Cardinal Josef De Kesel, together with the other Flemish bishops of Belgium, published a liturgical text intended for the blessing of homosexual couples. An announcement, released on September 20, 2022, presented this blessing.
The entire Belgian episcopate is therefore not affected by this announcement, which is limited to the Flemish part. In addition to Cardinal De Kesel, Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels, the announcement was endorsed by “the Flemish bishops,” i.e., Bishop Johan Bonny of Antwerp, known for his progressive positions; Bishop Lode van Hecke of Ghent, Bishop Patrick Hoogmartens of Hasselt, and, finally, Bishop Lodewijk Aerts of Bruges.
These bishops still represent half of the dioceses of Belgium.
The announcement coincided with the establishment of a “contact point” named “Homosexuality and Faith” within the inter-diocesan service for pastoral care for families. “The said ‘contact point’ has been placed under the authority of Willy Bombeek, the spokesman of the Catholic Education Service of Flanders from 1999 to 2017. . . he served a coordinator of the ‘Homosexuality & Faith’ working group since early 2021.”
Bombeek affirms that “sexual experience is also a right for LGBT people insofar as it takes place within a faithful and lasting relationship”: a claim he presented to Cardinal De Kesel in February 2020.
Bombeek does not hide. He called the initiative “ground-breaking.” He thus declared: “I myself am a believer and gay. That is why the bishops asked me to take up this assignment. I think it is important that the Church specifically wanted an LGBT believer in this post.”
Its main mission, he added, will be “to listen to questions from the LGBT community,” and to show them clearly “that we are a welcoming Church that does not exclude anyone.”
The Liturgical “Blessing”
Bombeek commented on the bishops' document: “The Church felt that there should be something for LGBTI people of faith alongside church marriage. Often, this was already happening at the local level, but people did not really know how, they did not have a proper form for it. Now the Church provides a kind of structure that can serve for such a blessing: a commitment to sustainability and fidelity that can be expressed within the Church.”
The bishops’ document clarifies that the blessing should not be confused for a Church wedding. But Bombeek explains: “After all, we are simply in a Church tradition where the word ‘marriage’ is restricted to the relationship between husband and wife. The blessing totally has the same value, but from Church tradition, they cannot call it marriage. Yet it is very groundbreaking that from within the Church we can have a prayer service and a blessing for LGBT relations.”
The liturgy offers a reading taken from Holy Scripture, which precedes “the commitment of the two people involved.” A text is proposed for this commitment which affirms the will “to be there for each other,” to “work towards each other’s happiness,” and for the strength “to be faithful to each other.” It concludes: “we want to live, given to each other always.”
A community prayer follows to ask that God’s grace may work in them to care for each other and that they are faithful, tolerant, attentive. Finally, after a Pater, a blessing is given.
The Flemish Bishops Defend Themselves
After reactions that must have caused a stir, the Flemish bishops felt obliged to give details. Their explanations note that “the bishops want to welcome but absolutely do not wish to go beyond Amoris Laetitia, in which they fit completely.”
They add that, in this text, it is not a “nuptial blessing,” but a blessing closing a prayer.
These explanations are anything but conclusive. In this “liturgy” it is indeed a question of welcoming a homosexual couple as such into the ecclesial community. Admittedly, it is not a marriage, but it is exactly what has already been condemned by the response to a dubium from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), dated March 15, 2021.
As a reminder, the dubium asked: “Does the Church have the power to bless same-sex unions?” The answer was: “no.”
The bishops can perhaps believe in their hazy explanation, but they cannot prevent their text from being formally against the decision of the CDF and incidentally against divine law. This pseudo-liturgy is clearly an attempt to introduce a blessing of a couple, and of a homosexual couple.
The question is whether Rome will allow it to happen, as it allowed rebellion in German dioceses on May 10 of the years 2021 and 2022, which saw blessings from hundreds of such couples protesting the Roman response. This year an auxiliary bishop even got involved in the movement.
These blessings have no value as the CDF explains in its document, because they go against the will of God. Will the Church continue to let them spread? In any case, this is certainly not the way to help those affected.