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Catholic priests can now bless same-sex unions, Pope Francis says

There's a dramatic change in policy toward the LGBTQ+ community within the Catholic Church that's being met with mixed reviews.
Posted at 9:27 AM, Dec 18, 2023

Pope Francis is formally allowing priests to bless same-sex couples, in the latest move toward making the Catholic Church more welcoming to the LGBTQ+ community.

The document from the Vatican, released Monday, says that "when people ask for a blessing, an exhaustive moral analysis should not be placed as a precondition for conferring it." 

With the document, the Vatican still emphasizes the blessing of a same-sex couple is not the same as a marriage sacrament, as the church defines marriage as a lifelong sacrament between a man and a woman. It still stresses these blessings shouldn't be done at the same time as a wedding or even in the same attire or alongside the same gestures as within one.

But this declaration does reverse a 2021 ruling that stated the church could not bless unions of two men or two women, and defines what that blessing means. 

"Ultimately, a blessing offers people a means to increase their trust in God," the document said. "The request for a blessing, thus, expresses and nurtures openness to the transcendence, mercy, and closeness to God in a thousand concrete circumstances of life, which is no small thing in the world in which we live."

Program works with pastors to bring LGBTQ inclusion to church
Pastors gather for a program to promote LGBTQ+ inclusiveness.

Program works with pastors to bring LGBTQ inclusion to church

The Black Church Equality Fellowship is a nine-month-long leadership development program for Black faith leaders.


Joshau McElwee, news editor for the Catholic Reporter, said he expects priests from around the world will start sharing how they might look to the document and put it into practice.

And although the church is still not recognizing same-sex marriages, Francis DeBernardo said this move is a monumental shift. 

"It shows the greatest affirmation of same-sex couples that we've ever seen in 2,000 years," DeBernardo, who is executive director of New Ways Ministry, said. "I think perhaps even more significantly, it shows that church teaching can change."

DeBernardo went on to explain that a blessing by a priest recognizes the holiness among the couple, which is a big change in the visibility of LGBTQ+ people in the eyes of the church. 

"It's a recognition that something is holy, and what today's decision is saying is that the relationship that exists between two people of the same gender is holy and is something that can help each of those two people become closer to God," he said. 

However, there is opposition to the move from conservative Catholics.

The president of the Catholic Lepanto Foundation says the decision is "scandalous and wrong," while a Notre Dame theologian predicts it will cause confusion and lead to more division within the church.