Historically the Catholic church has not always been the most accepting when it comes to LGBTQ+ issues. But after a letter from Pope Francis was made public on the topic of same-sex couples, it appears that major change may be on the way for the church.
The Holy Letter
This week Pope Francis made a stunning public statement, implying that Catholic priests may soon be able to bless same-sex unions.
The Vatican has released a letter that the Pope wrote in response to five cardinals who had written to him in July. His response has since made headlines around the world.
These cardinals, hailing from the US, Europe, Africa, and Asia, had sent a letter to the pope with five questions they pressed him to answer.
These questions came in the form of dubia, which translates to ‘doubts’ but more broadly refers to questions that seek clarification.
The cardinals implored the pope to clarify the church’s position on five different subjects.
Though the pope responded at length to all five questions, it was the question of same-sex unions that spurred the most controversy and debate.
A Sign of Change?
The second dubia asked if the church could “deviate from principle” and accept same-sex unions as a “possible good”.
Pope Francis’ response to this question has surprised many, and some have suggested that this may signal a reversal of the church’s official position on gay marriage. Here’s what he said.
First, the pope affirmed that “the Church has a very clear understanding of marriage: an exclusive, stable, and indissoluble union between a man and a woman.”
Calls for Pastoral Charity
But this was followed by the call for a more nuanced approach to the subject of same-sex unions.
Pope Francis’s response also advocated for “pastoral charity in our relationships with people.”
And that this charity on behalf of Catholic clergymen should include “kindness, patience, understanding, tenderness, and encouragement,” and exclude the urge to “deny, reject, or exclude”.
In particular, his comments on blessings given by the church have got people talking.
A “Plea for God’s Help”
Since blessings are often a “plea for God’s help,” and “trust in a Father who can help us to live better,” individuals should not be treated as mere “sinners”.
He ended his response to the question by suggesting that while these blessings “should not necessarily become a norm”, they should be regarded on an individual basis as
“The life of the Church flows through many channels other than normative ones.”
Change on the Horizon
Some believe that these statements will pave the way for a new approach to LGBTQ+ relationships in the Catholic church.
It may even make allowances for priests to bless same-sex marriages, based on “pastoral prudence”.
The pope’s response has signaled an about-turn in the Vatican’s stance on gay marriage and LGBTQ+ issues in general.
Just two years ago in early 2021, the Vatican released an official statement on the subject.
Officials insisted that the church would not bless same-sex marriages as God “does not and cannot bless sin”.
However this new announcement has given hope to countless members of the Catholic church who identify as gay or otherwise LGBTQ+, and have felt excluded and marginalized by past declarations by the church.
One of these people is Francis de Bernardo, the executive director of New Ways Ministry, an advocacy group for LGBT in the Catholic church.
De Bernardo has spoken approvingly of the pope’s announcement, as these blessings “imply that the church does indeed recognize that holy love can exist between same-gender couples.”
De Bernardo also acknowledges that the holy recognition of same-sex love is “not completely what LGBTQ+ Catholics would want,” but still signals an “enormous advance towards[…]more comprehensive equality.”
Children of God
Pope Francis’ response to the dubia has generated a lot of debate from both inside and outside of the church.
But to some, this newest announcement was not so surprising since the Pope has previously made waves when discussing these issues.
Back in 2020, he referred to gay people as ”Children of God” who “have the right to be in a family”, referring to same-sex unions.
Of course, after centuries of conservative tradition, it will be a long time before these matters are concluded in the Catholic church.
But what do you think? Has the Pope’s newest public statement affected your views on same-sex marriage and the Catholic church?
Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / Adam Wasilewski