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Polish bishops: Church does not have authority to ‘bless same-sex unions’

A plenary meeting of the Polish bishops’ conference on March 15, 2022. /

CNA Staff, Dec 22, 2023 / 15:40 pm (CNA).

Catholic bishops in Poland have ruled out the possibility of blessing “same-sex unions,” but remain open to blessing individuals with homosexual tendencies, only if they are “living in complete abstinence” of sexual activities.

The Polish Episcopal Conference released the statement on Dec. 21, just three days after the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a declaration that allowed non-liturgical blessings of “same-sex couples.” The Polish bishops’ statement did not expressly criticize the Vatican declaration but appeared to conflict with the guidance contained within it.

“In response to the question: Does the Church have the authority to bless same-sex unions? the answer is: Negative,” the Polish bishops’ statement read, citing a March 2021 “responsum” from the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith.

“Since practicing sexual acts outside marriage, that is, outside the indissoluble union of a man and a woman open to the transmission of life, is always an offense against the will and wisdom of God expressed in the sixth commandment of the Decalogue, people who are in such a relationship cannot receive a blessing,” the statement added. “This applies in particular to people in same-sex relationships.”

The bishops said “avoiding confusion and scandal is virtually impossible” if the Church blesses homosexual relationships, but that “individual people living in complete abstinence” can receive a blessing “in a private way, outside the liturgy and without any analogy to sacramental rites,” which would “avoid confusion that this means approval of same-sex relationships.”

“A blessing makes sense when a person asks for it in good faith, i.e. wants to organize his life in accordance with God’s will expressed in the commandments,” the statement read. “The blessing is supposed to help and strengthen a person in breaking away from sin and leading a good life.”

The Polish Episcopal Conference’s statement frequently referenced the responsum issued in 2021, which had ruled out the possibility of blessing homosexual unions. The statement also noted that the 2023 declaration “does not change in any way the current teaching of the Church regarding marriage and family.”

The December 2023 declaration from the Vatican, titled Fiducia Supplicans, avoided any language that would openly conflict with the 2021 responsum by noting that there cannot be liturgical blessings of homosexual unions. Yet, it permitted “spontaneous” pastoral blessings for “same-sex couples” 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.”

According to the declaration, these guidelines imply “a real development from what has been said about blessings in the Magisterium and the official texts of the Church.”

To date, the Church’s hierarchy has been deeply divided on how to implement the declaration or whether to implement it at all. Despite this division, the document says that the faithful should not expect any clarifications from the Vatican: “No further responses should be expected about possible ways to regulate details or practicalities regarding blessings of this type.” 

Bishops in several other countries have ruled out the possibility of blessing homosexual couples within their jurisdictions. This includes the bishops’ conferences in Malawi, Zambia, and Cameroon, which flatly rejected any implementation of Fiducia Supplicans. The Archdiocese of St. Mary in Astana, Kazakhstan also rejected any implementation and went further, admonishing Pope Francis for approving the guidelines. 

In many countries, such as the United States, the Philippines, Ukraine, Ghana, Kenya, and others, bishops urged caution in the document’s implementation to avoid any confusion that would lead to people incorrectly believing the Church permits homosexual activity.

Alternatively, some bishops in central and western Europe, such as Germany, Austria, and France, have expressed enthusiastic approval of the declaration and have indicated their intent to bless homosexual couples. 

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