On May 10, more than one hundred Catholic priests throughout Germany performed blessings for same-sex unions. This was a response to a February statement from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith restating that the Church could not bless such unions. This staging of pseudo-blessings of homosexually active male or female couples is, theologically speaking, blasphemy—a cynical contradiction of God's holiness. St. Paul wrote to the church of Thessalonica that God wants nothing other than “your sanctification: that you abstain from unchastity; that each of you know how to take a wife for himself in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like heathen who do not know God” (1 Thess. 4: 3–5).
The legitimate and sacred place for the bodily union of man and woman is the natural or sacramental marriage of husband and wife. Any freely chosen sexual activity outside of marriage is a grave violation of God's holy will (Heb. 13:4). The sin against chastity is still greater if the body of a person of the same sex is instrumentalized to stimulate sexual desire. “Every other sin which a man commits is outside the body; but the immoral man sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit?” (1 Cor. 6:18).
Serious sins against the Ten Commandments, which are summarized in the commandment to love God and neighbor, bring the loss of sanctifying grace and eternal life as long as we fail to repent of those sins in our hearts, confess them to a priest, and receive the absolution that reconciles us to God and the Church. “Do not be deceived! Neither the immoral, nor idolators, nor adulterers, nor sexual perverts, nor drunkards, nor blasphemers, nor robbers will inherit the Kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9).
In the Bible, God's blessing is mentioned for the first time when man is created in his image and likeness. The institution of marriage shares in the truth that our creation as “male and female” (Gen. 1:27) expresses the essential goodness of God. When a man and a woman freely assent and in marriage become “one flesh” (Gen. 2:24; Matt. 19:5), the promise God made from the beginning applies to them: “God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply'” (Gen. 1:28).
God has determined the number of people who, by the generative work of their parents, will be born into this life, and who, as unique individuals, are destined “in love to be his through Jesus Christ according to the purpose of his gracious will” (Eph. 1:5). Every individual begotten and cherished by a father and mother is a revelation of the glory of God, and this shows that the created difference between men and women and their communion in marriage are blessings to them, to the Church of the Triune God, and to all of mankind.
The priest's nuptial blessing in the Catholic rite of marriage calls upon the revealed goodness of God and asks for his helping grace in the intercessory prayer of the Church (ex opere operantis). It also communicates to the couple the sanctifying grace of marriage through their conjugal vows (ex opere operato). This is why the bodily and spiritual potential for life in the conjugal act and its openness to children, in whom God wants to reveal his glory and salvation, is not only good in itself and free from sin, but is also a meritorious procreative act that is counted toward eternal life (see Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on 1 Cor. 7, lectio 1; Summa Contra Gentiles IV, Cap. 78).
The nuptial blessing is closely connected with marriage as an institution of creation and a sacrament instituted by Christ. The nuptial blessing is the powerful prayer of the Church for the bride and groom that they might participate in salvation: that their marriage might build up the Church and promote the good of the spouses, their children, and society (Lumen Gentium 11).
The nuptial blessing is unlike other blessings and consecrations. It cannot be separated from its specific connection to the sacrament of marriage and applied to unmarried partnerships or, worse, misused to justify sinful unions.
The statement of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on February 22 simply expressed what every Catholic Christian who has been instructed in the basics of our faith knows: The Church has no authority to bless unions of people of the same sex.
It beggars belief that bishops and theologians are suddenly insisting upon the pastoral urgency of blessing homosexual couples in areas where for many months believers were deprived of the consolation and the grace of the sacraments during the coronavirus. This fact shows how low the dogmatic, moral, and liturgical water table has sunken. If bishops have banned Mass attendance, priestly visits to the sick, and church weddings because of the risk of infection, then their claim that there is an urgent need to bless same-sex couples is not remotely plausible.
The scandal in Germany is thus not about individuals and their consciences. Nor does it signal concern for their temporal and eternal salvation. Instead what we are witnessing is the heretical denial of the Catholic faith in the sacrament of marriage and the denial of the anthropological truth that the difference between men and women expresses God's will in creation.
The anti-Catholicism that has long marked German culture lies in the background, as well as a foolish hostility toward the pope as Peter's successor. The German spirit is prone to flights of idealism, believing it is spiritually and morally above the limits of what is sacramental and visible, and above their all-too-human forms defined by Rome. In the end, this hubris leads back into a captivity of the body and its unredeemed instincts. Since many believe being “against Rome” is a sign of truth, agitators work hard to impose their point of view, even if it threatens the unity of the Church and contradicts her apostolic teaching. Juxtaposing “lived experience” to revelation has a sad history in Germany. Whether accepted naively or willingly, this false dichotomy drives the Christian spirit toward a new paganization that is only thinly disguised under Christian liturgical clothing.
In the early 1930s, millions were not only perverted by opposition to the Catholic Church, but also by opposition to the “orthodoxy” of the Protestant Confessing Church. Nazi propagandist Alfred Rosenberg denigrated the Confessing Church as beholden to Roman power and as holding “law, revelation, church, and creed today as dogmatically higher than the vital necessities of the German people struggling for internal and external freedom.”
In reality, life and truth are one in Christ (John 14: 6). And love is not what makes one happy, what satisfies my instincts, numbs my nihilism, and temporarily relieves my soul sickness. “If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the love of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life is not of the Father but of the world. But he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2: 15–17).
These German bishops and theologians treat the people as fools; they claim to have secret exegetical knowledge that allows them to interpret verses of Holy Scripture that condemn something contrary to nature as somehow compatible with the affirmation of same-sex unions. (This is done by breaking down conjugal love into individual aspects, some of which are applied to same-sex unions.) The pro-gay laws backed up by a multi-billion-dollar gay lobby cannot destroy the truth about human nature. God's blessing can only be conveyed by his Church.
“Blessed be the God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” This blessing is the effective power of love, which frees us from self-love so that we may be to one another as brothers and sisters, and unites us together as children of God. This principle is paramount: “Do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another” (Gal. 5:13).
The spectacle of same-sex blessings not only calls into question the primacy of the petrine teaching office, which is based on revelation, but also questions the authority of God’s revelation itself. What is new in this theology that returns to paganism is its impertinent insistence on calling itself Catholic, as if one can dismiss the Word of God in Holy Scripture and the Apostolic Tradition as mere pious opinion and time-bound expressions of religious feelings and ideals that need to evolve and develop in accord with new experiences, needs, and mentalities. Today we are told that reducing CO2 emissions is more important than avoiding the deadly sins that separate us from God forever.
The “Synodal Path” is not legitimated by the constitution of the Catholic Church. It is motivated by anti-clerical stereotypes: power-obsessed priests and bishops who, because of the vow of celibacy, are supposedly prone to sexual perversions and who deliberately keep women out of their men's club and deny them high ecclesiastical honors.
For the sake of the truth of the gospel and the unity of the Church, Rome must not watch in silence, hoping that things won't turn out too badly, or that the Germans can be pacified with tactical finesse and small concessions. We need a clear statement of principle with practical consequences. This is necessary so that after five hundred years of division, the remnant of the Catholic Church in Germany does not disintegrate, with devastating consequences for the universal Church.
Primacy is given to the Church of Rome not only because of the prerogatives of the Chair of Peter, whose occupant could do as he pleases, more so because of the pope's grave duty, assigned to him by Christ, to guard the unity of the universal church in the revealed faith.
At the Solemnity of Peter and Paul, Pope Leo the Great spoke about the test of steadfastness required of all the Apostles at the Passion: “And yet the Lord is particularly concerned about Peter and prays especially for Peter's faith (Luke 22:32), just as if the others would be more steadfast if the leader's courage remained undaunted. In Peter's strength all are strengthened, for the assistance of divine grace is so regarded that the strength given to Peter passes through him to the apostles” (Sermon 83:3).
Gerhard Ludwig Müller is former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Photo via Creative Commons. Image cropped.
First Things depends on its subscribers and supporters. Join the conversation and make a contribution today.
Click here to make a donation.
Click here to subscribe to First Things.