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18 Dec, 2023 18:20

Vatican issues conditional approval for gay blessings

The move is part of a renewed effort to “broaden” the appeal of the Roman Catholic Church
Vatican issues conditional approval for gay blessings

The Vatican has said in a landmark ruling approved by Pope Francis that Roman Catholic priests can issue blessings to same-sex couples provided that it does not take place in the context of religious rituals or liturgies.

The doctrinal shift, confirmed by the Vatican on Monday, would not legitimize what it called “irregular situations” but will permit the formal blessing of people from the LGBTQ community under certain conditions. The Church added that it continues to define marriage as being between a man and a woman and that the policy change is not intended to supersede the sacrament of heterosexual marriage.

In Roman Catholic dogma, a blessing is a prayer usually delivered by a priest or minister in which God is asked to bestow divine favor or protection to a person or people. In 2021, the Vatican said that the Church could not issue blessings to same-sex couples because God is unable to “bless sin.”

But in a document published by the Vatican’s doctrinal office on Monday, the Church said that individual priests should determine whether to bless LGBTQ individuals on a case-by-case basis. It added that the move is a sign that “God welcomes all” but should not occur at ceremonies related to civil unions or weddings.

The switch is consistent with Pope Francis’ “pastoral vision” of “broadening” the appeal of the Catholic Church, Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernandez wrote in an introduction to the text. He added that a person seeking a blessing from the Church need not be “required to have prior moral perfection.”

Since becoming Pope in 2013, Pope Francis has sought to make the Church more welcoming to the LGBTQ community without compromising the faith’s moral doctrine on same-sex unions or homosexual marriage. In October, Pope Francis suggested that an official change of dogmatic policy regarding LGBTQ blessings was forthcoming.

Last month, Pope Francis dismissed Texas Bishop Joseph Strickland, who had been a vocal opponent of Francis’ efforts to expand the scope of the Church to the LGBTQ community. Strickland had called the Church’s evolving positions on issues like transgender rights a “travesty.”

Father James Martin, an American Jesuit priest and prominent supporter of LGBTQ causes, said the Vatican’s announcement is a “major step forward.” Writing on X (formerly Twitter) on Monday, he said that the Vatican’s statement “recognizes the deep desire in many Catholic same-sex couples for God’s presence in their loving relationships.”

Traditionally, the Church has taught that same-sex attraction is not a sin, but participating in homosexual acts is. Bishops in some countries had previously permitted priests to bless same-sex couples, but the Church’s overarching position had remained unclear.