The church does not have the power to bless unions between individuals that cannot be considered to be licit, include those entered into by individuals of the same sex.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said on Monday, in reply to a doctrinal question by some pastors and parishes, that because same-sex relationships were not considered to be ‘licit’, they could not be blessed by priests.
The doctrinal question was put to the Congregation by pastors seeking to make the Roman Catholic Church more welcoming to same-sex couples. The Congregation is the oldest among the nine congregations of the Roman Curia. It was originally founded to defend the church from heresy and is today the body responsible for promulgating and defending Catholic doctrine.
In an explanatory note accompanying the reply, the Congregation notes that Pope Francis “was informed and gave his assent to the publication” of the response.
The news is likely to come as a huge blow to same-sex around the globe, including Malta, especially in light of the recent comments by Pope Francis in recent years, which indicated that the church was prepared to become more welcoming of same-sex couples.
Back in October, the pope made headlines with comments he made in a documentary film, where he said that “homosexual people have a right to be in a family”.
“They are children of God and have the right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out or made miserable over it,” the pontiff was quoted as saying.
Despite indicating the pope’s personal support for the issue, the statement did not constitute a change in doctrine, as was pointed out at the time.
The Congregation’s reply today shows that this will remain unchanged for the time being.
The letter emphasised the distinction between unions and the individuals themselves, adding that the refusal to bless such unions was not an indictment of the individuals themselves.
“In order to conform with the nature of sacramentals, when a blessing is invoked on particular human relationships, in addition to the right intention of those who participate, it is necessary that what is blessed be objectively and positively ordered to receive and express grace, according to the designs of God inscribed in creation, and fully revealed by Christ the Lord,” read the reply’s explanatory note.
Because of this, it added, “only those realities which are in themselves ordered to serve those ends are congruent with the essence of the blessing imparted by the Church”.
“For this reason, it is not licit to impart a blessing on relationships, or partnerships, even stable, that involve sexual activity outside of marriage (i.e., outside the indissoluble union of a man and a woman open in itself to the transmission of life), as is the case of the unions between persons of the same sex.”
“Positive elements” within such relationships, while they are to be “appreciated, cannot justify these relationships and render them legitimate objects of an ecclesial blessing, since the positive elements exist within the context of a union not ordered by the Creator’s plan”.
What do you make of the Vatican’s decision?