Belgian Bishop defends blessing same-sex unions

same-sex unions

The Flemish bishops’ decision to bless same-sex unions is reasonable, says Bishop Johan Bonny.

Bonny and the other Flemish bishops of Belgium introduced a blessing for same-sex couples in September 2022.

They also published a handout outlining suggested liturgy and prayers.

The bishops’ based their decision to go ahead with the same sex blessings on Pope Francis’ 2016 apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia.

Bonny denies the blessings present a conflict of conscience, even though he is going against a definitive 2021 Vatican ruling that the Church does not have the power to bless same-sex unions.

The Vatican has “different positions and developments”, he says.

“Rome is not just a document or a cardinal. No, Rome is also unity in diversity.”

Neither Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni nor the Diocese of Antwerp responded to media requests for further clarification.

Bonny’s mission

Bonny has long pressed for greater acceptance of homosexual relationships within the Catholic Church.

In March he told the German Church’s Synodal Way that during the Flemish bishops’ ad limina visit last November, the Pope neither approved nor denied such blessings.

He said it was the Flemish bishops pastoral domain so long as they were all united.

He and his brother bishops “speak with one voice; there are no divisions or subgroups on this subject,” he claimed.

Flemish bishops do not have the same tensions with Rome that mark the Church in Germany. He put this down to the Flemish bishops internal unity on “big issues” and being a small bishops’ conference.

Some think Bonny influenced the German Synodal Way meeting in March to allow same-sex blessings.

“It is a ministry of unity in the Church, unity in diversity,” he said.

What the Vatican says

In March 2021 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith stressed that blessings are sacramentals. They have “singular importance” in the Church’s liturgy.

As such, they can be imparted only on that which conforms to the nature of sacramentals.

God, the CDF said, “does not and cannot bless sin.”

This clarification was not meant to be “a form of unjust discrimination,” the Vatican said. Instead, it was a “reminder of the truth of the liturgical rite and of the very nature of the sacramentals, as the Church understands them.”

Bishop Bonny strongly criticised the CDF ruling.

He said it was contrary to the “dynamic” of the 2015 Synod on the Family and undermined the “credibility of the ‘synodal path’ advocated by Pope Francis.”



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