Image Courtesy of AP News
By Jeremy Perillo
The Catholic Church has announced that the institution will not bless same-sex unions, saying that God “cannot bless sin.” The Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, the Vatican’s orthodoxy office, with the approval from the Pope, offered a response to how a lingering question lingering in Catholic circles, especially given Pope Francis’ warm comments towards gay civil unions and same-sex couples.
The statement stressed the distinction between loving and accepting gay people and blessing their unions. The Church argued that same-sex marriages were not in line with church teaching when it comes to marriage and family, especially given its view that marriage is intended for the sake of creating new life.
“The blessing of homosexual unions cannot be considered licit,” the statement read. “There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.”
The statement went on to explain the Church’s position in ensuring that the sin is not embraced, but that the sinner still receives love and blessings.
“God 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,” the statement said.
This statement from the Vatican comes on the heels of major revelations of Pope Francis’ endorsement of same-sex civil unions, which he addressed in a 2019 interview for the documentary “Francesco.” It has been reported that the Vatican cut this part of the interview from the documentary.
“Homosexual people have the right to be in a family. They are children of God,” Francis said. “What we have to have is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered.”
His comments were reportedly taken out of context and were addressing his position when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires. In this role, he endorsed civil unions for gay couples at the same time the Argentine legislature was considering gay marriage.
Francis thinks that while the Church cannot budge in its capacity to recognize the union of same-sex couples, sovereign nations should be ensuring that gay couples can maintain a union legally, a position that is certainly less conservative than what the Church has previously held.
Pope Francis, only months into his Papacy in 2013, somewhat infamously stated, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” While certainly more progressive than past popes on the issue, Francis has repeatedly spoken out against same-sex marriage during his papacy, something that this statement affirms.
Those hoping for a different ruling from the Church were dismayed. Charlotte Clymer, from Catholics for Choice tweeted: “Being LGBTQ is not a choice. LGBTQ people are wonderfully made by God. We are born this way and perfectly so, regardless of what the Vatican or any other religious authority might claim.”
Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, which seeks and advocates for the greater acceptance of gays in the Church, had an alternative reaction while equally unhappy with the result.
“Catholic people recognize the holiness of the love between committed same-sex couples and recognize this love as divinely inspired and divinely supported and thus meets the standard to be blessed,” he said.
The recognition DeBernardo talks about has been captured in public opinion polling. A Pew survey found that more than half of Catholics in the U.S., in addition to Mainline Protestants and Orthodox Christians, support same-sex marriage.
The Church is certainly not an organization that relies on public polling information and trends to dictate how it makes decisions or shifts doctrine, but it does highlight the Church’s position in a world with shifting views on once-taboo topics like homosexuality. The Church is not going to cease its influence in the world anytime soon, and as it navigates its own priorities amidst the continuation of fluctuating societal views, the Vatican’s future communications will be interesting to examine.