Pope Francis told reporters recently on a return flight from Hungary that the Catholic Church is unable to bless same-sex marriages because marriage is a divine sacrament between a man and a woman, per The Advocate.
According to AP-Reuters, though, Francis added that individual nations were free to enact laws that recognize marriage equality and provide civil protections for same-sex relationships.
"I have spoken clearly about this, no?" Francis said when asked if he approved of legislation supporting marriage equality. "Marriage is a sacrament. Marriage is a sacrament. The church doesn't have the power to change sacraments. It's as our Lord established."
The pontiff, 84, added that if LGBTQ+ folks "want to spend their lives together, a homosexual couple, nations have the possibility civilly to support them, to give them safety with regards to inheritance and health" regardless of the church's position.
Marianne Duddy-Burkeexecutive director of DignityUSA, which represents the majority of U.S. Catholics who support justice, equality and inclusion of LGBTQ+ people in church and societysaid in a press statement, "Pope Francis' clear endorsement of legal status for same-sex couples and recognition that our families deserve legal protections is vitally important for people all around the world. This statement from the Pope is a significant break from past denials of any rights for our community. It could have very positive ramifications in countries where there are few, if any, legal rights for LGBTQ+ people."
Duddy-Burke said the pope's continued denial of marriage is frustrating, but not surprising. "The Vatican's teaching on marriage is rooted in gender complementarity and the ability to produce children," Duddy-Burke said. "This narrow, incomplete understanding of what graced committed relationships and families look like limits many in the Catholic hierarchy from being open to where we believe God is calling our church. We believe that the love and commitment shared by millions of same-sex couples is every bit as sacramental as that shared by mixed-gender couples. Our church also teaches that the sacrament of marriage is actualized by the couple's exchange of vows, not by the blessing of a priest. So we, and many Catholics around the world, affirm that same-sex marriages exist, even if denied by church leaders."