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US Catholics Disturbed by Pope Francis on Same-Sex Unions, Synod Plans

US Catholics Disturbed by Pope Francis on Same-Sex Unions, Synod Plans
(SEBASTIEN NOGIER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

By    |   Wednesday, 04 October 2023 01:18 PM EDT

A letter from five prominent Catholic cardinals to Pope Francis heading into a "Synod on Synodality" at the Vatican this week reflects deep concern among traditionalists as to the direction he is leading the church.

The letter, submitted in the form of questions called a "dubia" released publicly earlier this week, was sent in July and followed statements by Francis, who, despite at times restating church teaching on subjects homosexuality, ordination of women as priests, and necessity for confession to receive communion, has also appeared to cast doubt on the absoluteness of those teachings.

Church and lay leaders told Newsmax that Francis' reply to the questions didn't allay many, if any, concerns.

The Rev. Gerald Murray, a canon lawyer and frequent media commentator on Catholic matters, called Francis's statements on same-sex marriage as "scandalous."

"Pope Francis, in response to the cardinals' question about whether same-sex unions could be blessed by the church," Murray said, "allowed that 'pastoral prudence' might find such blessings permissible, as long as they are distinguished from marriage."

"The problem with blessing homosexual unions is not only that this looks like the church is blessing a 'same-sex marriage,'" Murray, pastor of Holy Family Church in New York City, told Newsmax. 

"This practice asks God to favor with his grace a relationship based upon a mutual promise to commit gravely immoral sexual acts" that "place souls at risk of eternal damnation."

The church since its founding has always taught that sexual relations outside of marriage of any kind is sinful, Murray explained.

"This is a plain contradiction of Catholic teaching and practice," he said of Francis' comments on same-sex blessings. "It is a repudiation of a document of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that Pope Francis himself authorized for publication in 2021 that taught the impossibility of the church blessing same-sex unions."

Critics of Francis have long noted his contradictory statements, often leading to a sense of confusion among the hierarchy and laity.

The cardinals "are among those frustrated with current conditions," said Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.

The pope's reply, he told Newsmax, "has not changed matters. After he begins his response with a straightforward summary of church teachings, he uses words and terms such as 'but,' 'while it is true,' 'yet,' 'however,' and 'on the other hand.'

"If it is true that what matters comes after the 'but,'" Donohue added, "then the lack of clarity persists."

The synod is designed, Francis has emphasized, to facilitate a dialogue in which "all the people of God" are invited to "make their voice heard and feel part of the church's journey."

Yet, even as the pontiff has emphasized that the gathering is "consultative" rather than decision-making, some are concerned that certain of its agenda items cannot help but provoke widespread confusion about Catholic teachings and church governance. Others fear that Francis will use synod recommendations to alter the most basic teachings of the church.

The letters sent to Francis by the cardinals — specifically Walter Brandmüller of Germany, Raymond Burke of the United States, Zen Ze-Kiun of China, Juan Sandoval Iñiguez of Mexico, and Robert Sarah of Guinea — wanted clarification on such matters as priestly ordination for women; blessing of same-sex relationships; repentance as necessary for sacramental absolution; whether divine revelation could be reinterpreted according to changing cultural norms; and whether a "synodal" approach might replace the hierarchical nature of church governance.

Francis' response, also sent in July, has likewise just been made public.

In it, the pope provided extensive and nuanced answers to what the cardinals — and several prominent American Catholics who shared their thoughts with Newsmax — felt were straightforward questions meriting definitive answers.

For example, Donahue said, "most Catholics who follow" such issues "believe that St. John Paul II 'definitively' affirmed the impossibility of women priests. Indeed, the pope says just that in his reply." 

Then, Donohue said, "he undoes it."

"On the other hand," he quoted Francis, "a clear and authoritative doctrine has not yet been exhaustively developed about the exact nature of a 'definitive statement.' It is not a dogmatic definition, and yet it must be observed by all." 

"So, the ordination of women has been 'definitively' decided," Donohue said, "but what is definitive is not an 'authoritative doctrine,' yet it 'must be observed by all.' What's that?" he asked.

Believing that Francis' initial response to their questions only added to the confusion, the five cardinals resubmitted their dubia in a revised form, seeking simple "yes" or "no" answers. The Holy Father has not responded to that request. 

"I don't think using that approach is going to produce a clarification," Msgr. Robert Batule, pastor of Saint Margaret Parish in Selden, New York, and past editor in chief of the Catholic Social Science Review, told Newsmax.

He recalled that in 2016, Pope Francis did not respond at all to dubia submitted by four cardinals — including Burke and Brandmüller — asking for clarification of highly disputed parts in his apostolic exhortation "Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love)."

Yet clarity, "important when it comes to rules governing professional sports," said Donohue, "is much more important when it comes to the teachings of the Catholic Church.

"If the Synod on Synodality ends a year from now having muddied church teachings," he warned, "it will 'definitively' be declared a failure by millions of the faithful."     

© 2024 Newsmax. All rights reserved.


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A letter from five prominent Catholic cardinals to Pope Francis heading into a "Synod on Synodality" at the Vatican this week reflects deep concern among traditionalists as to the direction he is leading the church.
pope francis, same-sex unions, blessing, catholics
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2023-18-04
Wednesday, 04 October 2023 01:18 PM
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