Same-sex couples: blessings under certain conditions

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The Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith published a document approved by Pope Francis on December 18 which maintains that “it is possible to bless couples in an irregular situation and same-sex couples” under certain conditions.

breakup. The Vatican authorized this Monday, December 18, the blessing of same-sex couples “in an irregular situation.” In a nine-page text entitled Fiducia supplicans on the pastoral significance of blessings and published by the dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Catholic Church specifies the conditions under which a blessing can be granted to a couple in an irregular situation. It is a “declaration”, a document of great doctrinal value, approved by Pope Francis himself, which shows the importance and scope it has.

What does this actually mean? Blessing couples “in an irregular situation” and same-sex couples is therefore now possible but “in a form which must not be fixed ritually by the ecclesial authorities, so as not to create confusion with the blessing specific to the sacrament of marriage “. To avoid any confusion with the sacrament of marriage, this blessing can never be performed “at the same time as the civil rites of union, nor even in connection with them.” It will therefore not be possible to integrate it into a secular ceremony or on the same day as the civil marriage.

The dicastery also warns that these blessings cannot be accomplished “with clothing, gestures or words specific to marriage.” Such a blessing can, however, find its place in other contexts, such as “a visit to a sanctuary, a meeting with a priest, a prayer recited in a group or during a pilgrimage,” specifies the document. And the dicastery insists: “By these blessings […] we do not intend to legitimize anything, but only to open our lives to God, to ask for his help to live better.”

This blessing, although not ritualized, “provides a way for people to increase their trust in God.” In the short prayer which may precede this spontaneous blessing, “the ordained minister could ask for peace, health, a spirit of patience, dialogue and mutual aid, but also the light and strength of God to be able to fully accomplish his will. »

A long debate

In March 2021, the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith indicated that the blessing of homosexual unions – as a relationship that involves a sexual practice outside of marriage – cannot be considered licit. “It is not licit to give a blessing to relationships or partnerships, even stable ones, which involve sexual practice outside of marriage […] as is the case with unions between people of the same sex,” affirmed Cardinal Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. But in October 2023, responding to severaldubia including one on the blessing of homosexual unions, Pope Francis half-opened the door to “forms of blessing” for homosexual couples, “without this necessarily becoming a norm” and on condition that these blessings are accompanied by “pastoral prudence” and do not transmit “an equivocal conception of marriage”.

Fiducia supplicans emphasizes responding to the “pastoral vision of Pope Francis” and explains that it is necessary to “expand” and “enrich” the meaning commonly given to the word “blessing”, formerly reserved for the liturgical domain. “From a strictly liturgical point of view, blessing requires that what is blessed be in conformity with the will of God as expressed in the teachings of the Church,” recognizes the new prefect of the dicastery for the Doctrine of faith, Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, who sees in this “point of view” the “risk of reducing the meaning of blessings”. “Pope Francis urged us not to lose the pastoral charity which must pass through all our decisions and our attitudes and to avoid constituting ourselves as judges who only refuse, reject, exclude,” argues the Argentine prefect.

Blessings are part of the life of the Church, they are a reminder of the benefits of God. This is why it always includes “the praise of God for his works and his gifts, and the intercession of the Church so that men can make use of the gifts of God according to the spirit of the Gospel”. To bless comes from the Latin bene dicere, “to say good.”

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