On Monday, the Vatican declared that the Catholic Church would not bless same-sex unions because God “cannot bless sin.”

The Vatican’s orthodoxy office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, issued a formal response to a question about whether Catholic clergy have the authority to bless gay unions, the Associated Press reports.

The answer, approved by Pope Francis, contained a two-page explanation. It distinguished between the church’s welcoming and blessing of gay people, which it continues to uphold, but not their unions.
Responses were split. While the note pleased conservatives, it disheartened advocates for LGBT Catholics. It also confused the debate within the German church, leading the discussion on hot-button issues like the church’s teaching on homosexuality.

Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, a ministry that advocates for greater acceptance of gays in the church, said he predicts the Vatican position would be ignored, including by some Catholic clergy.

“Catholic people recognize the holiness of the love between committed same-sex couples and recognize the love as divinely inspired and divinely supported and thus meets the standard to be blessed,” DeBernardo said in a statement.

According to Catholic teaching, marriage is a lifelong union between a man and woman and is part of God’s plan. Marriage is intended for the sake of creating new life. Because gay unions aren’t intended to be part of God’s plan, they can’t be blessed by the church, the document said.

“The presence in such relationships of positive elements, which are in themselves to be valued and appreciated, cannot justify these relationships and render them legitimate objects of an ecclesial blessing since the positive elements exist within the context of a union not ordered to the Creator’s plan,” the response said.

God “does not and cannot bless sin: He blesses sinful man, so that he may recognize that he is part of his plan of love and allow himself to be changed by him,” it added.

In the past, Pope Francis has supported providing gay couples with legal protections in same-sex unions, but this was in reference to the civil sphere, not within the church. These comments were made during a 2019 interview with Mexican broadcaster, Televisa. They were censored by the Vatican until they appeared in a 2020 documentary.

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