Vatican Clarifies Stance on Same-Sex Blessings: Not “Heretical” or “Blasphemous”

Photo: Twitter Screenshot - Reuters

In an effort to address concerns raised by Catholic bishops in certain countries, the Vatican issued a five-page statement on Thursday reassuring them that the recent approval of blessings for same-sex couples is not considered “heretical” or “blasphemous.” 


The move aims to ease tensions and provide clarity on the controversial decision made on December 18, known as Fiducia Supplicans (Supplicating Trust), which was endorsed by Pope Francis.

The Vatican’s doctrinal office, the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, acknowledged potential challenges in implementing these blessings, especially in countries where recipients could face violence, imprisonment, or even death. Some Catholic bishops, particularly in Africa, expressed dissent following the initial declaration, prompting the Vatican to issue a clarification, highlighting the nuanced nature of the issue.

The need for a five-page clarification so soon after the eight-page declaration suggests widespread confusion in various countries. Many Catholic bishops’ conferences swiftly released statements emphasizing that the approved blessings should not be interpreted as an official endorsement of gay sex or a sacrament of marriage for same-sex couples.

The doctrinal office underscored these points in its recent statement, emphasizing that the blessings for same-sex couples should not be seen as a justification of all their actions or an endorsement of their lifestyle. It urged a thorough and calm reading of the December 18 declaration, asserting its clarity and definiteness regarding marriage and sexuality.

Despite the Church’s teachings that same-sex attraction is not inherently sinful, it deems homosexual acts as such. Pope Francis, since his election in 2013, has aimed to create a more inclusive environment for LGBT individuals within the Church without altering moral doctrine.

The statement acknowledged the dissent led by some African bishops’ conferences, making it clear that certain regions would not permit their priests to perform such blessings. It advised exercising “pastoral prudence” based on local laws and circumstances, especially in areas where anti-LGBT sentiments are prevalent.

Recent developments in some African countries, such as Burundi’s President urging citizens to stone gay individuals and Uganda passing a law imposing the death penalty for certain same-sex offenses, have heightened concerns. The Vatican’s statement shows the imprudence of blessings in locations with laws condemning homosexuality, emphasizing the potential dangers faced by individuals expressing their identity.

Both the original declaration and the subsequent statement emphasized that blessings for same-sex couples should not be incorporated into Church rituals or resemble a wedding. Thursday’s statement further clarified that these blessings should be brief, lasting about 10 to 15 seconds, to avoid controversy.

The Vatican expressed a practical perspective, questioning the logic of denying such brief blessings to individuals seeking them. The emphasis on brevity aims to navigate the complex landscape of varying beliefs within the Church while acknowledging the diverse legal and cultural contexts in which these blessings may occur.

The Vatican’s recent statement seeks to bring reassurance and clarity to Catholic bishops worldwide, particularly those facing dissent within their regions. By addressing concerns and emphasizing the limited scope of the approved blessings, the Church aims to navigate the delicate balance between inclusivity and respect for local beliefs and laws.

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