Vatican Upholds Same-Sex Couple Blessings Policy Despite Episcopal Disagreement


Vatican Pope Francis

The Vatican said it is “vital” that all bishops’ conferences respect the decision made by Pope Francis last month.

The Vatican has defended Pope Francis’ decision to allow blessings for same-sex couples after receiving backlash from more conservative bishops who called the move heretical.

In a five-page statement on Thursday, the Holy See’s office to safeguard doctrinal orthodoxy – called the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith – insisted that blessing same-sex couples is not heresy, though it said it understood that some bishops needed more time to adjust to the change.

But while the office recognised the need for these bishops for “pastoral reflection”, it added that “there is no room to distance ourselves doctrinally” from the pope’s declaration about blessings, “or to consider it heretical, contrary to the Tradition of the Church of blasphemous.”

Pope Francis, considered one of the most liberal and inclusive pontiffs in the recent history of the Vatican, formally approved last month a decision stating that same-sex couples can receive blessings – an unprecedented move in the history of the Catholic Church.

The decision reversed a 2021 policy by the Vatican’s doctrine office which barred such blessings saying God “does not and cannot bless sin.”

Following the announcement, some bishops immediately said they would not implement the pope’s decision.

While rebuffing the bishops’ rebellion, the Vatican left some wriggle room for implementation.

“Prudence and attention to the ecclesial context and to the local culture could allow for different methods of application” of the new blessings rule, “but not a total or definitive denial of this path that it proposed to priests,” Thursday’s statement said.

The Vatican also said that it would be “imprudent” to bless same-sex couples in countries where “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 added: “It is clear that the Bishops do not wish to expose homosexual persons to violence.”

The bishops’ conferences of Zambia and Malawi said there will be no blessings for same-sex couples in their countries. In Zambia, gay sex is punishable by between 15 years and life in prison. In Malawi, gay sex can be punished with up to 14 years in prison.

Despite the progress made by Pope Francis towards making the Catholic Church more inclusive of LGBTQ+ people, the Vatican stressed that its position “remains firm on the traditional doctrine of the Church about marriage, not allowing any type of liturgical rite or blessing similar to a liturgical rite that can create confusion.”

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