The Catholic Church has reiterated that priests are not allowed to bless same-sex unions because they are not valid.
In response to questions from a number of dioceses on whether the practice was allowed, the Vatican’s doctrinal office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, issued the ruling: “Negative.”
Pope Francis approved the response, the CDF said, adding that it was “not intended to be a form of unjust discrimination, but rather a reminder of the truth of the liturgical rite” of the sacrament of marriage and the blessing associated with it.
Catholic teaching on homosexuality is laid out in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and a number of magisterial documents. The Church teaches that while homosexual acts, like all sexual acts outside of marriage, are sinful, having a homosexual orientation itself is not a sin.
From the time he was archbishop in his native Argentina, Pope Francis has supported the right of gay couples to have civil legal protections but has always opposed gay marriage.
Yet in some countries, such as the United States and Germany, Catholic parishes and ministers have begun blessing same-sex unions in lieu of marriage. In Germany at least two bishops, including Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich, one of the Pope’s top advisers, have shown support for some kind of “pastoral” blessing.
Francis DeBernardo, executive director of the gay Catholics group New Ways Ministry, said: “It is not surprising, but still disappointing, that the Vatican has responded ‘no’.”
Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, which also supports gays in the Church, said the denial “will exacerbate the pain and anger of LGBTQI Catholics and our families” and hurt “couples who live deeply loving and committed relationships.”
A Pew Research survey last year showed that a majority of Catholics in the United States and Western Europe approved of gay marriage, while a majority in Eastern Europe and former Soviet-bloc countries opposed it.
Churches in Africa and Asia also strongly oppose gay marriage. Conservatives have warned that debates on homosexuality have spawned debilitating divisions in other Christian Churches, such as the Anglican Church.