Francis has started a long and atrocious cultural war in Church.

"Second Class Blessing"

What Münster canon lawyer Thomas Schüller thinks of the Vatican's declaration that now allows priests to bless same-sex and unmarried couples.

SZ: Mr. Schüller (Cathcon- in fact, he is Father Schüller) on Monday the Vatican Dicastery's declaration of faith that same-sex and unmarried couples may be blessed in the Catholic Church came as a surprise. How should the step be evaluated?

Thomas Schüller: It's not a big step, nothing has changed in the church's teaching. For them, marriage between a man and a woman remains the only form in which sexuality is permitted. But it's a small opening step, and that's definitely new. For the first time in the Church's teaching history, positive elements in 'irregular' relationships are acknowledged, the moral good in them and the love in them are recognized. As recently as 2021, the same dicastery ruled out that such a step could ever take place.

Cardinal Víctor Fernández, a confidante of Pope Francis, emphasized several times in the statement Fiducia supplicans that such couples are in 'irregular' relationships and the form of the blessing must make this clear.

It is a consciously pastoral decision and a kind of mercy that the Catholic Church shows to couples who deeply desire a blessing. The statement emphasizes that such a blessing should not take place in the church interior and without a set liturgical or ritual form. There should be no appeal to marriages, nor any proximity in time or space.

Could this be construed as some kind of second-class blessing?

This has a discriminatory tone. Those affected even experience this as highly discriminatory; the blessing should take place spontaneously, en passant, you could say. It's a second-class blessing.

Georg Bätzing, the chairman of the German Bishops' Conference, now says that the declaration gives ordained ministers the necessary security to act. However, the document from Rome contains rather vague instructions. Is the interpretation left to the priest?

Francis was brave with this step, but not by much. He has avoided formalizing anything and so it is left to the pastors to decide how to deal with it. There should be no liturgical form or defined ritual for blessing same-sex and unmarried couples. The declaration basically gives no instructions for the priests in the communities. But that is far from life. It will be particularly difficult for priests who are among the scrupulous, i.e. who doubt whether or how far they can stretch the strict teaching on how to deal with couples whose relationship is considered irregular by the church. In Germany, for example, or in Holland and Belgium, there have long been forms for blessing homosexual couples. But basically everything remains in a gray area.

What does this mean for the parishes?

There will be a free play of liturgical forces. What this means in church, pastoral practice will only become apparent in a few years. I expect a culture war in the Catholic Church between reform and conservative forces. It could face the fate of the Anglican Church, whose secession triggered questions such as celibacy and remarriage.

What will happen next in the universal church?

Whether this first step in opening up the Church leads to a more tolerant attitude towards unmarried and same-sex couples, or whether it continues in this direction, will probably not be decided during Francis' pontificate, but under his successor. And it must be seen that the Bishops and Cardinals of the churches in the USA, Africa, Asia and Oceania reject what they associate with a decadent, Western lifestyle. These churches are very conservative, especially compared to the church in Germany.

In its Synodal Path reform project, it has already decided that it wants to offer blessings to same-sex and unmarried couples.

For the Synodal Path in Germany, the declaration from Rome is finally a small confirmation of its reform work. After the Pope has responded for many months to everything the Synodal Path has developed with prohibition signs, a sign for free travel is now coming from the Vatican.