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Catholic priests vow to defy teaching on same-sex marriage, denounce Pope Francis: 'Deeply appalling'

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'This is a relapse into times that we had hoped to have overcome with Pope Francis'

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A group of Catholic priests announced Tuesday they would not abide by guidance from the Vatican that says priests cannot bless same-sex couples.

What is the background?

Controversy erupted Monday when the Vatican published guidance reaffirming what has been the Christian teaching on sexual ethics for the entire existence of the Christian church: Same-sex relationships violate God's ideal vision for marriage and human sexual expression.

Therefore, the Vatican advised, priests cannot bless such unions.

[I]t 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. The presence in such relationships of positive elements, which are in themselves to be valued and appreciated, cannot justify these relationships and render them legitimate objects of an ecclesial blessing, since the positive elements exist within the context of a union not ordered to the Creator's plan.

The guidance was widely panned because Pope Francis is seen the "woke pope."

As pope, Francis has placed great emphasis on social justice and care for the vulnerable. Such positions — although considered "liberal" by many in the West today — are central to the Christian faith, and have been since the ministry of Jesus.

What did the priests say?

The Parish Priests Initiative — a dissident group of Catholic priests — essentially expressed dismay that Catholic teaching on sexual ethics will not conform to the standards of the secular world.

"We members of the Parish Priests Initiative are deeply appalled by the new Roman decree that seeks to prohibit the blessing of same-sex loving couples. This is a relapse into times that we had hoped to have overcome with Pope Francis," the group said in a statement, Reuters reported.

"We will — in solidarity with so many — not reject any loving couple in the future who ask to celebrate God's blessing, which they experience every day, also in a worship service," the statement added.

Founded in 2006, the PPI has voiced opposition to several key Catholic teachings, including celibacy among priests and forbidding women from becoming ordained.

The group, which reportedly has about 350 priests among its membership in addition to thousands of lay supporters, also supports giving communion to divorced persons and Protestants.

What does Jesus say?

When confronted by scribes and Bible teachers about divorce, Jesus grounded his teaching about marriage — and sexuality overall — in the Genesis creation narrative.

Matthew 19:3-6 (NIV) says:

Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?"

"Haven't you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate."

Christian marriage, then, is meant to reflect the unique "oneness" of humanity — one male and one female covenantally uniting — just as God eternally exists as multiple persons in a unique, inseparable, and unified relationship (Christian doctrine refers to this as the "Trinity").

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