The Vatican Speaks on Same-Sex Marriage

By Mark A. Kellner | Posted March 23, 2021

Civil rights for same-sex couples? Yes. Church blessings for those couples? No.

That’s the condensed version of a March 15 statement from the Roman Catholic Church’s top ideological department, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, issued in response to the question of whether “the [Catholic] Church [has] the power to give the blessing to unions of persons of the same sex.”

Cardinal Luis F. Ladaria, who heads the doctrinal office, wrote, “It is not licit to impart a blessing on relationships, or partnerships, even stable, that involve sexual activity outside of marriage (i.e., outside the indissoluble union of a man and a woman open in itself to the transmission of life), as is the case of the unions between persons of the same sex.”

According to Religion News Service, the clarification comes as “some Catholics [including bishops] have discussed having a blessing for such couples as an alternative” to the sacrament of marriage. 

Such confusion likely arose from a statement made by Pope Francis in October 2020, one that appeared to reveal his support for civil unions for same-sex couples. Speaking in a documentary film titled Francesco, the pontiff said, “What we have to have is a civil union law—that way they are legally covered. I supported that.”

As to be expected, the release of the latest church statement has generated global headlines. For instance, CNN reported, “The decision is a setback for Catholics who had hoped the institution would modernize its approach to homosexuality. Dozens of countries … have legalized same-sex marriages, and the Church’s reticence to embrace LGBTQ people has long held the potential to alienate it from younger followers.”

Battle Behind the Scenes

According to a wire service report posted by ABC News, one of the most vocal dissenters to the Vatican announcement is a top cleric in Antwerp, Belgium: “Bishop Johan Bonny wrote in an opinion piece Wednesday that he feels ‘shame for my Church’ and ‘intellectual and moral incomprehension’ after Pope Francis approved the ‘negative’ response.”

If it were only this one bishop, it might be easily dismissed as an outlier in Catholic thinking. 

However, Reuters has also reported that a group of Austrian Catholic priests plans to openly defy the Vatican’s decision: “We members of the Parish Priests Initiative are deeply appalled by the new Roman decree that seeks to prohibit the blessing of same-sex loving couples. This is a relapse into times that we had hoped to have overcome with Pope Francis. … We will—in solidarity with so many—not reject any loving couple in the future who ask to celebrate God’s blessing, which they experience every day, also in a worship service.”

But also of particular note, especially to students of end-time Bible prophecy, according to a Religion News Service report, the vast majority of Catholics in the United States would equally not be keen on aligning themselves with the Vatican’s recent statement on same-sex marriage: “Most American Catholics, like most Americans, support the legalization of gay marriage.” Indeed, in 2018, nearly 73 percent of American Catholics polled supported same-sex marriage, a view that distinguishes them from the vast majority of Catholics outside the nation.

Also, in the past, it should be noted that most faithful Catholics have typically abided by the statement of Augustine of Hippo, who said that when Rome speaks, “the matter is finished.” That’s why it’s telling, then, that another Religious News Service commentator, Professor Mark Silk of Trinity College, who when comparing and contrasting Francis’ views on homosexuality and marriage against the church establishment, said, “Rome speaks, and sometimes, after a while, it changes its mind.” 

The Beast from the Sea

What does this conflict and division within the Catholic community mean for Protestant Christians, especially those whose traditional teachings suggest that the papacy is indeed the subject of Bible prophecy?

It’s important to remember that the Bible is firm in its prediction that a global, unified religion will arise at the end of time—one led by a “beast” figure that “rises out of the sea,” one that will unite with a political power to impose its beliefs on a world desperately seeking certainty during a time of crisis. Many Bible scholars, from Martin Luther to the founders of many Protestant denominations, have identified this beast from the sea as the Roman Catholic Church, which has 1.2 billion adherents around the world.

While the leader of the church is Pope Francis, who seems determined to promote global change in many spheres, ranging from climate change to capitalism to family relationships, is meeting resistance from high-level Catholic leaders, in the end, we can be certain that the church will one day speak with one voice, and that the “beast from the land” will serve as its enforcement arm.

Want to learn more? Check out our latest magazine, America in Bible Prophecy, which uncovers Bible end-time prophecy in a clear, straightforward way that will surprise and inspire you! You can also learn important details while watching “The Daughter’s Deadly Dance,” a FREE presentation from the Landmarks of Prophecy series with Pastor Doug Batchelor.

Mark Kellner
Mark A. Kellner is a staff writer for Amazing Facts International. He is a veteran journalist whose work has been published in Religion News Service, The Washington Times, and numerous computer magazines.

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