New Ways Ministry: Pope’s Blessings Approval Is Early Christmas Gift to LGBTQ+ Catholics

Today, the Vatican announced a new declaration approved by Pope Francis that opens the path for LGBTQ+ people’s relationships to be blessed in the church. Bondings 2.0 will report more on the declaration’s contents and reactions to it in the coming days.

The following is a statement from Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry’s Executive Director, about the Vatican’s latest declaration on blessings:

Pope Francis gave LGBTQ+ Catholics an early Christmas gift this year by approving blessings for same-gender couples. The Vatican doctrinal office’s previous claim that “God does not bless sin” has been uprooted by the new exhortation, “God never turns away anyone who approaches him!”

It cannot be overstated how significant the Vatican’s new declaration is. Approving blessings for same-gender couples is certainly monumental. But Pope Francis goes further than that by stating that people should not be subjected to “an exhaustive moral analysis” to receive a sign of God’s love and mercy. Such a declaration is one more step Pope Francis has taken to overturn the harsh policing of pastoral care all too common under his predecessors, John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

In contrast, Pope Francis desires pastoral care in which, in the declaration’s words, “every brother and every sister will be able to feel that, in the Church, they are always pilgrims, always beggars, always loved, and, despite everything, always blessed.” By opening blessings to same-gender couples, the institutional church now expands the ways that LGBTQ+ Catholics can know God’s love. And this declaration benefits not only the couples blessed, but every queer person and ally who has had a difficult   relationship with the church.

This declaration is proof that church teaching can—and does—change. The Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith has now overturned in full its 2021 statement prohibiting queer blessings because, it claimed, “God does not bless sin.” And how does change happen? Formal approval in teaching often recognizes what people are already doing pastorally and theologically. Practice precedes teaching. So, too, with LGBTQ+ blessings.

For decades, the laity, joined by some religious and clergy, have called for greater inclusion of same-gender couples. In the past few years, this call has become louder in places like Germany, where the Synodal Way process approved such blessings earlier this year. The question of blessings has been a contentious point in Germany, sparking criticism from the Vatican and even Pope Francis. His decision now to approve blessings shows the pope is willing to listen, learn, and respond meaningfully to God’s people, something every church leader should be doing.

When I had the honor of meeting Pope Francis this past October, one of his statements that most impressed me was that a thing he is most upset about in the church is priests who chastise people in the confessional. That time, he said, should be a time of  welcome, love, and mercy, not a punishment. This new declaration about blessing same-gender couples is an example of that kind of pastoral attitude.

LGBTQ+ Catholics worldwide welcome this early Christmas gift, which brings them much closer to being full and equal members of the Church they love so dearly.

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, December 18, 2023

6 replies
  1. Barry Blackburn
    Barry Blackburn says:

    This is great news and a wonderful statement of response by you Francis. The Church is evolving a little late and a little breathless but getting there. This Pope is a Blessing because he is a Pastor. Thank you Francis D. And Pope Francis!

  2. JP
    JP says:

    I don’t understand how one can put a positive spin on this document… It can be summed up in 2 points. 1) If one, two, five people attending a pilgrimage or Catholic festival spontaneously ask a priest for a blessing, he should not ask them about their living arrangements and who sleeps with whom. Rather, just give them the blessing without running a full analysis of their lives. On the other hand, 2) if a gay couple is planning a civil union/mariage, and is known for being unrepentant with regard to Catholic doctrine on the subject, then the answer shall be a resounding no. Doing otherwise would bring confusion with a wedding and validate something that the Church condemns.
    So really, what is so good about this document? If anything it’s pretty bad: this is a Declaration of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith. Such documents are rare (the last one was in 2000). The last paragraph basically says that this is the end of the conversation on blessings (hence on higher ceremonies), for basically at least the next 20+ years… It may be intended to put pressure on the German Church to back off from its plans; not good still.

  3. Paula Ruddy
    Paula Ruddy says:

    Congratulations, New Ways. Your work is bringing the new life we all want so much.
    In my experience, LGBTQ+ persons have themselves brought blessings to the Church. Pope Francis must see that too. Onward.

  4. Thomas M Deely
    Thomas M Deely says:

    My now deceased gay brother loved the Catholic Church. But he told me many times that there were, as he put it “false teachings” in our Roman Catholic church. I never got into any detailed discussion with him. Because I knew he meant our Roman Catholic teachings on sexuality, especially regarding same sex relationships and an attitude of rejection that drove many (not him!!) away from our Church. When he was dying he encouraged me to, as he said rather sterny: “Grow!!” Don’t just say: “I’ll try..Grow”..I am sure what my brother said to me he mean for all of us who love Christ and love the Church he founded with his Incarnation, Life, Passion, Death and Resurrection….which, of course began at Christmas. I understand that Pope Francis’s support of Blessings for Same Sex Couples is, similar to what was said by Neil Armstrong when he stepped onto the Moon…”one small step for humankind”…..Yes, Pope Francis’s openess is a “small step towards inclusion of LGBTQ+ persons in the Church..The Church, as it must as the Living Body of Christ, is, ALL bodies must…GROWING

  5. Ginny King
    Ginny King says:

    Thank you New Ways Ministry staff for your tremendous work which has brought about this amazing blessing from Pope Francis. Your work and our support have encouraged Pope Francis to approve blessings for lgbtqi+ couples and individuals in parishes worldwide.
    God bless you as you continue this great work. Ginny


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