The Catholic Church can’t bless same-sex unions, the Vatican said Monday, saying that it is “not licit” to bless relationships that involve sexual activity outside of marriage.
The ruling was issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in response to a question on whether the church has the “power to give the blessing to unions of persons of the same sex.”
The answer was “negative” and was further expanded on in an accompanying explanation that was published in seven languages and approved by Pope Francis.
It clarified that the church should “welcome with respect and sensitivity persons with homosexual inclinations,” but said that “the presence in such relationships of positive elements, which are in themselves to be valued and appreciated, cannot justify these relationships and render them legitimate objects of an ecclesial blessing.”
The explanation also said that the ruling doesn’t rule out blessings given to individuals with “homosexual inclinations.”
It was not clear in the document published Monday who asked the original question.
However, the topic is timely given that it is being discussed at the moment by Catholic clergy in the West, said Massimo Faggioli, a professor of religious studies at Villanova University.
“This is an important document because it shows how far Pope Francis is willing to go and where he wants to stop,” said Faggioli.
“It is very difficult to imagine the practical consequences of the document, and I don’t know what would happen to a priest that wants to bless a same sex couple.”
The ruling comes after a documentary released in October showed Francis expressing support for same-sex civil unions. The Vatican later clarified that his comments were taken out of context, although it did confirm Francis’ belief that gay couples should enjoy legal protections.