Vatican’s Doctrinal Office: Catholic Church Cannot Give Blessings to Same-Sex Unions

Answering the question “does the Church have the power to give the blessing to unions of persons of the same sex?,” the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith responded, “negative.”

Same-sex unions.
Same-sex unions. (photo: DGL Images / Shutterstock)

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican’s doctrinal office on Monday clarified that the Catholic Church does not have the power to give liturgical blessings of homosexual unions.

Answering the question “does the Church have the power to give the blessing to unions of persons of the same sex?,” the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith responded, “negative.”

In an accompanying note, the doctrine office explained that blessings are sacramentals, and “consequently, in order to conform with the nature of sacramentals, when a blessing is invoked on particular human relationships, in addition to the right intention of those who participate, it is necessary that what is blessed be objectively and positively ordered to receive and express grace, according to the designs of God inscribed in creation, and fully revealed by Christ the Lord.”

“Therefore, only those realities which are in themselves ordered to serve those ends are congruent with the essence of the blessing imparted by the Church,” the CDF said.

“For this reason, it is not licit to impart a blessing on relationships, or partnerships, even stable, that involve sexual activity outside of marriage (i.e., outside the indissoluble union of a man and a woman open in itself to the transmission of life), as is the case of the unions between persons of the same sex.”

The ruling and note were approved for publication by Pope Francis and signed by CDF prefect Cardinal Luis Ladaria and secretary Archbishop Giacomo Morandi.

The CDF’s note did not state the origin of the dubium submitted to the doctrinal office, but noted that “in some ecclesial contexts, plans and proposals for blessings of unions of persons of the same sex are being advanced.”

In recent years, German bishops in particular have been increasingly outspoken in demanding “discussions about an opening” towards acceptance of practiced homosexuality and the blessing of homosexual unions in the Church.

Following consultations in Berlin in late 2019, the chairman of the marriage and family commission of the German bishops’ conference declared that the German bishops agreed that homosexuality was a “normal form” of human sexual identity.

The topic also plays a central role in one of four forums that constitute the controversial “Synodal Process” underway in Germany.

The CDF explained in 2003 that “the Church teaches that respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behavior or to legal recognition of homosexual unions.”

German bishops who have publicly voiced support for the blessing of same-sex unions in the Catholic Church include Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg, Bishop Franz-Josef Bode of Osnabrück, and Bishop Heinrich Timmerervers of Dresden-Meißen.

Bishop Bätzing, the president of the German bishops’ conference, in December 2020 called for changes to the section on homosexuality in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Expressing openness to blessings of homosexual unions, he said, “we need solutions for this.”

On Feb. 23, Bishop Peter Kohlgraf of Mainz defended his support for a book of blessings and rites for homosexual unions. The book followed a May 2020 publication from Austria about how same-sex couples might receive a formal, liturgical blessing. Kohlgraf suggested that Catholics with homosexual inclinations cannot all be expected to live chastely.

The call for liturgical blessings of same-sex unions is part of a wider push by some German bishops to change the Church’s teaching on a number of issues, including on the sacraments of priestly ordination and marriage.

CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German partner agency, reported that Bishop Bätzing has suggested that the Vatican Synod of Bishops on synodality, scheduled for October 2022, could help implement German “Synodal Way” resolutions not only in Germany, but throughout the Catholic Church.