Since the Supreme Court's decision in 2015 to redefine marriage, the movement to normalize homosexuality and same-sex marriage has moved at break-neck speed. While tech companies, the media, Big Business, and the entertainment and sports communities have largely fallen in line with the LGBT revolution, there has been one consistent outlier: the church. Despite calls to revise doctrine, the Catholic Church sent a strong message that they won't be bullied into capitulating on their long-standing beliefs about marriage and sexuality.
This week, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith generated international headlines in response to a dubium (a formal inquiry for doctrinal clarification) about whether or not the church would bless same-sex marriage unions. In clear terms, the Vatican said, "no."
As I explained to Tony Perkins Monday on "Washington Watch," the fact that the Roman Catholic Church supports the Bible's teaching on marriage should not be surprising. Monday's statement simply reaffirmed what the church has believed for two thousand years, namely that marriage is the union between a man and a woman. However, in recent years Pope Francis's off-the-cuff remarks about civil unions had led some to believe that revision of church teaching might be forthcoming. Moreover, over the last two decades several denominations have capitulated on the issue of marriage, and some theologically liberal bishops -- especially those in Germany -- hoped the Catholic Church might also be willing to adjust their doctrine to accommodate liberal views.
But anyone hoping for a weakening of the church's teaching was disappointed by the unequivocal language of Monday's statement. According to the Vatican, same-sex unions cannot receive an official blessing because only what is rightly ordered according to God's created design can be blessed. As the official document explains: "When a blessing is invoked on particular human relationships, in addition to the right intention of those who participate, it is necessary that what is blessed be objectively and positively ordered to receive and express grace, according to the designs of God inscribed in creation, and fully revealed by Christ the Lord." In other words, same-sex unions are not ordered to God's plan for marriage and cannot receive an endorsement or blessing from the church.
While the Vatican's statement (which was approved by Pope Francis) is pertinent to members of the Roman Catholic Church, the development is worth the attention of evangelicals and other Christians as well. As Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, noted on his podcast "The Briefing," while the language and sacramental theology used in the Catholic Church's response applies particularly to Catholics, "The logic is not uniquely Catholic...These arguments are not just the Vatican's arguments. They must be our arguments... No claim about intrinsic goods found within these relationships can overcome the fact that they are objectively disordered."
Eric Sammons, editor of Crisis Magazine, explained to Tony on Monday's "Washington Watch"that, "[Y]ou can't bless an action that is in and of itself sinful. So, for example, priest blessing abortion, it just it goes against the whole purpose of a blessing because it's supposed to be directed towards God...Likewise, a union of persons of the same sex is a sin and therefore you can't bless that because it's not directed towards God."
A final point worth noting is that within the church's answer about same-sex unions was also a broader statement about the design and purpose of human sexuality. According to the church, "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." Not only are same-sex unions illicit, so too is any sexual activity outside the confines of a marriage between a man and a woman.
In short, the Bible is clear on marriage and human sexuality. Whether Roman Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant, all branches of the church that believe in the authority of God's Word must hold the line on these doctrines. When the church stands for the truth of marriage, it is testifying and giving witness to the relationship between Christ and the church. This is picture of God's love for his people, and it's worth standing for.