Shortly after the publication of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia (AL), I began receiving letters, emails and telephone calls asking for clarification of some of the vagaries in chapter 8 of that document. At that time I produced a column for the Colorado Catholic Herald in which I said that any of the confusing parts of AL were to be interpreted only by the received Tradition of the Church.
Now we are confronted by a new confusion that emanates from public statements of Cardinal Reinhard Marx, Archbishop of Munich and Freising, and President of the German Bishops’ Conference. Cardinal Marx — supported by some other German bishops — has suggested that, in individual cases, homosexual unions could be blessed by the Church.
In a recent interview, Cardinal Marx remarked: “This I really have to leave up to the local pastor and the accompaniment of that person. One can think about this in a dialogue — and right now, there is taking place such a discussion — that is to say, about how we could deal with this matter, but I would leave this strongly in the hands of the local pastor, in a very concrete situation, and not to demand rules in this matter. There are things that cannot be regulated.”
Indeed, there are things that cannot be regulated, but blessing an illicit sexual union is not one of them. St. Paul, in his Letter to the Romans, is very clear in his instruction regarding those who willfully disregard the natural moral law, which forbids homosexual acts: “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against the irreligious and perverse spirit of men who, in this perversity of theirs, hinder the truth. . . Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and the men gave up natural intercourse with women and burned with lust for one another. One sees in them men without conscience, without loyalty, without affection, without pity. They know God’s just decree that all who do such things deserve death; yet they not only do them but approve them in others” (Romans 1:18, 26-27, 31-32).
Similarly, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) teaches that “tradition has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.’ They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved” (CCC, 2357).
As severe — even harsh — as the words of St. Paul and the Catechism may seem, they in no way suggest that persons with same-sex attraction — even those who have entered into civil unions — are to be treated other than with the respect due their human dignity as sons and daughters of God. They deserve our love and pastoral care. But we must never forget that genuine love always demands that we speak the truth.
If Cardinal Marx succeeds in establishing the blessing of same-sex unions in the Church in Germany — even if in individual cases — he is effectively seceding from the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. It makes no sense that there could be one moral law in Germany and a different one in the rest of the Church.
We must never confuse deviating from the law of God and his Church with an expression of pastoral care. In a recent article published in the archdiocesan newspaper of Philadelphia, Archbishop Charles Chaput wrote: “[T]here is no truth, no real mercy, and no authentic compassion, in blessing a course of action that leads persons away from God. This in no way is a rejection of the persons seeking such a blessing, but rather a refusal to ignore what we know to be true about the nature of marriage, the family, and dignity of human sexuality.”
Let us pray that confusion about the natural moral law and the teachings of God’s Church will no longer be disseminated by those who have vowed to uphold these teachings.