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Vatican says priests cannot bless same-sex unions in statement endorsed by Pope Francis

Referring to same-sex unions as a "choice," the Vatican declared on Monday that the Catholic Church won't bless these unions since God "cannot bless sin."

Vatican says priests cannot bless same-sex unions in statement endorsed by Pope Francis
Cover Image Source: Getty Images/ Pope Francis is bade farewell by senior Catholic clergy as he prepares to board his plane before leaving Japan on the final day of his four-day visit, on November 26, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Carl Court)

Pope Francis has often garnered praise for his progressive stance towards members of the LGBTQ+ community both within and outside the Church. When he invited LGBTQ+ advocates to the Vatican and spoke warmly about the place of gay people in the church and called for national laws for same-sex civil unions, Catholics hoped it was an indication that the institution would finally modernize its approach to homosexuality. However, this week, the Pope has definitively signaled that there are limits to his reformist intentions. Widening the divide between the church and LGBTQ+ Catholics with a combative statement approved by Pope Francis, the Vatican declared on Monday that the Catholic Church won't bless same-sex unions since God "cannot bless sin."

 



 

 

According to The Associated Press, the Vatican's orthodoxy office — the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — issued the statement in response to a question about whether Catholic clergy have the authority to bless gay unions. "RESPONSE: Negative," a two-page document published in seven languages answers. In the lengthy explanation that follows, the Holy See refers to same-sex unions as a "choice" and says that "the blessing of homosexual unions cannot be considered licit."

 



 

 

"It is not licit to impart a blessing on relationships or partnerships, even stable, that involve sexual activity outside of marriage, as is the case of the unions between persons of the same sex," the statement adds. While the decree says that individual gay people could continue to be blessed by the church — as long as they show "the will to live in fidelity to the revealed plans of God as proposed by Church teaching" — it adds that blessings can be invoked on a relationship only when it is "positively ordered to receive and express grace."

 



 

 

Blessing same-sex unions, the Vatican says, would send a sign that the Catholic Church approves and encourages "a choice and a way of life that cannot be recognized as objectively ordered to the revealed plans of God." While conservatives immediately celebrated the decisive proclamation, many gay Catholics said they felt betrayed or wounded by the church. Speaking to The Washington Post, Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of Dignity­USA — America's largest spiritual community of gay Catholics — said that it is "hard for a lot of people to understand just how far removed the church is from human rights advances that are being made in the rest of society."

 



 

 



 

 



 

 

Meanwhile, Aurelio Mancuso, former head of Italy's leading gay rights group Arcigay, is of the opinion that irrespective of the Vatican's stance on the matter, the gates for greater acceptance had "already swung open." Mancuso, who — in a 2016 ceremony with his partner — had a priest bless their wedding bands, believes that such acts would continue to go on, "regardless of the reprimands." "Catholic homosexuals like me know the opinions and traditions of the Catholic Church," he said. "The gist of it is that we’re not part of the Creator’s design, and are thus a sin, something that has to be corrected. It’s intolerable that the hierarchy — not the church — stubbornly keeps justifying a discrimination."

 



 

 

"This is a document that nobody needed," Mancuso added. "It's not about the truth of faith, but the opinion of the hierarchy." Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, which advocates for greater acceptance of gays in the church, also predicted that the Vatican's position would be largely ignored. "Catholic people recognize the holiness of the love between committed same-sex couples and recognize this love as divinely inspired and divinely supported and thus meets the standard to be blessed," he said in a statement. Meanwhile, Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of the US-based NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice and an advocate for greater LGBTQ inclusion in the church, said that the statement could've been much worse.

 



 

 

Campbell explained that she interpreted the statement as saying, "You can bless the individuals (in a same-sex union), you just can't bless the contract." "So it's possible you could have a ritual where the individuals get blessed to be their committed selves," she said.

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