Pope Francis seems to be extending wider arms to same-sex Catholic couples.
The pope recently suggested that Catholic priests consider all blessing requests with “pastoral charity” regardless of sexuality. Priests were previously forbidden from the act in a 2021 decree by Pope Francis.
However, he has spoken more about blessing these couples on their journey to live better. His papacy so far has been characterized by a softer approach towards the LGBTQ+ community.
Pope Francis Seems Open To Blessing Same-sex Couples
According to the BBC, Pope Francis suggested that the Catholic Church could begin blessing same-sex couples. When asked for clarity on the issue, he urged priests to treat all requests for blessing with “pastoral charity” regardless of sexuality.
He said, “We cannot be judges who only deny, reject, and exclude.” However, the pope also noted that the Church still sees same-sex relationships as “objectively sinful” and refuses to recognize it. The Church defines a blessing as a prayer or plea a minister offers, asking God to look favorably upon the blessed person.
The request for clarification was one of many the pope is addressing ahead of a lengthy global conference to discuss the future of the Church. The meeting is scheduled to begin at the Vatican on Wednesday.
Blessing same-sex couples is a controversial topic in the Church, but there is slow acceptance in some countries, like Belgium and Germany. Some bishops have reportedly begun allowing their priests to bless same-sex couples despite the Church’s historical stance against it.
Priests Have Been Previously Forbidden From The Act
Pope Francis’s suggestion about blessing these couples is a significant change from his stance in 2021. At the time, he approved a decree from the Vatican’s doctrinal office, which forbade priests from blessing any same-sex marriages.
The decree emphasized that all LGTBQ+ unions are sinful and could not be blessed. Even during discussions on homosexuality that Pope Francis has had this year, he’s spoken of it as not a crime but a sin.
Reacting to the 2021 decree, Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, described it as “impotent.” He said, per NCR, “It will encourage Catholics in the pews and the many Catholic leaders who are eager for such blessings to happen to work harder in their support — and blessing — of same-sex couples.”
Pope Francis Spoke More On The Nature Of The Blessings
In his clarification to the cardinals, Pope Francis didn’t specify whether the blessings would be on the same-sex unions or the individuals themselves. He only spoke about the blessing request as more of a plea to God for help living a better life, which he said everyone deserves.
The pope explained that the Church sees marriage as an “exclusive, stable, and indissoluble union between a man and a woman.” He said priests and believers should avoid “any type of rite or sacramental that might contradict this conviction.” The pope stated that the Church should always approach its relationships with kindness, understanding, and tenderness.
He also said, “Pastoral prudence must adequately discern whether there are forms of blessing, requested by one or more persons, that do not convey a mistaken concept of marriage.” The pope seemed to say that these requests should be considered case by case, as “canon law should not and cannot cover everything.”
There Has Been Slow Acceptance Of Same-sex Couples
Pope Francis’ clarification to the Cardinals is in line with several moves he’s made during his papacy, which show an inclination toward accepting the LGBTQ+ community. He’s made several moves to soften how the Church approaches sexuality and other touchy issues.
In 2018, the pope made headlines on social media for his words to abuse survivor Juan Carlos Cruz. He said, “It doesn’t matter that you are gay. God made you that way, and he loves you the way you are, and it doesn’t matter to me.”
The pope has also severally encouraged open discussions on having better pastoral outreach to the LGBTQ+ community.
Although very controversial in the Catholic and Christian community, his stance has spread worldwide. In February, the Church of England voted to back proposals on allowing prayers of blessing for LGBTQ+ couples. If it flies through, same-sex couples can go to Anglican churches for marital gifts.