Belgian cardinal backs celebrating gay couples’ relationships
A Belgian cardinal is considering a celebration of thanksgiving or prayer for gay couples in stable, lasting relationships.
After a meeting with delegates from a local gay working group last week, Cardinal Jozef De Kesel said he was concerned for their well-being and spoke of his respect for them.
He also spoke of gay couples’ relationships, noting these are not the same as Christian marriage between a man and a woman.
At the same time, he acknowledged the personal encounter gay couples have.
De Kesel wants to respond to gay couples’ requests when they are believers, involved in stable, lasting relationships and wish their relationships to benefit from the church’s symbolic recognition.
However, this recognition won’t be the same a religious marriage. Nor will it be an ecclesiastical blessing that too closely resembles the blessing of a marriage.
Nor would it involve an exchange of consent sealed by an exchange of rings.
Instead, if gay people want a Christian symbol of their proximity, a celebration of thanksgiving or prayer is more likely, De Kessel’s spokesman Geert De Kerpel says.
“To the extent that the church has maintained a certain reserve on the issue, it is to preserve the great value of marriage and the family to the greatest extent possible.”
Although Belgian media have suggested De Kesel is adopting a “revolutionary position,” his stance reflects the Belgian Church has already taken on gay couples’ relationships.
Not exactly an opening towards the liturgical rite of Blessing of legally married Same-Sex couples in Church (which is now possible for New Zealand Anglicans, as described in the link provided above the first line here) but, nevertheless, a Roman Catholic nod towards the acceptance of faithful monogamous relationships of people of the same gender.
In common with Pope Francis’ one-time statement to a reporter on an aircraft, when asked what he thought of homosexual relationships: “If they love God, who am I to judge?” – this openness towards the acceptance of those in the Church who want their same-sex faithful relationships to be celebrated with their heterosexual sisters and brothers in their local congregation is the opposite of the homophobia with which some Christians are prone to view such relationships.
What is interesting in all of this is that faithful, loving relationship is what the Gospel is all about. For those incapable of heterosexual marriage, who are only able to relate to their own gender for a life-long partnership akin to marriage, the only way in which they can fully express their love in faithfulness and credibility in relationship with one another is – as with their heterosexual counterparts – to ‘forsake all other – offering themselves to one another in sickness and in health, in trouble and in joy, unto their lives’ end’. This, of course, involves commitment!
All too much attention – especially with faithfully-partnered gays – is given to the sexual aspect of their relationship; when (though this may be the source of their initial attraction) life together involves so much more than sex – which, however, is God-given and sanctified in its devotedness of one person to another in love. Journeying together through all of life’s vicissitudes is what enables a faithful loving couple to thrive in each and every challenge that life brings. A faithful loving relationship of two people to one another – as is so obvious in marriage – can be a beacon of light to those whose lives are spoiled by unfaithfulness, promiscuity and insecurity.
That our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters are looking with interest upon our Anglican Church in New Zealand’s decision to open up to the acceptance of faithful monogamous same-sex couples, should reassure those among us who are fearful of the possible consequences of such a move – that God is working in other traditions than just our own to bring about a more just and loving outcome for one more minority in our wonderfully diverse and bountiful world.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand