Belgian Catholic bishops defy Vatican and agree to bless ‘committed’ same-sex unions

Cardinal Josef De Kesel of Belgium

Catholic bishops in Belgium have authorised prayer and blessings for “committed” same-sex unions, a move that defies rulings from the Vatican.

In a document released on Tuesday (20 September) on the Bishops’ Conference of Belgium website, Flemish Roman Catholic bishops stated that the blessing of same-sex unions was now authorised, but stressed that this was not “what the church understands by a sacramental marriage”.

The document said that the blessing – which would include a ritual of prayers and a commitment to be faithful to each other – is part of being a “welcoming church that excludes no one”.

The guidance also stated that the bishops wished to “structurally anchor their pastoral commitment to homosexual persons” and denounce “homophobic violence”.

The Flemish bishops also announced the appointment of Willy Bombeek as a staff member who would help to oversee the care of LGBTQ+ Catholics.

Bombeek told Reuters that he hopes this move is “only the beginning”.

“I’m proud to belong to the Flemish Church,” he said. “I hope that religious people in other countries will also get to experience this, and hopefully, this is only the beginning.”

A spokesman for the bishops, Geert De Kerpel, explained to the news agency that their intention was not to defy the 2021 Vatican ruling, but that it is “first and foremost a positive message”.
In March 2021, the Vatican ruled that the Catholic Church cannot bless same-sex unions, because God “does not and cannot bless sin”, however, several Catholic leaders have since gone against this guidance.

The comments were made by the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith after a query was made to ask whether clergy can offer blessings to same-sex couples.

In a note published in March, the Vatican’s orthodoxy office, approved by Pope Francis, explained that blessings on couples can only be given if they live according to “the designs of God inscribed in creation”.

It explained that as the Catholic Church does not recognise same-sex marriage, a blessing for a same-sex couple would effectively endorse sex outside of marriage.