Previously, the Vatican said it would not bless same-sex couples because doing so would undermine a church doctrine that says marriage must be between a man and a woman. Monday’s update doesn’t change that doctrine but gives individual priests the OK to bless same-sex couples so long as it doesn’t occur during regular church rituals or liturgies.
Priests will still have the individual freedom to determine if they want to bless a same-sex couple or not, the document said, adding that people should not confuse this ritual with the sacrament of marriage.
The document, penned by Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández and signed by Francis, specified that these blessings would not legitimize “irregular situations” but would be a sign that God welcomes all. It laid out a series of restrictions on the blessings, saying they must be “non-liturgical” and not resemble that of a wedding, specifying that priests should not allow same-sex couples to wear wedding attire while they receive their blessing.
“It is precisely in this context,” Fernández wrote, “that one can understand the possibility of blessing couples in irregular situations and same-sex couples without officially validating their status or changing in any way the Church’s perennial teaching on marriage.”
Fernández acknowledged that the broadening of blessings is a major change for the church, which just two years ago ruled in a document that God “cannot bless sin” and thus could not bless same-sex relationships.
It’s the latest recent shift toward inclusiveness within the Roman Catholic Church, with Fernández’ department and Pope Francis combining to approve a separate document in October that said transgender people can be baptized, serve as godparents, and be witnesses at church weddings.
Rev. James Martin, an American priest who has long advocated for being more accepting of LGBTQ Catholics, praised the new document as a “huge step forward” and a “dramatic shift” from the Vatican’s 2src21 policy.
“The declaration opens the door to non-liturgical blessings for same-sex couples, something that had been previously off limits for bishops, priests and deacons,” he wrote in a post to X. “Along with many priests, I will now be delighted to bless my friends in same-sex unions.”