Vatican stands by approval of blessing same-sex couples despite criticism

Pope Francis wears a white jacket, white robes and cap as he waves to people gathered in a public audience at the Vatican in Rome

The Vatican has defended the approval of blessing same-sex couples after facing criticism from more conservative bishops within the Catholic Church.

Despite Pope Francis’s approval last month, some members of the church, particularly from African states like Zambia, Malawi, and Nigeria, have refused to allow priests to practice same-sex blessings.

Some have argued that the milestone decision by the Vatican directly contradicted the church’s stance on gay marriage and homosexuality.

The Vatican gave conditional approval to same-sex blessings last month. (Buda Mendes/Getty Images)

Responding to those concerns, the Vatican issued a statement on Thursday (4 January) to assure any opposers that they would be standing by their approval of same-sex blessings, and encouraged those who took issue with it to take an “extended period of pastoral reflection,” per The New York Times.

The statement, issued by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, also reminded those concerned that the decision to allow same-sex blessings was not an effort to “approve or justify” homosexual relationships, which are still considered sinful in the eyes of the church, since the approved blessings and not formal rites and can not be performed in relation to weddings or civil unions.

Therefore, the decision to bless same-sex couples could not be considered “heretical, contrary to the Tradition of the Church, or blasphemous.”

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The Dicastery reiterated that the “Church does not have the power to impart” blessings on same-sex unions, but it can allow for priests to be closer to their congregations by allowing informal blessings.

“We will all have to become accustomed to accepting the fact that, if a priest gives this type of simple blessing, he is not a heretic, he is not ratifying anything nor is he denying Catholic doctrine,” the statement said, before adding: “Even if they are great sinners.”

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Pope Francis smiles while giving a thumbs up
Pope Francis has said the Catholic church is open to blessing same-sex unions. (Antonio Cotrim – Pool/Getty Images)

Elsewhere, the Vatican acknowledged that, while bishops should not totally or definitively forbid priests from bestowing same-sex blessings, “prudence” should be exercised in countries where same-sex relations are considered dangerous.

“If there are laws that condemn the mere act of declaring oneself as a homosexual with prison and in some cases with torture and even death, it goes without saying that a blessing would be imprudent,” the statement from the Dicastery reads.

This clarification is the latest move from Pope Francis to promote LGBTQ+ acceptance in the Catholic Church.

Last year, the pontiff declared that laws that criminalise homosexuality are not only “an injustice”, but “a sin.”

Speaking to reporters after a visit to South Sudan, Pope Francis said that treating homosexuality like a crime was “a problem that cannot be ignored”, adding that people with “homosexual tendencies” are “children of God” too.

“God loves them. God accompanies them… condemning a person like this is a sin,” he said.

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