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Pope Francis reinforces traditional marriage but suggests he's open to blessing same-sex couples

Some voiced concerns that progressives may use Francis' response to advance their agenda.

Published: October 3, 2023 2:11pm

Updated: October 3, 2023 2:13pm

Pope Francis said that the Catholic Church avoids any type of ritual that may suggest same-sex marriages are recognized like traditional unions, but he suggested he was open to blessing some same-sex unions.

His comments, which were published Monday before the Vatican's Synod on Synodality, which is essentially a workshop for church leaders, came in response to five questions submitted in July by conservative cardinals across the world on topics such as same-sex unions, women's ordination and sacrament requirements. 

Same-sex unions "cannot be strictly called 'marriage,'" Francis said in his response. "For this reason, the Church avoids any type of rite or sacramental that might contradict this conviction and suggest that something that is not marriage is recognized as marriage."

He also stressed the importance of "pastoral clarity," which he said includes "defence of objective truth .... kindness, patience, understanding, tenderness, and encouragement. Therefore, we cannot be judges who only deny, reject, and exclude."

Clergy members must determine whether a blessing can be given to one or more people that does not "convey a mistaken concept of marriage," Francis also said. "For when a blessing is requested, it is expressing a plea to God for help, a supplication to live better, a trust in a Father who can help us live better."

Francis also said that in some situations, clergy members are required to not treat some people simply as "sinners" whose guilt could be mitigated by other factors. 

He concluded his response to the question by stating that the church should not enable "rituals for all kinds of matters," and that "certain circumstances should not necessarily become a norm."

The cardinals who wrote the original letter to Francis said that although his responses were published this week, the pope had responded one day after they sent their letter in July. The cardinals said they sent a follow-up list of questions to Francis in August, but they have not received a response.

Francis' less-than-clear answer on blessings for same-sex couples was met with outrage online. 

"How much longer will the Bishops look the other way while souls are damned for eternity?" former Vatican official Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano wrote on X, formerly Twitter. 

Others online said that progressives may use Francis' response to advance their agenda.

Heritage Foundation Vice President Roger Severino wrote: "[A]s is typical with Pope Francis, he acknowledges objective morality and doesn’t change any church teaching but uses ambiguous language about wholly unspecified hypotheticals that people who clearly want to change church teaching will seize upon to confuse multitudes." 

Eric Simmons, editor-in-chief of Crisis Magazine, a Catholic outlet, said that the pope's "answer on blessing same-sex unions (which technically didn’t permit it) now allows that practice. The Vatican won’t clarify and priests know they can do it with impunity."

Follow Madeleine Hubbard on X or Instagram.

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