To the people of the Church in Philadelphia:
Nearly everyone trying to understand the current government turmoil in Washington is either (a) pre-committed to one or the other political party’s version of events; or (b) thoroughly confused. Most of us fall more or less in the second group. And that means a great many citizens end up feeling powerless, then disgusted, then angry. If, as Scripture says, the truth makes us free, the lack of it makes us frustrated and locked in a state of uncertainty.
To put it another way: Confusion is bad. It’s bad for the individual soul, and it’s bad for the health of a society. It inevitably breeds division and conflict.
Confusion can have different causes. Some of them are quite innocent. A person may hear or interpret information incorrectly. Or a person may express himself or herself unclearly. Or factors beyond anyone’s control — for example, the prejudice or sloppiness of a news organization — may interfere with, or dramatically color, how a message is communicated and received.
These things happen as a natural part of life. This is why leaders have a special duty to be clear, honest and prudent in what they do and say. They need to “speak the truth with love,” in the words of St. Paul. To rashly, or deliberately, cause confusion about a significant matter is a serious failure for any person in authority. So it is in public life. And so it is in the life of the Church.
There is no love — no charity — without truth, just as there is no real mercy separated from a framework of justice informed and guided by truth. At the same time, truth used as a weapon to humiliate others, truth that lacks patience and love, is a particularly ugly form of violence.
So what’s the point of these thoughts?
Over the past few weeks, a number of senior voices in the leadership of the Church in Germany have suggested (or strongly implied) support for the institution of a Catholic blessing rite for same-sex couples who are civilly married or seeking civil marriage.
On the surface, the idea may sound generous and reasonable. But the imprudence of such public statements is — and should be — the cause of serious concern. It requires a response because what happens in one local reality of the global Church inevitably resonates elsewhere — including eventually here.
In the case at hand, any such “blessing rite” would cooperate in a morally forbidden act, no matter how sincere the persons seeking the blessing. Such a rite would undermine the Catholic witness on the nature of marriage and the family. It would confuse and mislead the faithful. And it would wound the unity of our Church, because it could not be ignored or met with silence.
Why would a seemingly merciful act pose such a problem? Blessing persons in their particular form of life effectively encourages them in that state — in this case, same-sex sexual unions. Throughout Christian history, a simple and wise fact applies: lex orandi, lex credendi, i.e., how we worship shapes what and how we believe. Establishing a new rite teaches and advances a new doctrine by its lived effect, i.e., by practice.
There are two principles we need to remember. First, we need to treat all people with the respect and pastoral concern they deserve as children of God with inherent dignity. This emphatically includes persons with same-sex attraction. Second, there 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 the dignity of human sexuality.
Again: All of us as human beings, whatever our strengths or weaknesses, have a right to be treated with the respect that our God-given dignity demands. We also have a right to hear the truth, whether it pleases us or not — even if it unhappily seems to complicate the unity of the Church herself. To borrow from Aquinas: The good of ecclesiastical unity, to which schism is opposed, is less than the good of Divine truth, to which unbelief is opposed (see STh II-II, q. 39, a.2).
Jesus said the truth will make us free. Nowhere did he suggest it will make us comfortable. We still need to hear the truth clearly — and share it, clearly, always with love. Creating confusion around important truths of our faith, no matter how positive the intention, only makes a difficult task more difficult.
Your brother in Jesus Christ,
+Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.
Archbishop of Philadelphia
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As a Catholic married couple for almost 50 years we are dismayed that the Church hierarchy even wants to think about something so against the great sacrament we and others are trying to live. Christian marriage is the anchor of society. We’ve all seen the wreckage caused when this anchor is weighed. If the Church won’t stand for Marriage who will?
I KNOW Archbishop Chaput will! May God Bless you good Shepherd. Our prayers are for you.
Steve & Denise
Remember to make sure you let them know that you are not against them personally But you are against their belief’s.
My biggest regret is that your guidance appears to be a minority position in our Church when it should be of overwhelming condemnation of such misguided, confusing and harmful as you point out. Where is Rome? where are our other Archbishops and Bishops?
God Bless you Archbishop and keep you safe.
I have same sex attractions and confusion within the church not only hurts me but angers me. Some hierarchy have no clue what the gay lifestyle is like and make arrogant assumptions that they can be uplifting and wholesome. I came back to the Catholic Church from such a lifestyle. Having a same sex partner situation is a delusion. These relationships are filled with manipulation, jealousy, violence at times, anger, and so on. Not to mention the frustration of the sexual act which is false and depraved. And God save the children that are victims of such circumstances.
Thank you, Archbishop Chaput, for your clarity!
A consistent message is always good, but it is especially helpful to families who have loved ones who experience same sex attraction in this confused world. Lack of consistency hurts those who are same sex attracted the most because they feel that their relatives who won’t come to the wedding or won’t let them sleep together while visiting just do these things to be unkind. A consistent message speaks to a belief, not against a person. That may not seem like such a big difference – but it really is.
Thalns you, your Excellency. We must pray hard for Church.
Thank you very much for that, Archbishop Chaput. It is very comforting to receive clear guidance from our pastors. May God bless you and may you keep crying out: Clama, ne cesses! (Isai 58:1).
“How we worship shapes what we believe” is unfortunately seeping into, in some areas, mainstream Catholic practice, not just this issue. We cannot be afraid to speak out against anything that does – no matter the cost.
Thank you so much.
May God’s smile and the burning fire of Christ’s heart purify us and set us free.
Your comments are the epitome of clarity and charity. Balm for a noisy world. Thank you!