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Madrid Archdiocese says same-sex civil ceremony in private chapel shouldn’t have taken place

Cardinal José Cobo Cano of Madrid poses for a photo while meeting reporters at the Vatican Sept. 29, 2023. After two men married Feb. 24, 2024, in a civil ceremony at a Catholic chapel on a private estate near Madrid, the Archdiocese of Madrid issued a statement Feb. 26 reprimanding the organizers of the service, saying such private family chapels "can only be used for the purpose that the Church grants them." (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

MADRID (OSV News) — After two men married Feb. 24 in a civil ceremony inside a Catholic chapel at a private estate near Madrid, the Archdiocese of Madrid reprimanded organizers of the service.

The Catholic hermitage of the Holy Trinity in which the ceremony took place is located in the municipality of El Escorial northwest of the Spanish capital. El Escorial is well known as the location of the biggest building in Spain, a palace built by King Philip II in the 16th century at the peak of the Spanish empire.

In a statement issued Feb. 26, the Madrid archbishopric, or office of the archbishop, said that “it was neither informed nor consulted about the possibility of carrying out such celebration, being a unilateral act of the estate that will have canonical effects in this regard.

“In no case,” the statement on the archdiocese’s website said, “is it permitted to perform a civil marriage within a religious enclosure.”

The archbishopric additionally stated that “family hermitages can only be used for the purpose granted to them by the Church.”

“They cannot be a place for public religious celebrations, unless expressly authorized by the Bishopric, nor can they be used for commercial purposes or for civil celebrations of any kind,” it said.

In a video that was widely shared on social media in Spain and around the world, two men dressed in suits walk out of the chapel holding hands. The clip ends with a picture from the marriage ceremony itself, where the men stand in front of what looks like the altar covered with plants, and the two men are being wrapped in a white cloth on their shoulders and are holding a cross.

On Feb. 25 a Spanish priest, Father Juan Manuel Góngora of El Ejido, posted the video from the wedding on his X account (formerly Twitter), saying that the ceremony was “an act of sodomitic exaltation that took place in the chapel of a private wedding estate in Madrid.”

“If you are Catholics and you are invited to such irreverence, do not be complicit in a mortal sin. Let us pray for their conversion,” the priest wrote.

Ester Muñoz, deputy secretary of health and education of the Popular Party, rebuffed the priest saying, “I pray for you, father. Because I know that your vision of ‘The Truth’ prevents you from seeing the harm of its publication,” she said, as reported by El Mundo Spanish newspaper on its website.

“If the real objective were the conversion of their souls, the ‘pretended’ ridicule and public judgment would not prevail. As a Catholic I will always be with those who profess love for God, not with those who use him to sow hatred,” the deputy said.

The heated debate comes only a month after the Spanish bishops fervently backed the pope following the Vatican doctrinal dicastery’s publishing of the declaration “Fiducia Supplicans” (“Supplicating Trust”) on “the pastoral meaning of blessings.”

After the meeting of the Permanent Commission of Spanish bishops’ conference in Madrid Jan. 30-31, the bishops showed their support for the document by releasing a statement on their “deep ecclesial communion and adherence” to Pope Francis and his magisterium.

In the declaration, the church allows the blessing of couples in irregular situations, such as same-sex couples and couples who have divorced and remarried.

The supporting document of the Spanish prelates did not directly mention “Fiducia Supplicans,” but Auxiliary Bishop César García Magán of Toledo told journalist at the press conference following the Permanent Commission’s meeting that “a document of the Holy See is not commented on” but rather “accepted” and “welcomed in that spirit of communion with the Holy Father.”

“Fiducia Supplicans” underlines that even if couples in irregular situations may be blessed, the gesture of pastoral closeness must avoid any elements that remotely resemble a marriage rite. It reiterated church teaching that marriage is between one man and one woman.

The Spanish parliament voted to legalize same-sex marriage in June 2005 despite heavy opposition from the Catholic Church.

Alfa y Omega, a Spanish Catholic weekly, contributed to this report.

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