Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith rules that God ‘cannot bless sin’
The Vatican has said the Catholic church cannot bless same-sex unions, as God “does not bless sin”, dashing the hopes of gay Catholics who believed Pope Francis might have created a more open environment.
In response to a question put to it about whether priests can bless gay couples, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), published a decree saying that such blessings “cannot be considered licit”. The response was approved by Pope Francis, who last year endorsed same-sex civil unions in an interview for a documentary film.
While the decree said “the Christian community and its pastors must welcome with respect and sensitivity persons with homosexual inclinations”, their unions cannot be blessed.
According to Catholic teaching, marriage between a man and a woman is part of God’s plan and intended for the creation of children. Since gay unions are not intended to be part of that plan, such relationships cannot be legitimately blessed.
The document went on to say that “God does not and cannot bless sin”, adding: “He blesses sinful man, so that he may recognise that he is part of his plan of love and allow him to be changed by him.”
The document did not make clear who sent the question to the CDF, but several bishops and theologians, particularly in Germany and Austria, in recent years have supported the blessing of gay unions.
“Some books have also argued for such blessings and offered suggestions of prayers to do that,” said Robert Mickens, the Rome-based editor of the English-language edition of Catholic daily newspaper La Croix. “But this would have made people in more conservative circles of the church, especially the Vatican, very nervous, and there would have been some people haranguing the Vatican to say something about it.”
Since he was elected pope in March 2013, Francis has sought to adopt a more inclusive tone towards LGBT people in his public statements.
Soon after becoming pope, he said in response to a question about gay priests: “Who am I to judge?”
His comments in Francesco, the documentary directed by Evgeny Afineevsky, marked the first time he had publicly supported giving gay people legal rights within same-sex unions. But his comments related to the civil domain and not within the Catholic church.
While the response from the CDF comes as no surprise, Mickens said: “It seems funny that the church, which is haemorrhaging numbers and money, is looking for ways to exclude even more people. People belong to the church out of choice nowadays rather than out of some kind of compunction or fear of going to hell.”