- The Vatican on Dec 18, 2023 gave a ruling, directs all the Catholic priest to “bless same sex couple”
- Condemnations, mixed reactions trail the Papal declaration among Nigerian Catholic faithful
- Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, CBCN issues a clarification on the matter
On Monday 18, 2023 Pope Francis announced a new guidelines, allowing Roman Catholic church all over the world to bless same sex couple.
The Vatican further said on Monday in a landmark ruling approved by Pope Francis that Roman Catholic priests can administer blessings to same-sex couples as long as they are not part of regular Church rituals or liturgies.
WITHIN NIGERIA gathered that the document from the Vatican’s doctrinal office, which effectively reversed a declaration the same body had issued in 2021, said such blessings would not legitimise irregular situations but be a sign that God welcomes all.
It also said it should in no way be confused with the sacrament of heterosexual marriage.
It said priests should decide on a case-by-case basis.
The document further stated that “it should not prevent or prohibit the Church’s closeness to people in every situation in which they might seek God’s help through a simple blessing”.
The pope hinted that an official change was in the works in October in response to questions put forward by five conservative cardinals at the start of a synod of bishops at the Vatican.
While the response in October was more nuanced, Monday’s eight-page document, whose subtitle is “On the Pastoral Meaning of Blessings”, spelled out specific situations. An 11-point section was titled “Blessings of Couples in Irregular Situations and of Couples of the Same sex”.
The Church teaches that same-sex attraction is not sinful but homosexual acts are.
WITHIN NIGERIA checks revealed that since his election in 2013, Francis has tried to make the more than 1.35-billion-member Church more welcoming to LGBT people without changing moral doctrine.
However, since this declaration by the Holy See on Monday, the Catholic faithful have literally been divided along theological lines.
Reactions of the Nigerian Catholic faithful
In Nigeria, conviction of LGBT carries a maximum jail term of 14 years. Notwithstanding this legal prohibition of the union, the papal ruling has generated a lot fear, apprehension and concern especially in the Christendom in Nigeria.
However, reacting to the development a Catholic priest , Rev. Fr. Paulinus Ogara explained that the decision of the Vatican is a square peg in a square hole.
According to Fr. Ogara, this blessing of the same-sex couples should not be understood to mean “wedding” of the couple.
“Blessing, in the context of the church, generally refers to the invoking of divine favour, protection, or guidance upon individuals or objects. When a person approaches a priest and says, “Father, bless me,” he or she is seeking spiritual guidance, support, and the assurance of God’s grace in their lives.
“Thus, the act of seeking a blessing signifies a desire for divine intervention, encouragement, or approval. It symbolizes the acknowledgment of God’s presence and the belief in the power of divine blessings to positively impact one’s life and can offer a sense of comfort, strengthen one’s faith, and foster a connection with the divine.”
Fr. Ogara, a director in the Enugu state Post Primary School Management Board, Enugu further stressed that “despite our individual theological perspectives, Pope Francis’s decision to permit the blessing of same-sex couples reflects a pastoral approach that seeks to embrace and support individuals in diverse circumstances while respecting the teachings of the church.
“This decision aligns with the idea that everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation, is deserving of God’s love and pastoral care.
“For those who may have theological reservations, the call to bless same-sex couples is framed within the broader context of compassion and acceptance.
“This decision may not be popular but it is reasonable from a pastoral point of view. It emphasizes a pastoral approach that seeks inclusivity and understanding, recognizing the diversity of individuals within the Church while still operating within the framework of Catholic teachings.
“And so, despite our misgivings or theological reservations, one thing is clear: the Pope’s decision is framed within the broader context of compassion and acceptance.
“It shows the Church’s belief in a pastoral approach that embraces the diversity of the members of the church and her commitment to upholding the dignity of all individuals irrespective of their sexual orientation.”
But another Catholic Priest, Rev. Fr. Kelvin Ugwu is totally against such Vatican declaration.
According to Fr. Ugwu, the declaration is a step towards recognition of same-sex marriage in the Catholic church.
“There is nothing like same-sex couple. We should not even use the term “couple” to address them in the first place.
“Man and man cannot be a couple, woman and woman cannot be a couple. Homosexual acts should be condemned emphatically while respecting the human person. Full stop.”
Explaining further, Fr. Ugwu said “if I am to summarize the document Fiducia Supplicans, and the teaching from Pope Francis on the blessing of same-sex couples, this is the summary:
“The document still echoed the fact that in the Catholic Church, marriage is still between a man and a woman and nothing changes this. Blessing same-sex couples is not in any way a form of recognizing their union as marriage.
“Anyone can ask for a blessing, and asking for a blessing can be a sign of humility, trust in God, and expression of the desire to do better. The central message of the document is hinged on the Church’s desire to welcome everyone with God’s love and mercy with the hope of repentance.
“The above is the best summary I can give to the document. I must recognize that the document was beautifully written. If you take time to read it line by line, you will see a certain type of genuine love and desire to reach out to everyone regardless of their shortcomings and not to judge them.
“But, If I am to say what is on my mind, I will say that this whole thing is just unnecessary. The document did not even give a clear-cut direction on how the blessing should be. Usually in the Catholic church, there are rituals for every blessing, even the blessing of pets.
“But the church refused to provide a ritual and even stipulated that no ritual should be provided by priests for this all talked about ‘blessings of same-sex couples.” It says a lot.
“Also, I find it totally wrong to refer to the people in question as “same-sex couples”. There is nothing like same-sex couple. We should not even use the term “couple” to address them in the first place.
“All these push, in whichever angle they are coming from, is not coming with a good intention. There are emphases that should be made. That emphasis is that man and man cannot be a couple, woman and woman cannot be a couple. Homosexual act should be condemned emphatically while respecting the human person. Full stop!
“For those that seem to be celebrating, particularly homosexuals or lesbians, I say to you, forget the blogsite headlines you have been reading, go and read the original document slowly so you see that you ought to be examining yourself and repenting, instead of celebrating sin.
“Homosexuality or lesbianism is totally against God’s command, it is against our Christian faith, and it is against the bible. Repent!
“Also, don’t make that silly mistake of looking for Fr Kelvin Ugwu to bless your homosexual union. If that is what you understood from the document from Rome, you can as well go to Rome and collect your blessings there.”
Nigerian Catholic Bishops react to the ruling
However, in the face of the growing confusion, condemnation and misinterpretation in many quarters by both the clergy and the laity of the Catholic and indeed the entire Christendom, the Nigerian Catholic Bishops have issued a statement, clarifying the Pope’s ruling.
The Bishops under the aegis of Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, CBCN said the Catholic priests in Nigeria will not “bless” same sex couple as directed by the papal ruling.
The statement which was signed the CBCN’s President, Most Rev. Dr. Lucius Iwejuru Ugorji, the Archbishop of Owerri Diocese and its Secretary, Most Rev. Dr. Donatus Ogun, the Bishop of Uromi Diocese partly read thus; “the declaration acknowledges and carefully distinguishes between ritual, liturgical, and informal blessings. While ritual or liturgical blessings are imparted according to the established norms of the Church, informal blessings refer to prayers over people who ask for them outside the liturgy or any formal celebration in the Church.
“The Declaration offers a consideration of the possibility of extending the informal blessing to all God’s children, irrespective of their moral condition, when they ask to be blessed.
“Nevertheless, the Declaration insists that the blessing of persons in irregular unions –and never the union itself—can only take a non-liturgical form to avoid confusion. It should not be imparted during or in connection with a civil wedding ceremony or with clothing, words, and signs associated with a wedding.”