ROME — Pro-LGBT Catholics like Jesuit Father James Martin have lauded the Vatican’s allowance of blessings for gay couples as “a huge step forward.”
Monday’s Vatican declaration “will long be remembered by LGBTQ people,” writes Father Martin, since it “opens the door, for the first time, for the official blessings of same-sex couples by ministers of the church.”
In his essay, Father Martin addresses and corrects the impression by some well-meaning Catholics that “nothing has changed.”
“But a great deal has in fact changed,” the priest notes. “Before this document was issued, there was no permission for bishops, priests and deacons to bless couples in same-sex unions in any setting. This document establishes, with some limitations, that they can.”
While these blessings were already widespread in German-speaking countries, Martin notes, the change here is “that these blessings are now officially sanctioned by the Vatican.”
“Today, with some limitations, I can perform a public blessing of a same-sex couple. Yesterday, I could not,” he concludes.
For his part, Francis DeBernardo, executive director of the dissident “Catholic” LGBT group New Ways Ministry, also recognized the tectonic shift in the Vatican’s move, calling the Declaration “an early Christmas gift” for LGBT Catholics.
“Pope Francis gave LGBTQ+ Catholics an early Christmas gift this year by approving blessings for same-gender couples,” DeBernardo writes.
“The Vatican doctrinal office’s previous claim that ‘God does not bless sin’ has been uprooted by the new exhortation, ‘God never turns away anyone who approaches him!’” he adds.
Cardinal Víctor Manuel “Tucho” Fernández, head of the Vatican’s doctrinal office, has in fact proclaimed that the Vatican’s new position regarding blessing gay couples constitutes “a real development.”
Cardinal Fernández said that blessings on gay couples should not be seen as “officially validating their status,” but it hard to imagine that it will not indeed be seen as validating their status, even if not “officially.”
As Franciscan Father Thomas Weinandy, a prominent American theologian and the former head of the doctrinal office of the U.S. Bishops Conference, has observed, everyone rightly understands a blessing as an affirmation of what is being blessed.
To bless same-sex couples without giving the impression that the Church is validating their sexual activity is “a charade,” Weinandy writes. “All those present at such blessings know, without a doubt, that such relationships are sexual in nature. No one is fooled.”
“Actually, they are rejoicing that such sexual relations are being blessed. That’s the point of these blessings,” he adds. “It is not their sexual abstinence being blessed, but their sexual indulgence.”
This is why until now the Vatican has prohibited such blessings, since such a structurally sinful relationship is “unblessable.”
The Vatican's behind-the-scenes power struggles are spilling out into public view. https://t.co/YiXz1EFIjp— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) December 18, 2023
In its 2021 statement on the matter, the Vatican’s doctrinal office (CDF) declared that the Church has no authority to bless homosexual unions, since God Himself “does not and cannot bless sin.”
Blessings require both “the right intention of those who participate” and “that what is blessed be objectively and positively ordered to receive and express grace, according to the designs of God inscribed in creation,” stated the text.
In allowing such blessings, the new Vatican Declaration takes pains to insist that they should not be given in liturgical settings and should not be confused with sacramental marriage.
At the same time, it undeniably opens the door to the notion that homosexual couples are now “blessable.”
As Father Weinandy writes, although “On the Pastoral Meaning of Blessings” may be well intended, “it wreaks havoc on the very nature of blessings.”
“Attempting immorally to exploit God’s blessings makes a mockery of his divine goodness and love,” he concludes.