Pope Francis has given Catholic priests permission to bless same-sex couples and “irregular” couples, a Vatican document has said.
This shows a significant shift in the church’s approach to LGBTQ+ community.
The document, “Fiducia Supplicans” approved on Monday December 19 by the pope said priests must take decisions on a case-by-case basis.
It said the blessings could be done as long as they are not part of the regular church rituals or liturgies, nor at the same time as a civil union.
The document states “the possibility of blessings for couples in irregular situations and for couples of the same sex,” though it leaves decisions to “the prudent and fatherly discernment of ordained ministers.”
The new ruling marks a significant shift from that of 2021 which barred any blessings, saying God “cannot bless sin.”
While introducing the document, the Prefect of the church, Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernandez, explained that the revised position from the 2021 stance does not confer official recognition to same-sex couples within the Catholic church.
“It is a huge step forward in the church’s ministry to same-sex couples,” James Martin, a Jesuit priest who ministers to gay Catholics, said, adding it is a dramatic shift from the Vatican’s 2021 stance.
“The new declaration opens the door to non-liturgical blessings for same-sex couples, something that had been previously off limits for all bishops, priests and deacons. Along with many Catholic priests, I will now be delighted to bless my friends in same-sex marriages,” Martin stated further to CNN.
Nigerian Catholic says teaching on marriage still intact
Meanwhile, Nigerian Catholic bishops, under the aegis of Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), said the new stance on same-sex marriage does not change church’s teaching on marriage.
CBCN President, Bishop Lucius Iwejuru Ugorji, and the Secretary, Bishop Donatus Ogun, said this in a statement.
The Conference noted that the declaration by the Pope seeks to explain the various forms of blessing that can be given to persons and objects in the Catholic Church, including the possibility of blessing persons in irregular unions.
It said such unions include though not limited to divorced and remarried couples whose previous marriages have not been annulled, those living in same-sex unions, those polygamous unions, in concubinage etc.
CBCN said such unions include but are not limited to divorced and remarried couples whose previous marriages had not been annulled, those living in same-sex unions, those in polygamous unions, in concubinage, etc.
The statement read, “The Declaration acknowledges and carefully distinguishes between ritual, liturgical, and informal blessings.
“While ritual or liturgical blessings are imparted according to the established norms of the Church, informal blessings refer to prayers over people who ask for them outside the liturgy or any formal celebration in the Church.
“The Declaration offers a consideration of the possibility of extending the informal blessing to all God’s children, irrespective of their moral condition, when they ask to be blessed.
“Nevertheless, the Declaration insists that the blessing of persons in irregular unions – and never the union itself – can only take a non-liturgical form to avoid confusion. It should not be imparted during or in connection with a civil wedding ceremony or with clothing, words, and signs associated with a wedding”, the statement said.
The Bishops said the Declaration affirms the Catholic Church’s perennial teaching on marriage as an “exclusive, stable and indissoluble union of a man and woman, naturally open to the generation of children” and emphatically states that the Church does not have the power to impart a blessing on irregular unions.
The statement added that the Declaration also reinforces the truth about God’s mercy.
“For one to willingly ask for a blessing demonstrates one’s trust in God and the desire to live according to God’s commandments. Asking for God’s
blessing is not dependent on how good one is. Imperfection is the reason for seeking God’s grace. Therefore, those in irregular unions are invited never to lose hope but rather to ask for God’s grace and mercy while remaining open to conversion.
“In conclusion, the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria assures the entire People of God that the teaching of the Catholic Church on marriage remains the same.
“There is, therefore, no possibility in the Church of blessing same-sex unions and activities. That would go against God’s law, the teachings of the Church, the laws of our nation and the cultural sensibilities of our people.
“The CBCN thanks all the Priests for their accompaniment of married couples, asking them to continue in all they do to sustain the sacrament of holy matrimony and never to do anything that would detract from the sacredness of this sacrament”, the statement added.