Christians worldwide reacted this week after the Vatican issued a statement declaring that the Roman Catholic Church cannot bless same-sex romantic unions.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith declared on Monday that it is “not licit to impart a blessing on relationships, or partnerships, even stable, that involve sexual activity outside of marriage.”
“As is the case of the unions between persons of the same sex.
The presence in such relationships of positive elements, which are in themselves to be valued and appreciated, cannot justify these relationships and render them legitimate objects of an ecclesial blessing, since the positive elements exist within the context of a union not ordered to the Creator’s plan,” the statement stressed.
The statement clarified Pope Francis’ position on the issue after he reportedly voiced support for legal civil unions in the civil sphere last year.
The statement also comes as “plans and proposals for blessings of unions of persons of the same sex are being advanced” in some “ecclesial contexts.”
While some have praised the Vatican for issuing a clarification backing longstanding Catholic Church teaching, others were critical of the move.
The following pages highlight five reactions to the Vatican statement from Christian leaders representing diverse theological and political perspectives.
Rev. Franklin Graham, president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and a leading conservative evangelical figure, expressed support for the Vatican decree against blessing same-sex unions.
In a post to his official Facebook page, Graham stated it was “good to see that the Vatican got this right.”
“Gay people deserve respect and dignity like everyone does, but we cannot condone actions that are contrary to the teachings of God’s Word,” wrote Graham.
“Marriage is defined as a union before God between a man and a woman in Scripture, beginning in the Garden of Eden.”
Graham went on to state that he hoped
“every church would see the danger in affirming same-sex marriage and blessing what God has defined as sin.”
Father James Martin, a Jesuit priest and editor-at-large at America Magazine, posted a Twitter thread to express his disappointment with the Vatican statement.
Martin is the author of the 2017 book Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity.
“Today I received dozens of messages from #LGBTQ people, as well as their friends, families and allies, who told me they were disappointed, discouraged and disheartened by the Vatican’s latest pronouncement on barring the blessings of same-sex marriages,” tweeted Martin.
“Especially painful for many LGBTQ people who contacted me today was the statement that God ‘does not and cannot bless sin….’”
Martin explained that many people were “encouraged by several German bishops, and other priests in the West who have ventured to give such blessings.
” He added that they were “hoping that such blessings might represent a small way that the church might recognize what the CDF’s document called the ‘positive elements…'”
Martin implored his followers to “never despair.”
“After all, what are the dark 40 days of Lent other than a preparation for a light-filled Easter?” he asked.
“On Easter Christ upended all expectations and reminded us that nothing is impossible with God…”
Kevin Miller, professor of moral theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, issued a statement expressing agreement with the Vatican’s position.
Miller pointed out that the Catholic Church “has taught, and here continues to teach, that such acts are intrinsically disordered.”
Miller stated that
“[t]his teaching is so grounded in Scripture and Tradition that it cannot be otherwise.”
“’Intrinsically’ means that, as the response says, no matter what positive elements (like friendship and the care for another that goes with it) there might also happen to be in a particular same-sex relationship, the relationship as a whole, insofar as it includes same-sex acts, is ‘not ordered to the Creator’s plan,’” said Miller.
“To bless something that is intrinsically at odds with God’s plan would be a kind of contradiction in terms, an abuse of what a blessing, by its nature, is. It is not so much forbidden as impossible.”
Jamie Manson, president of progressive group Catholics for Choice, released a statement denouncing the Vatican decree.
Manson, whose organization recently decided to expand advocacy beyond just the abortion issue, labeled the decree “an act of profound cruelty to invalidate LGBTQ families in any form.”
“The Vatican’s needless attack on same-sex marriages seems to reflect an intention to put up walls that separate people and divide families instead of building bridges between all people,” stated Manson.
“By insisting that genital complementarity is an absolute requirement for marriage, the hierarchy places limits on God’s power to work within all of the relationships of all God’s beloved children.”