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Inside the VaticanDecember 19, 2023
A wooden cross lies on a rainbow flag in Bonn, Germany, March 16, 2021. (OSV News photo/Julia Steinbrecht, KNA)

On Monday, Dec. 18, the Vatican’s doctrinal office issued a declaration stating that priests can bless same-sex couples as long as the blessing does not resemble a marriage or coincide with a civil union ceremony.

This declaration follows up on a controversial 2021 response from the dicastery that stated same-sex unions could not be blessed in a liturgical context. The new declaration does not overturn the previous teaching against liturgical blessings but does allow priests to give non-liturgical blessings to couples in irregular situations, such as a same-sex relationship.

James Martin, S.J., editor at large at America magazine, discusses the significance of this development, noting that it is a step forward and offers a deeper theological reflection.

Requesting a blessing is “a holy desire for God’s help,” Father Martin says. “Rather than saying God doesn’t bless sin, it’s saying, God blesses all of us in our desire for God’s presence in our lives.” Father Martin believes that this declaration is an important step toward inclusion and pastoral care for L.G.B.T.Q. Catholics, their families and friends.

“This is an early Christmas present for the Catholic Church and for so many people who have felt that God really isn’t accompanying them—and that the church, more specifically, is not accompanying them—and now they will feel more accompanied and able to do these things in public.”

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