ROME — Pope Francis has met with stiff opposition from black Christian leaders after approving the blessing of gay couples.
“We, your black Pentecostal brothers in the United States, standing in solidarity with our Catholic brothers in Africa and the diaspora,” begins an open letter to Pope Francis, are compelled to “condemn your decision to bless homosexual unions.”
The letter is signed by the Rev. Eugene F. Rivers III, founder and director of the Seymour Institute for Black Church and Policy Studies and a minister for the Pentecostal Church of God in Christ.
Speaking for American black Pentecostal Christians, Rev. Rivers writes that “it is with alarm and anguish that we received the document Fiducia Supplicans,” the recent text from the Vatican’s doctrinal office permitting the blessing of gay couples.
The authorization of the blessing of “couples whose sinful conduct is central to their relationship is easily interpreted in ways that contradict the biblical principle of the complementarity of male and female,” Rivers states.
“The decision is already almost universally being interpreted as approving the blessing of sexual sin; indeed, it invites the inference that it was meant to be interpreted thus,” he adds.
By authorizing “the blessing of two men precisely as partners (i.e., as a “couple”) in a same-sex relationship, there is a recognition of the validity of the partnership — a partnership that is, on the ‘couple’s’ own self-understanding, sexual,” Rivers notes.
Rev. Rivers goes on to note that this is the interpretation given by the pope’s fellow Jesuit, Father James Martin, “a high profile priest of the Catholic Church who ministers to what it pleases him to call the ‘LBGTQ community.’”
Father Martin “welcomes Fiducia Supplicans as a development of Catholic teaching in the direction of honoring same-sex sexual partnerships,” he observes, and “interprets and understands the teaching of the document exactly as we do.”
The difference is that Father Martin “approves same-sex sexual partnerships and desires that the Church of Jesus Christ recognize and honor them,” whereas we, “in the name of the Holy Bible and our Lord Jesus Christ, most emphatically disapprove of homosexual conduct and relationships that are centered on such conduct.”
In his opposition to Fiducia Supplicans, Rev. Rivers joins a number of African prelates who have also expressed their consternation over the Vatican text.
The Catholic bishops of Angola and São Tomé in Central Africa, for example, said that blessings for homosexual couples “would create enormous scandal and confusion among the faithful, so we have determined that it should not be carried out in Angola and São Tomé.”
Similarly, the Catholic Bishops of Burundi said that “God hates sin, but loves the sinner,” and declared: “No priest can bless public sinners who make no gesture of repentance to renounce their sins.” The text goes on to assert that refraining from blessing same-sex couples “does not mean excluding them from the Church or abandoning them, since they are still her children.”
More strikingly still, the National Episcopal Conference of Cameroon noted that according to Catholic teaching acts of homosexuality are “intrinsically disordered and contrary to the natural law.”
The “gesture of blessing a ‘homosexual couple’ would be tantamount to encouraging a choice and a practice of life that cannot be recognised as being objectively ordered to the revealed designs of God,” they state.
“Consequently, we formally forbid all blessings of ‘homosexual couples’ in the Church of Cameroon,” they add.
For their part, the Catholic bishops of the Democratic Republic of the Congo stated that “we say NO to any form of blessing of same-sex couples,” while urging priests to refrain from blessing same-sex couples as this could “lead to confusion.”
Same-sex unions contradict the created order, the bishops declared, adding that Sacred Scripture condemns them as “grave depravations and abominations.”
The Catholic bishops of Ghana noted that the Vatican declaration had “caused a lot of consternation among many people, Catholics and non-Catholics alike,” adding that for those in the state of sin, “prayers are meant to lead them to conversion” and not to “legitimize their way of life.”
“In conclusion, we wish to reiterate that priests cannot bless same-sex unions or marriages,” they stated.