Pope Francis to allow priests to bless gay couples but not perform marriages or civil unions

Pope Francis looks on during his weekly general audience on September 20, 2023, at St Peter's square in The Vatican.
Pope Francis looks on during his weekly general audience on September 20, 2023, at St Peter's square in The Vatican. | TIZIANA FABI/AFP via Getty Images

Pope Francis has approved a measure that will allow Roman Catholic priests to offer blessings to same-sex couples, under the condition that the blessing is not considered akin to marriage and while still labeling such relationships sinful.

In a Declaration titled “Fiducia Supplicans” that was issued Monday, the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith 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 Catholic Church leadership.

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“This Declaration is also intended as a tribute to the faithful People of God, who worship the Lord with so many gestures of deep trust in his mercy and who, with this confidence, constantly come to seek a blessing from Mother Church.”

The Vatican document goes on to state 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.”

For same-sex couples, “a blessing may be imparted that not only has an ascending value but also involves the invocation of a blessing that descends from God upon those who—recognizing themselves to be destitute and in need of his help — do not claim a legitimation of their own status, but who beg that all that is true, good, and humanly valid in their lives and their relationships be enriched, healed, and elevated by the presence of the Holy Spirit.”

The declaration warned that “one should neither provide for nor promote a ritual for the blessings of couples in an irregular situation.” 

“At the same time, one should not prevent or prohibit the Church’s closeness to people in every situation in which they might seek God’s help through a simple blessing,” the Vatican document continued.

“In a brief prayer preceding this spontaneous blessing, the ordained minister could ask that the individuals have peace, health, a spirit of patience, dialogue, and mutual assistance — but also God’s light and strength to be able to fulfill his will completely.”

The declaration was part of a series of guidance given by the dicastery regarding Catholic doctrine in response to “dubia“ or questions issued by bishops from across the world.

Last week, the dicastery released guidance clarifying that single mothers who have confessed their sins can receive the Eucharist even if they “lead a very complex existence.”

In October 2020, Pope Francis garnered controversy when he appeared to endorse civil unions for same-sex couples, being quoted in an Italian documentary.

“Homosexual people have a right to be in a family. They are children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out or be made miserable over it,” said Francis in the film, adding, “what we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered. I stood up for that.”

In response, the Vatican Secretariat of State sent out a statement to Catholic Church officials around the world explaining that the comments did not change church teaching on the issue.

The statement explained that the comments made by Francis in the recorded interview were “edited and published as a single answer without the necessary contextualization.”

“It is clear that Pope Francis was referring to particular state regulations, certainly not the doctrine of the church, which he has reaffirmed numerous times over the years,” stated the Secretariat at the time, as reported by the National Catholic Reporter.

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