In what is being seen as a landmark decision coming from a still-conservative Roman Catholic Church, the Vatican’s doctrinal office released a document approved by Pope Francis that allows priests to administer blessings to same-sex couples as long as they are not part of regular church rituals or liturgies.
The Vatican doctrinal office stressed that this should – in no way – be confused with the sacrament of heterosexual marriage, and yet this “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”.
“For, those seeking a blessing should not be required to have prior moral perfection,” it said, adding that “there is no intention to legitimize anything, but rather to open one’s life to God, to ask for his help to live better, and also to invoke the Holy Spirit so that the values of the Gospel may be lived with greater faithfulness.”
The eight-page document, subtitled “On the Pastoral Meaning of Blessings”, named situations allowing this blessing, speficied in an 11-point section titled “Blessings of Couples in Irregular Situations and of Couples of the Same sex”.
- the new document reaffirmed that marriage is a lifelong union ONLY between a man and a woman
- that the blessings now allowed for LGBTQIA people in relationships must not be tied to any specific Roman Catholic celebration or religious service
- that this blessing should not be conferred at the same time as a civil union ceremony
- that the blessings cannot use set rituals, or even involve the clothing and gestures that belong in a wedding
Priests are also expected to decide on a case-by-case basis, with the Vatican stating that the church must avoid “doctrinal or disciplinary schemes especially when they lead to a narcissistic and authoritarian elitism whereby instead of evangelizing, one analyzes and classifies others.”
For the Vatican, people in “irregular” unions of extramarital sex — gay or straight — are in a state of sin, and yet this should not deprive them of God’s love or mercy. “Even when a person’s relationship with God is clouded by sin, he can always ask for a blessing, stretching out his hand to God… Thus, when people ask for a blessing, an exhaustive moral analysis should not be placed as a precondition for conferring it.”