Stankevičs, who has served as the archbishop of Riga since 2010, underlined that in response to the issues of women’s participation in the Church and same-sex blessings, “we must be faithful to the holy Scriptures, and what the Church for 2,000 years has discovered by interpreting the Scriptures.”

“But if we talk about blessing, I would say if a homosexual comes as an individual person and says, ‘I would like to live in God’s grace,’ I see no contraindication to pray for him and help him,” he said.

“If two come and say ‘we want to live in chastity … and we are tempted,’ you can pray for them and also bless them to help them to live in chastity.”

“But if two come and say ‘we live together like a husband and wife and want to obtain a blessing,’ I see a big problem here because in this way we bless living in sin,” he added.

He pointed to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which teaches in paragraph 2358 that people with same-sex attractions “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity” and that “every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”

The 68-year-old archbishop said that he had personally undergone “a pastoral conversion” in regard to this issue and learned to be more sensitive in his interactions.

“Jesus says that we must love our neighbor … also homosexuals are our neighbors and I must love them — to love in truth … and not a love that allows everything,” he added.

During the press conference, Cardinal Leonardo Steiner, archbishop of Manaus, Brazil, was asked about prior statements he has made in support of same-sex unions and whether he believes the Synod on Synodality could present “concrete steps” for Church teaching to change on this issue.

In response, Steiner said that this month’s synod assembly is not meant to “lead to determinations or conclusions.”

“It is the wish of the Holy Father that the session that will happen next year look at [concrete issues],” he said, adding that it is “a very good thing that this debate has come up” on these topics.

“But as far as concrete issues are concerned, well, they will have to be addressed during next year’s session,” he said.

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