Bishop Is “Ashamed” of Church, Apologizes for Vatican’s Ban on Same-Gender Blessings

Bishop Johan Bonny at the Synod on the Family in 2015 (Francis DeBernardo Photograph)

Bishops in Belgium have affirmed a member of their episcopate who expressed his disagreement with the Vatican over church blessings for same-gender couples, which Rome banned on Monday.

Bishop Johan Bonny of Antwerp wrote an op-ed about the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s ban, reported The Brussels Times:

“‘I feel ashamed for my Church. I mainly feel intellectual and moral incomprehension,’ Bonny said in an opinion for De Standaard.

“‘I would like to apologise to all for whom this responsum is painful and incomprehensible. Their pain for the Church is mine today,’ he writes.

“The document, he wrote, lacks scientific basis, theological nuance and ethical caution, in particular in the passage which states, ‘That in God’s plan there is no remotely possible resemblance or even an analogy between heterosexual and same-sex marriage.’

“‘I myself know gay couples, in civil marriages with children, who form a warm and stable family, and who also actively participate in parish life,’ he writes. ‘Some of them are active full-time as pastoral or church employees. I am very grateful to them. Who has an interest in denying that no resemblance or analogy to heterosexual marriage is possible here?’ . . .

“‘Sin is one of the most difficult theological and moral categories to define, and thus one of the last to cleave to individuals and their way of living together,’ Bonny said.”

Bonny made history in 2014 by becoming the first Catholic bishop to call explicitly for the church to bless same-gender couples. A participant in the 2015 Synod on the Family, he told Bondings 2.0 that it was ultimately better LGBTQ issues were not raised in that event’s final document too prominently, but that he would personally take up such issues.

According to the National Catholic Reporter, in this latest op-ed, Bonny suggested the Vatican’s responsum document “does not even reach the level of high school” intellectually, and “you see right through” the document’s arguments and logic.

Bonny added that how the church address marriage equality “can only take place in the broader context of the Order of Service for Marriage, as an eventual variation on the theme of marriage and family life, with an honest acknowledgement of actual similarities and differences.”

Notably, given his sharp wording, Bonny seemingly received support from the Episcopal Conference of Belgium. In a statement, the Conference said the country’s bishops had “taken note” of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s ban. It continued (via Google Translate):

“[The bishops] realize that this is particularly painful for many gay believers, their parents and grandparents, their family and friends.

“For years, the Catholic Church community of our country in all its sections (bishops, priests, deacons and pastoral workers, theologians, scientists, politicians and social workers), together with other social actors, has been working towards a climate of respect, recognition and integration. Many of them are also committed to an ecclesiastical or Christian institution. The bishops encourage their associates to keep following this path. They feel supported in this by the exhortation Amoris laetitia, The joy of love, which Pope Francis wrote after the 2015 Synod of Bishops: discern, guide and integrate; these remain the most important keywords for the bishops.”

For Bondings 2.0’s ongoing coverage of responses to and original commentary about the Vatican’s ban on blessing same-gender unions, click here.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, March 18, 2021

Other  Resources

For a listing of Catholic leaders who have spoken positively about same-gender relationships and unions, click here.

For information about a Catholic blessing for a same-gender couple, click here.

For more information on how to be welcoming to married same-gender couples, click here.

2 replies
  1. Cathy Hoffmann
    Cathy Hoffmann says:

    Thank you to New Way Ministry for so thoroughly covering this most distressing ban. The public support by these fearless leaders brings renewed hope and strength.

  2. Josie W
    Josie W says:

    Thank you for this. Every time something like this happens, I see others leave in droves and I am so temped to join them. I even had somebody call me an abomination the other day. I do not want to leave. I want to stay and advocate. But it’s exhausting.


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