Legal Nigeria

Why we can’t bless same-sex marriage – Nigerian Catholic bishops

Nigerian Catholic Bishops on Thursday expressed strong opposition to the recent directive by Pope Francis that priests should bless same-sex marriage.

The clergymen under the aegis of Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) argued strongly that blessing same-sex marriage is against God’s law, the teachings of the Church, the laws of the country and the cultural sensibilities of Nigerians.

Pope Francis had on Monday formally permitted Catholic priests to bless same-sex unions. However, the Pope, in the declaration, noted “the doctrine regarding marriage does not change, and the blessing does not signify approval of the union.”

The declaration also indicated that “only sexual relations between a man and a woman in the context of marriage are considered lawful”.

But the bishops in a statement issued on Thursday in Ibadan signed by CBCN President and Secretary, Most Rev. Lucius Ugorji and Most Rev. Donatus Ogun respectively and a few other executives assured the ‘people of God’ that the teachings of the Catholic Church on marriage remained the same.

“There is, therefore, no possibility in the church of blessing same-sex unions and activities; that will go against God’s law, the teachings of the church, the laws of our nation and the cultural sensibilities of our people.

“We thank all the priests for their accompaniment of married couples, asking them to continue in all they do to sustain the sacrament of holy matrimony and never to do anything that will detract from the sacredness of this sacrament,” CBCN said.

The bishops said following the issuance of the declaration on the pastoral meaning of blessings, “Fiducia Supplicans” (pleading with courage) by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, CBCN members recognised their duties as pastors to clarify the content of the document.

They emphasised that the declaration sought to clarify the different forms of blessings that could be given to persons and objects within the Catholic Church, including the possibility of blessing persons in irregular unions.

Such unions, the clerics said, could include, but not limited to, divorced and remarried couples whose previous marriages had not been annulled, those living in same-sex unions, those in polygamous unions and concubinage, among others.

“The declaration acknowledges and carefully distinguishes between ritual, liturgical and informal blessings.

“While ritual or liturgical blessings are imparted according to the established norms of the church, informal blessings refer to prayers over people who ask for them outside the liturgy or any formal celebration in the church.

“The declaration offers a consideration of the possibility of extending the informal blessings to all God’s children, irrespective of their moral condition, when they ask to be blessed.