Cardinal Sarah speaks out against clergy blessing same-sex unions

Cardinal Robert Sarah Cardinal Robert Sarah speaks with students and faculty at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas on May 25, 2023. | Credit: Benedicte Cedergren/Angelicum

Cardinal Robert Sarah responded to the controversial Vatican declaration that allows clergy to bless same-sex couples in certain scenarios by instructing the faithful to “respond to confusion with the word of God” in a Jan. 6 reflection.

“We do not oppose Pope Francis, but we firmly and radically oppose a heresy that seriously undermines the Church, the Body of Christ, because it is contrary to the Catholic faith and Tradition,” Sarah wrote in the reflection that he shared with Italian blog Settimo Cielo. 

Sarah, 78, is a Guinean prelate who served as prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments from 2014 to 2021.

“The truth is the first of the mercies that Jesus offers to the sinner,” he wrote.

“The freedom we must offer to people living in homosexual unions lies in the truth of the word of God,” he continued. “How could we dare to make them believe that it would be good and desired by God for them to remain in the prison of their sin?” 

While bishops globally are divided on the declaration, many Catholic bishops across Africa have publicly rejected the controversial Fiducia Supplicans. Several bishops’ conferences in Africa asked priests to refrain from offering same-sex blessings in recent weeks, while other bishops instructed the clergy in their diocese to not give blessings to same-sex couples. 

In his address, Sarah encouraged “every bishop to do the same” as the episcopal conferences in Cameroon, Chad, and Nigeria.

Sarah noted that the declaration “has not been able to correct these errors” of the Church in Germany, where controversy over the Synodal Way has caused division in the Church. 

In March 2023, the German Synodal Way, a collaboration between the German Bishops’ Conference and a powerful lay lobby, ZdK, approved developing formalized ritual texts for same-sex blessings. The Vatican declaration allows for “spontaneous blessings” but not liturgical ones.

But in Sarah’s view, the Vatican declaration has made things worse.

“What’s more, with its lack of clarity, it has only amplified the confusion that reigns in hearts and some even seized it to support their attempt at manipulation,” Sarah wrote.

He wrote that “vain quibbles about the meaning of the word blessing” should be avoided. 

While he noted that blessings for sinners are a given, Sarah emphasized that the Church “can never be diverted by making it a legitimation of sin, of the structure of sin, or even of the next occasion of sin.”

He also expressed concern that the confusion brought about by Fiducia Supplicans could “reappear” subtly in the Synod on Synodality in October 2024. 

Sarah reflected that the Church should respond to same-sex couples with the mercy of truth. 

“What to say to people involved in same-sex unions? Like Jesus, we dare the first of mercies: the objective truth of acts,” he wrote.

Sarah argued that blessing a same-sex couple is not the proper response. 

More in Middle East - Africa

“The only thing to ask of people who are in a relationship against nature is to convert and conform to the word of God,” he wrote.

Sarah, who was born and raised in Guinea, recalled Pope Benedict XVI’s instruction to Africa to be the spiritual “lung” of humanity in contrast to the nihilism, materialism, and relativism affecting the West.

“The Church of Africa is the voice of the poor, the simple, and the small,” Sarah wrote, noting that it has to proclaim the Gospel to Western Christians who “believe themselves to be evolved, modern and wise of the wisdom of the world.”

“It is therefore not surprising that the bishops of Africa, in their poverty, are today the heralds of this divine truth in the face of the power and wealth of some episcopates of the West,” he added.

Our mission is the truth. Join us!

Your monthly donation will help our team continue reporting the truth, with fairness, integrity, and fidelity to Jesus Christ and his Church.