A Historic Step Forward: Embracing Blessings for Same-Sex Couples in the Catholic Church

Pope Francis continues to surprise, delight and infuriate us, in equal measures, depending on your conservative or more liberal views. But what cannot be denied is that he is trying to bring about change that will forever impact the lives of Catholics around the world.

In his recent statement about blessings for same sex relationships, Pope Francis emphasised this blessing would not hold any liturgical rites and cannot be undertaken with any semblance of a sacrament of marriage through the choice of clothes worn or gestures undertaken, or words that relate a wedding.

Nonetheless, this blessing is indeed a salve for the longing and yearning for many LGBT+ people who have lived a life of commitment, love and chastity with their same sex partner.  In the statement it says, “The request for a blessing, thus, expresses and nurtures openness to the transcendence, mercy, and closeness to God in a thousand concrete circumstances of life, which is no small thing in the world in which we live. It is a seed of the Holy Spirit that must be nurtured, not hindered.” For, surely this is exactly what most LGBT+ Catholics of faith want for their committed relationships.

Indeed the recent declaration “Fiducia Supplicans on the Pastoral Meaning of Blessings” by Pope Francis marks a significant moment in the Catholic Church’s journey towards inclusivity and acceptance. This move, allowing priests to bless same-sex relationships, is a step that resonates deeply with the LGBTQ+ Catholic community.

According to an article on DignityUSA’s website, the Vatican’s shift is seen as a “key step forward.” Marianne Duddy-Burke, Executive Director of DignityUSA, highlights the speed of this reversal by the Vatican, indicating a response to global outcry and the need for pastoral sensitivity. This change is not only a symbol of hope but also a practical affirmation for LGBTQ+ Catholics, especially in regions where acceptance remains limited. “This statement from the Vatican is a dramatic reversal of a document issued about two and a half years ago that declared blessings for same-sex couples could not be offered,” said Marianne Duddy-Burke, Executive Director of DignityUSA. “This is an important recognition that the denial of blessings caused great pastoral harm to many and demonstrates a willingness to rethink discriminatory and dehumanizing theology. It also feels like a vindication of the work so many LGBTQIA+ Catholics and allies have been doing for decades to convey our deep conviction that our sexuality and gender identities are blessings from God, and totally consistent with being faithful Catholics.”

While the declaration has been welcomed by many, it is also met with mixed emotions. It is clear that this is not an endpoint but a milestone in the long journey towards equality. Indeed this decision by Pope Francis indicates a broader, more inclusive approach to pastoral care, resonating across the global Catholic community. It opens a door for further discussions and potential developments in how the Church views and treats its LGBTQ+ members.

Chris Vella, Co-Chair of the Global Network, expressed the profound impact of this decision

“As a Catholic LGBTIQ+ person married to my partner for the past five years, the decision by the DDF is a major milestone that confirms what we always knew in our hearts: that our relationships can be blessed, are indeed holy, and can be a blessing for our families and communities as well as the Church. This announcement comes on the eve of the first date with my husband-to-be ten years ago. What a wonderful gift! As a leader of the Global Network I also welcome this announcement as a wonderful confirmation of who we are.”

“This world needs blessings, and we can give blessings and receive blessings. The Father loves us, and the only thing that remains for us is the joy of blessing him, and the joy of thanking him, and of learning from him… to bless.” In this way, every brother and every sister will be able to feel that, in the Church, they are always pilgrims, always beggars, always loved, and, despite everything, always blessed.”

We know that around the world our community face much violence and rejection by their communities and by their Church leaders. They cannot even live a life of knowing what it is like to be be loved by a partner, for fear of their lives. Therefore, this blessing, this aspiration that we all have is but an unachievable dream for many. But to dream is to hope. We pray that this dream, this blessing will be something that they will one day be able to have.