In a historic statement, Pope Francis has asserted that there may be a way for the Catholic Church to bless same-sex couples.
Pope Francis voiced this opinion in his response to a letter from five retired cardinals who asked him, among other things, to reaffirm the church’s position against homosexuality at an upcoming meeting known as the Synod on Synodality, during which LGBTQ+ Catholics will reportedly be discussed.
Far right leaders and believers don’t understand “faith and morals,” the leader of the church said.
Pope Francis’s response to the cardinals, however, indicated that there may be a path forward in which the Church can bless same-sex couples in a way that is different from blessing married heterosexual couples.
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Francis did emphasize that marriage itself should remain a union between a man and a woman but said that “in our relationships with people, we must not lose the pastoral charity, which should permeate all our decisions and attitudes,” according to a translation from Vatican News.
“The defense of objective truth is not the only expression of this charity; it also includes kindness, patience, understanding, tenderness, and encouragement,” Pope Francis wrote. “Therefore, we cannot be judges who only deny, reject, and exclude.”
He went on to say that it’s important to determine “whether there are forms of blessing, requested by one or more persons, that do not convey a mistaken concept of marriage.” He added that this does not mean these kinds of blessings should be made into official protocols or norms but rather can be considered case-by-case.
Nevertheless, he concluded that “the life of the Church flows through many channels other than normative ones.”
Francis DeBernardo, executive director of the Maryland-based New Ways Ministry for LGBTQ+ Catholics, celebrated the step forward in a statement.
“The allowance for pastoral ministers to bless same-gender couples implies that the church does indeed recognize that holy love can exist between same-gender couples, and the love of these couples mirrors the love of God,” he said in a statement. “Those recognitions, while not completely what LGBTQ+ Catholics would want, are an enormous advance towards fuller and more comprehensive equality.”
“This statement is one big straw towards breaking the camel’s back of the marginalized treatment LGBTQ+ people experience in the Church.”
Pope Francis’s position in the letter is a shift from the stance he took in 2021 when the Vatican released a document featuring his approved responses to questions about the official positions of the Catholic Church. Asked if clergy within the Catholic Church were allowed to offer blessings to same-sex unions, the official response was “negative.” The response explained that LGBTQ+ people are “valued and appreciated” but that the Church cannot bless people in same-sex unions because God “does not and cannot bless sin.”
While Pope Francis has repeatedly asserted his belief that in the eyes of God, homosexuality is a sin, he is still by far history’s most LGBTQ+-supportive Pope. In January, he called laws criminalizing homosexuality “unjust” and insisted that God loves all his children just as they are. He also called on Catholic bishops to welcome LGBTQ+ people into the Church.
In 2020, he said that nations should recognize civil unions for same-sex couples because they “have a right to a family,” and in 2019, he compared political leaders persecuting LGBTQ+ people to Nazis.