In short, no, same-sex couples cannot have a blessing said over their union by a Catholic priest. The Church has not begun endorsing same-sex unions. Any headline or photo that suggests otherwise has deceived you.
At the same time, the answer is yes in that anyone, without exception, who seeks a simple blessing from a priest in the Catholic Church can receive it. We are all sinners, all in need of feeling the presence of God extended to us by the Church. That has always been the case, and nothing changed last month when the Vatican issued the document, “Fiducia Supplicans: On the Pastoral Meaning of Blessings.”
The media such as the New York Times, which immediately blasted the headline, “Making History on a Tuesday Morning, With the Church’s Blessing,” showing a same-sex couple being blessed by a priest, has been irresponsible at best, sensational at worst, and often, plain wrong in reporting this “breaking,” “landmark” “historical” story. The document itself doesn’t even come close to any of those descriptions.
If you seek the truth and not only headlines that tell you what you’d like to hear but may be in error, I offer this simple explanation for why the document even exists. For a while now, some bishops in Germany have been pushing toward something beyond a simple blessing of individuals who are in a same-sex relationship, and inching toward the kind of blessing that would indicate endorsement of their union by the Church. The Vatican had to respond and set the parameters, because the German church seemed to be sliding toward schism.
The document is very pastoral in nature and explains what the Church does and does not mean by the word “blessing,” and lays out what can and cannot be blessed. At bottom, it opens its arms to spontaneous blessing of any individual, including those couples who happen to be involved in a sinful relationship. This could be a cohabitating heterosexual couple or a couple in a same-sex union.
Throughout Pope Francis’ pontificate, I’ve often been dismayed by what is reported from the Vatican, and how, by its communications arm. At this time in history especially, the faithful need clarity. Instead, we are getting muddy memos that cause confusion and scandal. Add a secular media that seems to want to create its own narratives based on worldly ideas and you’ve got a crisis in the Church. A crisis stemming from lack of clear, responsible communications.
I cannot, in this tight space, get into any further nuance, but the communications issue needs to be addressed, and it seems a matter of life and death that this be done. I pray St. Gabriel, patron saint of communicators, will work swiftly to redirect this collision.
The unchangeable law cannot change, just as these things cannot change: the love Christ has for each of us, and his perfect will.
[For the sake of having a repository for my newspaper columns and articles, I reprint them here, with permission, a week after their run date. The preceding ran in The Forum newspaper on Jan. 8, 2024.]