ROME (AP) – The Vatican decreed Monday that the Catholic Church won’t bless same-sex unions since God “cannot bless sin.”
The Vatican’s orthodoxy office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, issued a formal response Monday to a question about whether Catholic clergy have the authority to bless gay unions. The answer, contained in a two-page explanation published in seven languages and approved by Pope Francis, was “negative.”
The note upheld the church’s welcoming and blessing of gay people, but not their unions. It argued that such unions are not part of God’s plan and that any such sacramental recognition could be confused with marriage.
The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 defines homosexuality as sin and marriage as “the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime.” Messengers to several Southern Baptist Convention annual meetings have approved resolutions relating to and reaffirming those convictions.
“I’m glad for the Vatican’s stance that same-sex unions cannot be blessed by the church or clergy,” SBC Executive Committee President and CEO Ronnie Floyd said. “Regardless, our authority does not come from a man or a group of men and women, but from the Bible alone. When the Bible speaks, God speaks.
“The Bible teaches marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime. As Baptists, we believe the Bible has God for its author, salvation for its end and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. We need not add anything to the Bible about marriage, family, sexuality or anything else because the Bible is God’s perfect treasure of divine instruction.”
The Vatican holds that gay people must be treated with dignity and respect, but that gay sex is “intrinsically disordered.” Catholic teaching holds that marriage, a lifelong union between a man and woman, is part of God’s plan and is intended for the sake of creating new life.
Since gay unions aren’t intended to be part of that plan, they can’t be blessed by the church, the document said.
“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, since the positive elements exist within the context of a union not ordered to the Creator’s plan,” the response said.
God “does not and cannot bless sin: He blesses sinful man, so that he may recognize that he is part of his plan of love and allow himself to be changed by him,” it said.
Francis has endorsed providing gay couples with legal protections in same-sex unions, but that was in reference to the civil sphere, not within the church. Those comments were made during a 2019 interview with a Mexican broadcaster, Televisa, but were cut by the Vatican until they appeared in a documentary last year.
While the documentary film fudged the context, Francis was referring to the position he took when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires. At the time, Argentina’s lawmakers were considering approving gay marriage, which he and the Catholic Church opposed. Then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio instead supported providing legal protections for gays in stable unions through a so-called “law of civil cohabitation.”
Francis told Televisa: “Homosexual people have the right to be in a family. They are children of God.” Speaking of families with gay children, he said: “You can’t kick someone out of a family, nor make their life miserable for this. What we have to have is a civil union law; that way they are legally covered.”
In the new document and an accompanying unsigned article, the Vatican said questions had been raised about whether the church should bless same-sex unions in a sacramental way in recent years, and after Francis had insisted on the need to better welcome and accompany gays in the church.
In the article, the Vatican stressed the “fundamental and decisive distinction” between gay individuals and gay unions, noting that “the negative judgment on the blessing of unions of persons of the same sex does not imply a judgment on persons.”
But it explained the rationale for forbidding a blessing of such unions, noting that any union that involves sexual activity outside of marriage cannot be blessed because it is not in a state of grace, or “ordered to both receive and express the good that is pronounced and given by the blessing.”
And it added that blessing a same-sex union could give the impression of a sort of sacramental equivalence to marriage. “This would be erroneous and misleading,” the article said.
In 2003, the same Vatican office issued a similar decree saying that the church’s respect for gay people “cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behavior or to legal recognition of homosexual unions.”
Doing so, the Vatican reasoned then, would not only condone “deviant behavior,” but create an equivalence to marriage, which the church holds is an indissoluble union between man and woman.
From The Associated Press. May not be republished. AP National Writer David Crary in New York, and correspondent Kirsten Grieshaber in Berlin, contributed to this report.