Various media outlets have been awash with reports that the head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis has approved priests to bless same-sex couples, with a new document explaining a radical change in Vatican policy by insisting that people seeking God’s love and mercy shouldn’t be subject to “an exhaustive moral analysis” to receive it.
According to the reports, the document from the Vatican’s doctrine office, released Monday, elaborates on a letter Pope Francis sent to two conservative cardinals that was published in October. In that preliminary response, Pope Francis suggested such blessings could be offered under some circumstances if they didn’t confuse the ritual with the sacrament of marriage.
In an interview with CITE, the Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Bulawayo, Alex Thomas, explained that the document issued by Pope Francis noted that It is not a blessing on same-sex union, but just a prayer, like any ordinary prayer for people. It is not sacramental.
Archbishop Thomas quoted the document, which explains in detail that the blessing shall not include “rites and prayers that could create confusion between what constitutes marriage” and “what contradicts it,” by avoiding any implication that “something that is not marriage is being recognized as marriage.”
“The Declaration presents the blessing in the Sacrament of Marriage (paragraphs 4-6) stating as inadmissible “rites and prayers that could create confusion between what constitutes marriage” and “what contradicts it,” by avoiding any implication that “something that is not marriage is being recognized as marriage.” It is reiterated that according to the “perennial Catholic doctrine” only sexual relations between a man and a woman in the context of marriage are considered lawful,” the document reads.
“When a blessing is invoked on certain human relationships” through a special liturgical rite, the Declaration notes, “it is necessary that what is blessed corresponds with God’s designs written in creation” (par. 11). Therefore, the Church does not have the power to impart a liturgical blessing on irregular or same-sex couples. It is also necessary to avoid the risk of reducing the meaning of blessings to this point of view only, expecting for a simple blessing “the same moral conditions for a simple blessing that are called for in the reception of the sacraments.”
The document explains that there are several occasions when people spontaneously ask for a blessing, whether on pilgrimages, at shrines, or even on the street when they meet a priest and these blessings are meant for everyone, no one is to be excluded from them.
“While it is not appropriate to establish procedures or rituals for such cases, the ordained minister may join in the prayer of those persons who although in a union that cannot be compared in any way to a marriage, desire to entrust themselves to the Lord and his mercy, to invoke his help, and to be guided to a greater understanding of his plan of love and of truth,” the document reads.
“The third part of the Declaration opens then to the possibility of these blessings that represent a sign for those who “recognizing themselves to be destitute and in need of his help—do not claim a legitimation of their own status, but who beg that all that is true, good, and humanly valid in their lives and their relationships be enriched, healed, and elevated by the presence of the Holy Spirit.”
The document further clarifies that to avoid any form of confusion or scandal, when a couple in an irregular situation or same-sex couples ask for a blessing, it should never be imparted in concurrence with the ceremonies of a civil union, and not even in connection with them, nor can it be performed with any clothing, gestures, or words that are proper to a wedding.