New prefect affirms natural truth about marriage

Archbishop Víctor Manuel Fernández, appointed prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith by Pope Francis July 1, is pictured in this file photo at a session of the Synod of Bishops on the family at the Vatican Oct. 6, 2015. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Catholic Church must take great care to avoid rites or blessings that suggest marriage is anything other than a sacramental bond between one man and one woman, the incoming prefect of the Vatican’s doctrinal office said.

“There is nothing that can compare to (marriage) and using that name to express something else is not good nor correct,” said Archbishop Víctor M. Fernández of La Plata, Argentina, in an interview with InfoVaticana, a Spain-based news website covering the Catholic Church, published July 5.

“That is why I think that the greatest care must be taken in avoiding rites or blessings that could feed that confusion. Now, if a blessing is given in such a way that it does not create that confusion, it will need to be analyzed and confirmed,” he added.

While homosexual men and women must be respected, any form of blessing a same-sex union is “illicit,” the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said in a document issued in 2021.

The negative judgment is on the blessing of unions, not the people who may still receive a blessing as individuals “who manifest the will to live in fidelity to the revealed plans of God as proposed by Church teaching,” it said in a statement.

“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,” the doctrinal office said in an explanatory note accompanying the statement. Pope Francis approved both the statement and the note for publication.

Pope Francis appointed Archbishop Fernández to be prefect of the Vatican’s influential Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith July 1. The Argentinean theologian, a biblical specialist, was elected president of the doctrine commission of Argentina’s bishops’ conference in 2017 and since 2018 has been archbishop of La Plata, home to an estimated 630,000 Catholics.

While Archbishop Fernández clearly stated that “doctrine does not change,” he said that the dicastery will operate differently under his leadership than in the past, focusing more on fostering conversation and promoting theological knowledge rather than “persecuting” or “condemning.”

“Christ told us that we need to be in the world, to its depths, but without being of the world,” the archbishop said. “We need to ‘be’ more and show something different, but we get infected (with polarization) and lose the freshness of the Gospel, we don’t exhibit anything truly overarching.”

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