Pope Francis has formally approved allowing priests to bless same-sex couples, marking a significant shift in the Church’s approach to LGBT+ individuals. A new document from the Vatican outlines this radical change in policy, emphasizing that those seeking God’s love and mercy should not be subject to “an exhaustive moral analysis” to receive it. These blessings are permissible as long as they are not part of regular Church rituals.
The document reaffirms the Church’s stance that marriage is a lifelong sacrament between a man and a woman. However, since July 2023, the Vatican’s doctrine department, under the leadership of Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernandez, an Argentine prelate and ally of Pope Francis, has adopted a more liberal tone compared to its predecessors. This shift reflects a broader trend towards recognizing the rights of same-sex couples worldwide, as evidenced by countries like Nepal allowing same-sex couples to register as married.
The Roman Catholic Church’s evolving stance towards its LGBT followers began in 2013 when Pope Francis, responding to a question about gay clergy, famously said, “Who am I to judge?” This new approach to blessings is seen as a means to deepen trust in God, acknowledging the myriad ways in which individuals seek and express their spirituality.
Pope Francis has stressed the importance of the Church not becoming “judges who only deny, reject, and exclude,” advocating for a more inclusive understanding of blessings. His openness towards LGBT+ Catholics has faced opposition from a vocal minority within the Church, a common occurrence in any progressive organizational shift.
The document from the Vatican’s doctrine office, released on Monday, builds upon a letter sent by Pope Francis to two conservative cardinals, published in October. In that preliminary response, Francis suggested that such blessings could be offered under specific conditions, provided they do not conflate the ritual with the sacrament of marriage. The new document reiterates this stance, while also calling for a more liberal approach to addressing the challenges faced by the LGBT community, recognizing their integral role in humanity.