Pope Francis has suggested he would be open to having the Catholic Church bless same-sex unions.
In 2021, the Vatican decreed that the Catholic Church would not bless gay marriages because God “cannot bless sin”.
But on Monday, the Vatican published a letter by Pope Francis addressed to a group of cardinals who asked him for clarity on the issue.
The religious leader reiterated that the church only recognises marriage as a union between a man and a woman, but could open the door for blessings of individuals in same-sex unions.
The pope said “pastoral charity” requires patience and understanding, adding that priests should not become judges “who only deny, reject and exclude”.
He said a blessing requested is a plea for God’s help to live a better life even in situations that are “not morally acceptable”.
The religious leader said priests should not only treat people as sinners because they may not fully be at fault for their situations.
Francis suggested that blessing gay unions should not become an official rule but should be decided case by case “because the life of the church runs on channels beyond norms”.
“The Church has a very clear understanding of marriage: an exclusive, stable, and indissoluble union between a man and a woman, naturally open to procreation,” he wrote.
“Only this union can be called marriage. Other forms of union realise it only in a partial and analogous way so they cannot be strictly called marriage.
“For this reason, the Church avoids any type of rite or sacramental that might contradict this conviction and suggest that something that is not marriage is recognised as marriage.
“However, in our relationships with people, we must not lose the pastoral charity, which should permeate all our decisions and attitudes.
“The defence of objective truth is not the only expression of this charity; it also includes kindness, patience, understanding, tenderness, and encouragement. Therefore, we cannot be judges who only deny, reject, and exclude.
“Pastoral prudence must adequately discern whether there are forms of blessing, requested by one or more persons, that do not convey a mistaken concept of marriage.
“For when a blessing is requested, it is expressing a plea to God for help, a supplication to live better. Although there are situations that are not morally acceptable from an objective point of view, the same pastoral charity requires us not to simply treat as sinners other people whose guilt or responsibility may be mitigated by various factors affecting subjective accountability.
“Decisions that may be part of pastoral prudence in certain circumstances should not necessarily become a norm. Not everything that is part of a practical discernment in particular circumstances can be elevated to the level of a rule.
“Canon law should not and cannot cover everything, as the life of the Church flows through many channels other than normative ones.”
In 2020, Pope Francis called gay Catholics “children of God” and gave his endorsement to same-sex civil unions.
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