Coptic Orthodox Church suspends talks with Catholics over blessing of same-sex couples

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(CP) The Coptic Orthodox Church has reportedly suspended its dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church over the Catholic Church's decision to allow priests to bless same-sex couples.

Coptic leadership held a Holy Synod last week in Wadi El-Natrun, Egypt. The church hierarchy recommended various issues, including recognizing assorted monasteries, adding mental health topics to marital counseling and praying for unity within the Orthodox Church.

Coptic Orthodox spokesman Father Moussa Ibrahim explained in a video that "the most notable" action from the annual Holy Synod was "to suspend theological dialogue with the Catholic Church after its change of position on the issue of homosexuality."

In a statement released last week, the Coptic Church elaborated on its stance, stating that it "affirms its firm position of rejecting all forms of homosexual relationships, because they violate the Holy Bible and the law by which God created man as male and female, and the Church considers any blessing of such relations, whatever its type, to be a blessing for sin, and this is unacceptable."

"After consulting with the sister churches of the Eastern Orthodox family, it was decided to suspend the theological dialogue with the Catholic Church, reevaluate the results achieved by the dialogue from its beginning twenty years ago, and establish new standards and mechanisms for the dialogue to proceed in the future," read the statement.

"Whoever suffers from homosexual tendencies and controls themselves from sexual behaviors, the control is credited to them as a struggle. These who are struggling are left with the warfares of thought, sight, and attractions, just like heterosexuals. As for someone who falls into homosexual behaviors, they are like the heterosexuals who fall into the sin of adultery/fornication, needing true repentance."

Last December, Pope Francis approved a "Fiducia Supplicans" declaration, which provided "a broadening and enrichment of the classical understanding of blessings, which is closely linked to a liturgical perspective."

"It is precisely in this context that one can understand the possibility of blessing couples in irregular situations and same-sex couples without officially validating their status or changing in any way the Church's perennial teaching on marriage," stated the declaration.

The Vatican document said that "when people ask for a blessing, an exhaustive moral analysis should not be placed as a precondition for conferring it" and that "those seeking a blessing should not be required to have prior moral perfection."

Although the declaration reaffirmed the Catholic Church's belief that homosexuality is sinful and that same-sex unions were not to be condoned, critics of the document contend it contradicts Catholic teaching on marriage and sexuality.

In February, nearly 100 Catholic clergy and scholars signed an open letter demanding that Pope Francis withdraw the declaration, arguing that it "attempts to introduce a separation between doctrine and liturgy on the one hand, and pastoral practice on the other."

"But this is impossible: in fact, pastoral care, like all action, always presupposes a theory and, therefore, if pastoral care performs something that does not correspond to the doctrine, what is actually being proposed is a different doctrine," continued the letter.

"The fact is that a priest is imparting a blessing on two people who present themselves as a couple, in the sexual sense, and precisely a couple defined by its objectively sinful relationship. Therefore — regardless of the intentions and interpretations of the document, or the explanations the priest may try to give — this action will be the visible and tangible sign of a different doctrine, which contradicts traditional doctrine."

Catholics for Choice President Jamie L. Manson released a statement last year calling the Vatican declaration "stunning and historic." She claimed it "will be transformative for advancing LGBTQIA+ visibility and inclusion."

"There is still a long way to go before the church fully affirms the inherent, God-given dignity and equality of LGBTQIA+ Catholics, our marriages, and our families," stated Manson.

"Today's declaration reveals that this is not a Pope Francis problem, but a middle-management problem — one caused by decades of hardened institutional stigma and outspoken anti-LGBTQIA+ advocacy from a hierarchy increasingly mired in culture wars, in defiance of a pope who is moving the church in an opposite, more inclusive direction."

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