The maneuvers of the Flemish bishops in view of the Synod, but the Pope does not want to escape forward

from Gian Guido Vecchi

For Pope Francis, the Church must reflect on herself and find new ways to speak to the world. “Blessings to individuals” are not excluded

VATICAN CITY – The “tear” of the Flemish bishops, with the publication of a liturgy to bless gay couples, is part of the maneuvers of the world episcopates to approach the Synod which will end in Rome in a year, in October 2023, after the first phase of “listening to and consulting the people of God” in the various dioceses of the world and the “continental” phase which it will end in spring.

Pope Francis wants the Church to reflect on itself and find new ways to speak to the world. Ironically, the Synod is dedicated to “synodality”, in the literal Greek sense (syn-odós) of following “together” the same “road”. But it was inevitable that the world episcopates would arrive divided. The chance to bless gay couplessuch as the revision of compulsory priestly celibacy (“for some priests, it would be better if they were married”, the German cardinal Reinhard Marx observed in February), is a debated issue especially in Europe, and already in Germany several priests and some bishops they blessed homosexual couples.

Just as a response to the German Synod, the negative “responsum” of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had arrived, the former Holy Office, signed on February 22, 2021 by the cardinal prefect, the Spanish Jesuit Luis Ladaria. Cardinal Jozef De Kese, president of the Belgian bishops already at retirement age (he turned 75 in June) knows this, as do the bishops of Flanders (the Dutch-speaking Belgian region) who published the document. It is no coincidence that the text specifies that in the new liturgy for blessings “the difference with what the Church understands by sacramental marriage must remain clear”. The Vatican’s no, which did not exclude “blessings to individuals”, was based on the “analogy” with the blessing of marriage, a “sacrament” recognized only between men and women.

The Pope himself, moreover, repeated it a year ago returning from Slovakia: “Marriage is a sacrament, the Church has no power to change the sacraments as the Lord instituted them “. Except to say that he is in favor of states recognizing homosexual civil unions, which was almost unthinkable before his pontificate.

Will the Church ever approve a similar form of “blessing”, distinct from marriage? The Synod will discuss this too. But the Pope does not want to escape forward, or even backward. He has repeatedly warned against both “immobility” and the “gnostic” tendency to proceed alone, as a group of “enlightened”, basing oneself on projects and structures. Hence the insistence on being all together “listening to the Spirit”. Opening the synodal path, Francis had mentioned the Dominican theologian and cardinal Yves Congar: “We must not create another Church, we must create a different Church”.

In case we must arrive together, in spite of the inevitable clashes between conservatives and progressives, as happened after the two Synods on the family for the possibility of accessing the sacraments for the divorced and remarried, on a case-by-case basis. In the Church the “precedents” of the individual episcopates do not make a text: we proceed together.

September 20, 2022 (change September 20, 2022 | 19:28)

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The maneuvers of the Flemish bishops in view of the Synod, but the Pope does not want to escape forward

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