In a landmark development this week Pope Francis formally approved allowing priests to bless same-sex couples.
A Vatican document approved by the pope restates the Catholic church’s position that marriage is defined as the union of one man and one woman and says that a blessing may be imparted to “couples in irregular situations” and “couples of the same sex” as long as the ritual is not confused with the sacrament of marriage.
Explaining the rationale behind the radical change in Vatican policy the document states that people seeking “God’s love and mercy” shouldn’t be subject to “an exhaustive moral analysis”.
Despite attempts by some Catholic clergy to downplay the development on the basis that at every mass, the priest blesses various categories of sinners, Christian leaders worldwide view it is a significant concession.
Christian Headlines reports that Albert Mohler president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, called the Pope’s declaration a “major development” and a “theological disaster.”
“In particular, it’s a disaster because the impact of this on the larger culture is going to be to add momentum to the very forces that are tearing apart gender, tearing apart sexuality, tearing apart civilisation, tearing apart marriage,” Mohler said in a podcast
Writing in World Opinions he said. “This new doctrine and policy will not placate the liberals, who will not be satisfied until the Catholic Church affirms and priests perform same-sex marriages, and it will infuriate the conservatives who understand full well what is happening. Evangelical Christians must respond by holding fast to biblical truth soberly, joyfully, seriously, and steadfastly.”
James Martin, a Jesuit priest and a supporter of same-sex marriage, said the document will have a major impact worldwide, reports Christian Headlines.
“Be wary of the ‘Nothing has changed’ response to today’s news. It’s a significant change. In short, yesterday, as a priest, I was forbidden to bless same-sex couples at all. Today, with some limitations, I can,” Martin posted on X, formerly Twitter.
The Vatican’s new blessing policy announcement comes two months after the pope’s initial response to questions formally submitted by five cardinals about the matter, in which he indicated that he would be open to some Catholic priests blessing same-sex unions.
In 2021, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said its official position is that the Church cannot bless same-sex unions because “God cannot bless sin.”
Meanwhile, last Sunday, the Church of England launched its prayers of blessing for same-sex couples. This follows a decision, last month, by the church’s general synod, to proceed with trial blessing services for same-sex couples.
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