Today I am sending out a brief but heartfelt and important statement written by Cardinal Francis Arinze on a recent decision of the Flemish bishops regarding a special blessing for same-sex couples which the cardinal wishes to reach the general public.
Arinze’s brief statement concerns the report that the Flemish bishops’ conference, defying a prior statement from the Vatican, has prepared and approved a special blessing for same-sex couples to be celebrated in churches in Belgium (link).
Arinze believes the bishops have made an error, and he sets forth his reasons in this statement.
Arinze, 89, is a Nigerian cardinal who for a time was considered to be a possible successor to Pope John Paul II. His lifetime of dedicated service to the Church and to the people of his native Nigeria has made him a sort of “elder statesman” of the Church. Today, even at age 89, he is one of the most authoritative voices of the Catholic Church in Africa.
Arinze was Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments from 2002 to 2008. He was ordained a priest at the age of 25 and became bishop just seven years later when he was 32. He was named cardinal in 1985, when he was 52, making him one of the highest-ranking African clerics at the time. Arinze was considered a potential successor to Pope John Paul II before the 2005 papal conclave, which elected Pope Benedict XVI. (link)
Arinze is well known to many Catholics in the United States because he has visited the country many times, speaking at various venues, including Christendom College in Front Royal, Virginia.
He lives in Rome in a Vatican apartment a few steps from St. Peter’s Basilica.
I have known him since the 1980s, for almost 40 years, and respect him for his honesty, integrity, and example of lived Christian faith.
I did not ask the cardinal for a comment on the decision of the Flemish bishops. He emailed it to me and asked me to share it with a wider audience. (This email is read by some 20,000 readers around the world.)
I send this email from Beirut, Lebanon, where I have been with a small group of American pilgrims for the past eight days, visiting the country and working on some special projects in support of the presence of Christians in this beautiful country.—RM
by Cardinal Francis Arinze
Seeking a Pastoral Response
September 24, 2022
It is reported that Flemish Bishops in Belgium, on or around 20 September, 2022, published what they called a liturgical blessing for homosexual couples. They, it is said, regarded this step as “being pastorally close to homosexual persons, for a welcoming Church that excluded no one.”
Even if the aim is to be pastorally helpful to homosexual couples, this is an error on the part of the Bishops. Holy Scripture presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity (cf. Gen 19:1-29; Rom 1:24-27; 1 Cor 6:10; 1 Tim 1:10). Tradition, says The Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2357, “has always declared that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.”
While persons with homosexual inclination are to be respected and not unjustly discriminated against, they, like every Christian and indeed every human being, are called to chastity (cf CCC, 2358, 2359). The Lord Jesus said to his followers: “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48). That is why the CCC says: “Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection” (CCC, 2359).
This explains why the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on 15 March 2021 answered that the Church does not have the power to give a blessing to unions of persons of the same sex.
This is what the Flemish Bishops, and indeed all Bishops and priests, should be teaching. They should be blessing, not homosexual couples, but properly married unions of one man and one woman. Human beings have no power to change the order established by God the Creator. The Church is sent by Christ to all people “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt 28:20). This includes calling people to repentance, sacrifice, chastity and perfection.
+ Francis Card. Arinze
24 September, 2022