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Catholic Church allows priests to bless same-sex couples but reaffirms disapproval of gay marriage
by Kayleigh Padar
2023-12-22

This article shared 4324 times since Fri Dec 22, 2023
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LGBTQ+ couples can now receive blessings from priests, but the Catholic Church maintained its strict ban on gay marriage, according to a Vatican document approved by Pope Francis Dec. 18.

This historic change in doctrine marks a "positive shift" and "step forward in the church's process of reforming itself," but the Vatican's statement includes a "long list of disclaimers," said Chris Pett, a member of Dignity Chicago, the city's chapter of a national organization centering LGBTQ+ Catholics.

"They're basically saying, 'We'll bless your relationship, but don't forget that we don't acknowledge it,'" said Pett, who is also a former president of the national Dignity USA organization. "From a big picture point of view, it's a big shift and it should be encouraged. But, the reality is that the church still considers same-sex relationships to be irregular, which is a nice way of saying illegitimate."

Priests can now bless same-sex couple's relationships, but the blessing must not be tied to other church rituals and it can't involve clothing or gestures used in traditional weddings, according to the recent declaration released by the Vatican.

The declaration also allows priests to bless people who've gotten divorced and remarried.

"For, those seeking a blessing should not be required to have prior moral perfection," the document reads. "There is no intention to legitimize anything, but rather to open one's life to God, to ask for his help to live better, and also to invoke the Holy Spirit so that the values of the Gospel may be lived with greater faithfulness."

This decision is an example of Pope Francis' continued efforts to make the Catholic Church more welcoming and inclusive of historically marginalized groups, Pett said.

Since the beginning of his papacy, Pope Francis has verbally shown support for the LGBTQ+ community, saying that being gay isn't a crime and encouraging parents not to reject their LGBTQ+ children, among other statements.

A few months ago, Pope Francis approved a document that said transgender people can be baptized, serve as godparents and act as witnesses at marriages. Much like the recent document allowing blessings for "irregular" couples, the pope's Oct. 31 decision opened up more ways for transgender people to participate in worship, but didn't change the church's overall stance that being transgender is sinful.

Pett speculated Pope Francis is trying to "cement his legacy" with this recent declaration and "do what he can to move the church forward" with the time he has left. Pope Francis recently turned 87 years old and is dealing with some significant health issues, Pett noted.

"Considering the church is a 2,000-year-old institution, and it's very set in its tradition and teachings, things don't change very rapidly," Pett added. "But Pope Francis seems to be interested in doing as much as he can to move the church forward in a more positive direction."

The Archdiocese of Chicago "welcomes" the Vatican's declaration, with the hope it will "help many more in our community feel the closeness and compassion of God," according to a statement from Cardinal Blase J. Cupich.

Although the decision falls short of affirming LGBTQ+ marriages within the church, many queer Catholic couples look forward to receiving blessings from their priests, Pett explained.

"I want to honor that this decision holds a lot of meaning for some people," Pett said. "It's a part of pastoral care that shows a sign of good faith and can make people feel welcomed."

He added, "I'm sure there are many LGBTQ+ people who have felt a sense of loss because they were married civilly, but not religiously. I think it's something that's always in the back of their minds like something is missing or it's not as meaningful as it could be."

But at the same time, many queer Catholic people have come to accept that they must continue living their lives, regardless of the church's approval.

"It is what it is, and we have to live as who we are," Pett said. "We have to focus on creating good lives for ourselves and allowing our relationships to continue shining as examples of what committed and generative love looks like, regardless of whether the church recognizes them officially or not."


This article shared 4324 times since Fri Dec 22, 2023
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