The bishop of Antwerp, Johan Bonny, has expressed an unusually outspoken opinion on the latest statements by his church on the matter of homosexuality.
This week, the body of the church known as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued an opinion in response to the question, is it permissible for a Catholic priest to bless a homosexual union?
Within the Church, it is already clear that a priest may not officiate at a gay wedding, but the question relates to how the faithful should deal with the matter once that is done.
The answer, approved by Pope Francis, came back loud and clear.
The note distinguished between the church’s welcome for gay people, which it upheld, but not their unions. The opinion said such unions are not part of God’s plan, and any sacramental recognition of them could be confused with marriage.
“I feel ashamed for my Church. I mainly feel intellectual and moral incomprehension,” Bonny said in an opinion for De Standaard.
“I would like to apologise to all for whom this responsum is painful and incomprehensible. Their pain for the Church is mine today,” he writes.
The document, he wrote, lacks scientific basis, theological nuance and ethical caution, in particular in the passage which states, “That in God’s plan there is no remotely possible resemblance or even an analogy between heterosexual and same-sex marriage.”
“I myself know gay couples, in civil marriages with children, who form a warm and stable family, and who also actively participate in parish life,” he writes. “Some of them are active full-time as pastoral or church employees. I am very grateful to them. Who has an interest in denying that no resemblance or analogy to heterosexual marriage is possible here?”
The responsum also states clearly that God cannot condone a sin; homosexual couples are living in sin and the Church cannot approve that.
“Sin is one of the most difficult theological and moral categories to define, and thus one of the last to cleave to individuals and their way of living together,” Bonny said.
“A respectful approach to same-sex marriage can only take place in the broader context of the Order of Service for Marriage, as an eventual variation on the theme of marriage and family life, with an honest acknowledgement of actual similarities and differences,” he concludes.