Pope Francis has formally approved allowing priests to bless same-sex couples, with a new document explaining a radical change in Vatican policy by insisting that people seeking God’s love and mercy shouldn’t be subject to “an exhaustive moral analysis” to receive it.
It represents a significant departure from previous church teaching, which argued against blessing same-sex unions. When it comes to blessing same-sex relationships, the Pope believes priests should be flexible.
The document from the Vatican’s doctrine office, released Monday, elaborates on a letter Francis sent to two conservative cardinals that was published in October. In that preliminary response, Francis suggested such blessings could be offered under some circumstances if they didn’t confuse the ritual with the sacrament of marriage.
The Vatican said the church must shy away from “doctrinal or disciplinary schemes, especially when they lead to a narcissistic and authoritarian elitism whereby instead of evangelizing, one analyzes and classifies others, and instead of opening the door to grace, one exhausts his or her energies in inspecting and verifying.”
It stressed that people in “irregular” unions — gay or straight — are in a state of sin. But it said that shouldn’t deprive them of God’s love or mercy.
“Thus, when people ask for a blessing, an exhaustive moral analysis should not be placed as a precondition for conferring it,” the document said.
The Rev. James Martin, who advocates for greater welcome for LGBTQ+ Catholics, praised the new document as a “huge step forward” and a “dramatic shift” from the Vatican’s 2021 policy.