The Vatican sought on Thursday to clarify the Catholic Church’s recent approval of blessings for same-s*x couples, denying it had strayed from doctrine while urging “prudence” in certain countries.
The clarification by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith came after an outcry by certain bishops, particularly in Africa, over its recent declaration authorising priests to bless “irregular” and same-s*x couples under certain circumstances.
That document, published in December, was interpreted by some conservative Catholics, particularly in Africa, as back-tracking on the issues of gay marriage and homos*xuality, both of which the Church opposes.
But on Thursday, the Vatican stood by its recent document, saying it was “clear and definitive about marriage and s*xuality.”
“There is no room to distance ourselves doctrinally from this Declaration or to consider it heretical, contrary to the Tradition of the Church or blasphemous,” the Dicastery wrote.
The original declaration cautioned that priests could only perform blessings for same-s*x couples, divorcées, or unmarried couples in “non-ritualised” contexts, and never in relation to weddings or civil unions.
Opposition to the Vatican’s recent move has been particularly strong in Malawi, Nigeria and Zambia, as well as in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Various bishops’ conferences around the world had expressed “understandable” reactions to the move, “highlighting the need for a more extended period of pastoral reflection,” the Dicastery said.
It noted that in certain circumstances, the blessing of same-s*x couples would be inappropriate.
“If there are laws that condemn the mere act of declaring oneself as a homos*xual with prison and in some cases with torture and even death, it goes without saying that a blessing would be imprudent,” said the Dicastery.
It urged “prudence and attention to the ecclesial context and to the local culture” in applying the measure.
Without singling out countries, it said that in several, “there are strong cultural and even legal issues that require time and pastoral strategies that go beyond the short term.”
Since his election in 2013, 87-year-old Pope Francis has insisted on opening the doors of the Church to all its faithful, including the homos*xual and LGBTQ communities.