Pope Francis (Getty/Franco Origlia)
The Vatican has ruled that the Catholic Church cannot bless same-sex unions because God “does not and cannot bless sin”.
The comments were made by the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith after a query was put forward to determine whether clergy can offer blessings to same-sex couples.
In an explanatory note published on Monday (15 March), the Vatican’s orthodoxy office told church members that same-sex couples must not be given blessings as doing so would be an affront to God.
The letter, signed by Spanish Jesuit Luis Ladaria Ferrer and archbishop Giacomo Morandi – and approved by Pope Francis – said some churches have begun offering blessings to same-sex couples due to “a sincere desire to welcome and accompany homosexual persons” into their institutions.
However, the Vatican argued that a blessing can only be conferred on a couple’s relationship when they live according to “the designs of God inscribed in creation”.
The Catholic Church does not recognize same-sex marriage, which means a blessing for a same-sex couple would effectively endorse sex outside of marriage, the letter said.
“The presence in such relationships of positive elements, which are in themselves to be valued and appreciated, cannot justify these relationships and render them legitimate objects of an ecclesial blessing since the positive elements exist within the context of a union not ordered to the Creator’s plan,” the Vatican argued.
Catholic Church claims its policy is not ‘discrimination’
Furthermore, the Catholic Church suggested that blessing a same-sex union would constitute “a certain imitation” of opposite-sex marriage as it is viewed by the clergy.
The Vatican claimed that its declaration is not “a form of unjust discrimination”, but said it is a “reminder of the liturgical rite” as the Catholic Church understands it.
“The Christian community and its pastors are called to welcome with respect and sensitivity persons with homosexual inclinations, and will know how to find the most appropriate ways, consistent with church teaching, to proclaim to them the Gospel in its fullness,” the note said.
The Vatican said individual gay people can still receive church blessings, as long as they live “in fidelity to the revealed plans of God”.
God loves all of his children and they are more important to him than the sins they commit, the Vatican said.
However, it added: “But he does not and cannot bless sin: he blesses sinful man, so that he may recognize that he is part of his plan of love and allow himself to be changed by him. He in fact "takes us as we are, but never leaves us as we are."
The news will come as a disappointment to LGBT+ Catholics around the world, many of whom hoped that the institution was starting to change its approach to same-sex relationships in recent years.
There was widespread jubilation when Pope Francis appeared to voice his support for same-sex civil unions in an Italian documentary in October 2020 – however, it later emerged that the pontiff’s comments were taken out of context.
Pope Francis said that it is “a contradiction to speak of homosexual marriage” and insisted a marriage between a man and a woman is fundamentally different from that between a same-sex couple.
The Catholic Church has had a turbulent history with the LGBT+ community, but there was some hope for change when Pope Francis ascended to the top position in 2013.
In his first year as pontiff, he made headlines when he called on the Catholic Church to “show mercy, not condemnation” to gay people. But in 2019, he told a Spanish newspaper that parents of gay children should “consult a professional” – a comment many people perceived as support for conversion therapy.
The Vatican has also become increasingly opposed to trans identities during Pope Francis’ tenure. In 2019, it claimed that “gender ideology” is a “move away from nature”.