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Polish, Ukrainian bishops join growing coalition against Vatican’s same-sex blessings document

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Following the Vatican’s publication of Fiducia Supplicans — a document outlining when individuals in same-sex or otherwise “irregular” couples can be blessed — the worldwide Catholic Church has seen battle lines forming around its application.

While early disputations came from African prelates in countries such as Nigeria, Zambia, Cameroon, and Malawi, now Eastern European leaders have joined in dissent.

“Since practicing sexual acts outside marriage, that is, outside the indissoluble union of a man and a woman open to the transmission of life, is always an offense against the will and wisdom of God expressed in the sixth commandment of the Decalogue, people who are in such a relationship cannot receive a blessing,” the Polish Episcopal Conference wrote in response to the declaration.

CATHOLIC BISHOPS AROUND THE WORLD PUSH BACK ON BLESSINGS FOR PEOPLE IN SAME-SEX RELATIONSHIPS

Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, Archbishop of Poznan and Chairman of the Polish Episcopal Conference, seen during a procession after the Holy Mass led by Waclaw Depo, Archbishop of Czestochowa, on the occasion of the feast of Saint Stanislaus, bishop and martyr, the main patron of Poland, with the participation of the Polish Episcopate in Wawel Cathedral, Krakow, Poland.  (Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

“This applies in particular to people in same-sex relationships,” the Polish statement added, according to translations from Catholic News Agency.

Fiducia Supplicans affirmed the Catholic Church’s inability to change the sacrament of marriage, which it defines as an “exclusive, stable, and indissoluble union between a man and a woman, naturally open to the generation of children.”

It did, however, carve out allowances for “spontaneous” blessings given to individuals in same-sex relationships who are seeking to lead more moral lives. It also clarifies that the “union” between two members of the same sex cannot be blessed — only the individuals themselves.

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Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, declared Friday that Catholics in the Eastern Rite of the church are not to follow the document’s guidance, according to translations from the Catholic blog Rorate Caeli.

Shevchuk said that the Vatican’s document “interprets the pastoral meaning of blessings in the Latin Church, not in the Eastern Catholic Churches. It does not address questions of Catholic faith or morality, does not refer to any prescriptions of the Code of Canons for the Eastern Churches, and does not mention Eastern Christians.”

He continued, saying that because it is not a universal teaching on faith and morals, it “applies exclusively to the Latin Church and has no legal force for the faithful of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.”

POPE FRANCIS ALLOWS PRIESTS TO BLESS SAME-SEX COUPLES

Sviatoslav Shevchuk

Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Major Archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church during the Holy Mass presides by Pope Francis for the conclusion of the Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. Vatican City. (Grzegorz Galazka/Archivio Grzegorz Galazka/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)

The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church is the second-largest particular church in the Catholic Communion — smaller only than the main Latin or “Roman Catholic” church.

“According to the traditions of the Byzantine rite, the concept of ‘blessing’ means approval, permission, or even an order for a certain type of action, prayer and ascetic practices, including certain types of fasting and prayer,” Shevchuk said, noting the differences in pastoral customs between the Ukrainian Greek and Latin churches. 

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He concluded, “Pastoral discernment urges us to avoid ambiguous gestures, expressions, and concepts that would distort or misrepresent God’s word and the teaching of the Church.”

The publication of Fiducia Supplicans has been a nightmare for worldwide Church unity, inspiring fierce debate among bishops, priests, and laity as the document’s author, Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, fields questions on the ambiguous text. 

In an interview with Catholic news outlet The Pillar, Fernández said, “These kinds of blessings are simply simple pastoral channels that help to express people’s faith, even if those people are great sinners.”

Víctor Manuel Fernández

Prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, Víctor Manuel Fernández poses during the courtesy visits to the New Cardinals at the Apostolic Palace in Vatican City. ((Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images))

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He added, “Therefore, by giving this blessing to two people who spontaneously come forward to request it, one can legitimately ask God to grant them health, peace, prosperity—the things that we all ask for and that a sinner can also ask for.”

The cardinal affirmed to The Pillar that the blessings in the context of a same-sex or otherwise irregular couple are meant to invoke God to help them live more in line with the Gospel.

“The declaration also mentions a request for help from the Holy Spirit so that this relationship, which is often unknown to the priest, may be purified of everything that does not respond to the Gospel and the will of God, and may mature along the lines of God’s plan,” Fernández explained.

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