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Conscience Magazine

The Church and the LGBTQ Community: Vatican Refuses to Bless Same-Sex Marriages

May 6, 2021
Pope Francis delivers his Easter blessing “urbi et orbi” (to the city and the world) after celebrating Easter Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican April 4, 2021. (CNS photo/Filippo Monteforte, Reuters pool)

“THE BLESSING OF HOMOSEXUAL unions cannot be considered licit,” stated the doctrinal enforcement office of the Vatican in mid-March. In a blow to what many had seen as an ongoing liberalization of the hierarchy’s attitudes toward the LGBTQIA community— specifically comments made throughout the eight-year tenure of Pope Francis—the hierarchy have refused to give ground on the issue of blessing same-sex unions.

The doctrinal enforcement office’s statement met instantaneous pushback. Opposition to the statement by the LGBTQ community proved to be global in scope and unified in response. Statements by DignityUSA executive director Marianne Duddy-Burke reflected the community’s reaction. “The Vatican’s denial of blessings to same-sex couples will exacerbate the pain and anger of LGBTQI Catholics and our families,” she stated, going on to label the decision “hurtful to same-sex couples, and dismissive of the grace demonstrated by same-sex couples who live deeply loving and committed relationships.”

Sharp criticism from high-ranking members of the clergy was also forthcoming. Formerly the head of the Austrian Bishop’s conference for over two decades, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn declared his displeasure in no uncertain terms. “I was not happy about this statement of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for the simple reason that the message that came across in the media throughout the world was only a ‘no.’” Another high-ranking member of the Austrian clergy, Bishop Josef Marketz of Gurk, stated his intention to defy the Vatican. “For me, homosexuals are not secondclass Christians, and of course I will always give them a blessing.”

Head of the German bishops’ conference Bishop Georg Bätzing met the news with a demand for “reassessinvolving ment of same-sex partnerships and a further development of the church’s sexual morality.” Bätzing particularly criticized the impracticality of the statement applied at the level of clerical ministrations in the day-to-day lives of congregants. “A document that in its argumentation so blatantly closes its mind to a progress in knowledge of both a theological and human-scientific nature will lead to pastoral practice ignoring it.”

Some critics suggest the move may represent a preemptive measure to warn off bishops adamant on blessing same-sex unions. Given the ongoing debate within Germany—where recent months have seen gatherings of high-ranking clergy debate longstanding practices in the church, such as the ordination of women—suspicions surround the pronouncement, with some viewing it as a beating back of the ongoing efforts of clerics such as Bishop Bätzing to liberalize entrenched church doctrine.