Responding to efforts in some parts of the Catholic world to devise “blessings” of same-sex unions by the Church, the Vatican’s doctrinal watchdog released a statement Monday saying that such blessings are “not legitimate,” as homosexual unions are “not ordered to the Creator’s plan.”
“In some ecclesial contexts, plans and proposals for blessings of unions of persons of the same sex are being advanced,” says the document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. “Such projects are not infrequently motivated by a sincere desire to welcome and accompany homosexual persons, to whom are proposed paths of growth in faith, ‘so that those who manifest a homosexual orientation can receive the assistance they need to understand and fully carry out God’s will in their lives’.”
The document, signed by Spanish Jesuit Cardinal Luis Ladaria and approved by Pope Francis, was released Monday, together with an explanatory note that clarifies that the statement comes as a response to a question, also known as a dubium, submitted by pastors and faithful requesting clarification and guidance concerning an issue that might pose controversy.
The note adds that the purpose of the CDF’s answer is to “is to help the universal Church to respond better to the demands of the Gospel, to settle disputes, and to foster healthy communion among the holy people of God.”
The statement doesn’t specify who posed the dubium, though in recent years there’s been pressure for some sort of same-sex blessing ceremony in some corners. German bishops, for example, have urged a debate on the blessing of gay couples.
The response argues that blessings are “sacramentals,” whereby the Church “calls us to praise God, encourages us to implore his protection, and exhorts us to seek his mercy by our holiness of life.”
When a blessing is invoked on human relationships, it says, in addition to the “right intention” of those who participate, it’s necessary that what is blessed can be “objectively and positively ordered to receive and express grace, according to the designs of God inscribed in creation, and fully revealed by Christ the Lord.”
Hence it’s not “licit” to bless relationships and partnerships that, though they might be stable, involve sexual activity outside of marriage, “the indissoluble union of a man and a woman open in itself to the transmission of life.”
Even when there might be positive elements present in these relationships, “which are in themselves to be valued and appreciated,” they do not justify these relationships and nor render them legitimate objects of an ecclesial blessing.
If such blessings do occur, the CDF document argues, they cannot be considered “licit,” because, as Pope Francis wrote in his 2015 post-synodal exhortation on the family, Amoris Laetitia, 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 response also notes that the Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “According to the teaching of the Church, men and women with homosexual tendencies ‘must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided’.”
The note also says that the fact that these blessings are considered unlawful by the Church does not intended to be a form of unjust discrimination, but a reminder of the very nature of the sacramentals.
Christians are called to welcome “with respect and sensitivity” people with homosexual inclinations, while being consistent with Church teaching and proclaiming the Gospel in its fullness. At the same time, the Church is called to pray for them, to accompany them and to share their journey of Christian life.
The fact that gay unions cannot be blessed, according to the CDF, does not mean that gay individuals who express the will to live in fidelity to the revealed plans of God cannot be blessed. The document also says that even though God never ceases to “bless each of his pilgrim children,” he does not 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.”