Once again, the German archbishop, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, responded positively to the question, “What do you do when a homosexual couple asks you for an episcopal blessing.” He claims not to be promoting a general ecclesial solution and, hence, a general public liturgical blessing for same-sex relations. And he even rejects calling such a relationship marriage. Nevertheless, he says, “the decision should be made ‘on the ground, and [considering] the individual under pastoral care’.”
Another German, this time Johannes zu Eltz, the Catholic Dean of the city of Frankfurt am Main, is engaged in the pastoral care of homosexuals. He says, “the question is whether the church is able to learn that good things happen in those relationships; that homosexual couples . . . by their companionship give birth to moral goods for themselves and for others: love, loyalty, commitment, fecundity, chastity. If this is true, then there is the possibility to confirm these goods and to ask for God’s providence and guidance for this couple. That is what we call a blessing.”
Similar reasoning comes from Bishop Franz-Josef Bode of Osnabrück, the deputy chairman of the German Episcopacy.
They speak of “blessing” homosexual couples. Anglican theologian Ephraim Radner is right: “As we know, where these latter [same-sex couplings] are mentioned in Scripture and tradition, they are rejected precisely in the context of fruitfulness that upholds the scriptural claims about and character of blessing (e.g., Lev 18-19, Rom 1).”
Since God is the source and end of all blessings, the anthropological question regarding the particularity of God’s will and purpose in creating man as male and female arises here (Gen 1:27; 2:24). This creation of male and female receives the judgment of goodness by God, which is his blessing. The Church has always understood same-sex intercourse to be inconsistent with Scripture, tradition, natural law reasoning – and, in particular, with Christian anthropology, which teaches sexual morality and hence marriage to be an intrinsically male-female union.
Hence, contra Marx, et al., the one-flesh union of male and female is not just posited by ecclesiastical law. Jesus was no ecclesial positivist or conventionalist. Rather, he calls us back to the law of creation (Mark 10:6-7) that grounds an inextricable nexus of permanence, twoness, and sexual differentiation for marriage.
As John Paul II rightly notes, “Law must therefore be considered an expression of divine wisdom: by submitting to the law, freedom submits to the truth of creation.” (Veritatis Splendor §41) In particular, marriage is such that it requires sexual difference, the bodily-sexual act, as a foundational prerequisite, indeed, as intrinsic to a one-flesh union of man and woman. “So then they are no longer two but one flesh.” (Mark 10:8)
The Catechism of the Catholic Church comments:
Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved. (CCC §2357).
But that is precisely what Marx, et al., are doing, approving of same-sex acts.
Helpfully, Ephraim Radner probes more deeply than Marx. Suppose we grant the point that there are “goods” as such in these relationships – “love,” “commitment,” “fidelity,” “mutuality.” Still, we must not treat them as neutral goods abstracted from particular sexual behavior, which the Church unequivocally rejects, and from the larger culture of homosexuality – to say nothing of the worldview (the sexual revolution!) underpinning the interpretation of these goods.
Once they are situated in that interpretive context, these “goods” are not “conformable to the gospel in its integrity, let alone in its fullness,” that is, “the fullness of God’s truth in Christ Jesus.”
Furthermore, says St. Paul, the Church should take a stand against all sorts of sexual sin by warning the offending believers that if they continue in sexual immorality they will not inherit the Kingdom of God. We should also ask Cardinal Marx and other proponents of this pastoral approach how they propose to help these offending believers to be “saved” from judgment “on the day of the Lord.” (1 Cor 5:5)
What about St. Paul’s teaching that serial and unrepentant immoral sexual practices put one at the risk of not inheriting God’s eternal kingdom? (1 Cor 6:9-10; 2 Cor 12:21; Gal 5:19-21; Rom 1:24-27; 6:19-23; Col 3:5-10; Eph 5:3-6, 4:17-19; 1 Thess 4:2-8)
Moreover, theologically, if the ultimate origin of the homosexual condition is our fallen human nature, then there would be no justification for seeing homosexuality from the order of creation as a creational given, a normal variant of sexuality, and hence there would be no parity between homosexuality and heterosexuality in light of that order.
Therefore, Scripture’s condemnation of homosexuality pertains not only to outward acts but also to the inward desires and inclinations constitutive of the condition itself. For, according to the Scriptures, it is not only actions that are wrong, but also the desire to do such actions. (see Matt 5:27-29; Rom 13:14; Col 3:5-6; 1 Pet 2:11)
This point should be clear from the fact that Jesus interiorizes the demands of the moral law, condemning not only the outward acts of adultery but also the “adultery of mere desire.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church §2380) “And Jesus said, ‘What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person’.” (Mark 7: 20-23)
Given this constant teaching of the Church, how can a place of blessing, private or public, be found for a homosexual couple within the context of the Church? How can a homosexual couple find a pathway to receive Communion when they are living in mortal sin?
No, Cardinal Marx, the Church cannot bless same-sex unions.
*Image: The Arrest of Jesus (The Judas Kiss) by Giotto di Bondone, c. 1305 [Scrovegni Chapel, Padua]. This is one of many images in Giotto’s Life of Christ that line the walls of the chapel.