“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.”
Pope Francis has formally approved allowing priests to bless same-sex couples, with a new document released on Monday explaining a radical change in Vatican policy.
It insisted that people seeking God’s love and mercy shouldn’t be subject to “an exhaustive moral analysis” to receive it.
“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 document from the Vatican’s doctrine office said.
However, the shift in policy doesn’t change the church’s position on marriage, CBS News reported.
The new document elaborated on a letter Francis sent to two conservative cardinals that was published in October. In that preliminary response, Francis suggested such blessings could be offered under some circumstances if they didn’t confuse the ritual with the sacrament of marriage.
The document repeated that rationale and elaborated on it, reaffirming that marriage is a lifelong sacrament between a man and a woman. It stressed that blessings should not be conferred at the same time as a civil union or even with the clothing and gestures that belong in a wedding.
But it said requests for such blessings should not be denied full stop. It offered an extensive definition of the term “blessing” in Scripture to insist that people seeking a transcendent relationship with God and looking for his love and mercy should not be subject to “an exhaustive moral analysis” as a precondition for receiving it.
“Ultimately, a blessing offers people a means to increase their trust in God,” the document said. “The request for a blessing, thus, expresses and nurtures openness to the transcendence, mercy, and closeness to God in a thousand concrete circumstances of life, which is no small thing in the world in which we live.
“It is a seed of the Holy Spirit that must be nurtured, not hindered,” he added.
The Vatican holds that marriage is an indissoluble union between man and woman. As a result, it has long opposed same-sex marriage.
And in 2021, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said flat-out that the church couldn’t bless the unions of two men or two women because “God cannot bless sin.”
That document created an outcry, one it appeared even Francis was blindsided by even though he had technically approved its publication.
Soon after it was published, he removed the official responsible for it and set about laying the groundwork for a reversal.
In the new document, the Vatican said the church must shy away from “doctrinal or disciplinary schemes, especially when they lead to a narcissistic and authoritarian elitism whereby instead of evangelising, one analyses and classifies others, and instead of opening the door to grace, one exhausts his or her energies in inspecting and verifying.”
It stressed that people in “irregular” unions — gay or straight — are in a state of sin. But it said that if shouldn’t deprive them of God’s love or mercy.
“Thus, when people ask for a blessing, an exhaustive moral analysis should not be placed as a precondition for conferring it,” the document said.
The Rev. James Martin, who advocates for greater welcome for LGBTQ+ Catholics, praised the new document as a “huge step forward” and a “dramatic shift” from the Vatican’s 2021 policy, according to the report.
The new document “recognises the deep desire in many Catholic same-sex couples for God’s presence and help in their committed relationships,” he said in an email.
“Along with many Catholic priests, I will now be delighted to bless my friends in same-sex marriages,” he said.