Pope Francis has previously asserted that the Catholic Church should avoid being “judges who only deny, reject, and exclude” (Photo: Jeffrey Bruno)
The Vatican has sanctioned the blessing of same-sex couples by priests, but not in any context or ritual that might be associated with a same-sex union or same-sex marriage.
In a carefully worded declaration issued with the approval of Pope Francis on Monday, the Catholic Church stated its allowance for the “possibility of blessings for couples in irregular situations and for couples of the same sex.”
The Vatican clarified that blessings should be bestowed upon those genuinely seeking them as an affirmation of the “unconditional power of God’s love,” even if they are considered sinners.
“When people ask for a blessing, an exhaustive moral analysis should not be placed as a precondition for conferring it. Those seeking a blessing should not be required to have prior moral perfection,” states the directive.
Spontaneous Acts, Not Formal Rituals
The ruling, however, emphasises that blessing same-sex couples should not be perceived as a formal ritual but rather a “spontaneous” act. The act must not suggest the endorsement of these relationships or any form of same-sex unions, the Vatican said.
It outlined strict conditions, stating that such blessings “should never be imparted in concurrence with the ceremonies of a civil union, and not even in connection with them. Nor can it be performed with any clothing, gestures, or words that are proper to a wedding.”
While this declaration does not alter the church’s refusal to recognise or legitimise same-sex relationships, still officially deeming them “sinful,” it is viewed as a positive step in further embracing LGBTQ+ Catholics.
An Early Christmas gift
Francis DeBernardo, the Executive Director of the LGBTQ+ Catholic group New Ways Ministry, hailed the ruling as “an early Christmas gift” for LGBTQ+ Catholics.
“It cannot be overstated how significant the Vatican’s new declaration is. Approving blessings for same-gender couples is certainly monumental,” expressed DeBernardo.
“By opening blessings to same-gender couples, the institutional church now expands the ways that LGBTQ+ Catholics can know God’s love,” he added.
Citing a 2021 Vatican statement prohibiting queer blessings because the church at that time asserted that, “God does not bless sin,” DeBernardo said the new declaration “is proof that church teaching can—and does—change.”
In November, the Vatican confirmed that transgender individuals, including those who have undergone medical transitions, can be baptised as Catholics and are eligible to serve as godparents and witnesses.