In a new document released on Monday, Pope Francis formally approved permitting priests to bless gay couples, explaining the change in Vatican policy by arguing that people who seek God’s love and mercy should not be first subjected to “an exhaustive moral analysis,” CBS News reported.
The document, released by the Vatican’s doctrine office, expanded on a letter published in October that the pope sent to two conservative cardinals in which Francis suggested blessings could be offered by priests under certain circumstances as long as they did not confuse the blessing with the holy sacrament of marriage.
The document reaffirms that marriage is between a man and a woman and stresses that the blessings could not be conferred on a gay couple during a civil union ceremony or with the vestments and gestures used in a wedding.
However, the document affirms that requests for the blessing of a priest should not be unconditionally denied.
The document provides a detailed Scriptural definition of the word “blessing” to assert that those seeking a relationship with God, as well as his love and mercy, should not, as a precondition, be subjected to “an exhaustive moral analysis.”
It explains that a blessing provides individuals “a means to increase their trust in God,” therefore, by requesting a blessing, they are expressing and nurturing an “openness to the transcendence, mercy, and closeness to God,” which the pope asserted “is a seed of the Holy Spirit” that must not be “hindered” but “nurtured.”
The document explains that the Catholic Church must avoid “doctrinal or disciplinary schemes,” particularly ones that “lead to a narcissistic and authoritarian elitism” rather than “evangelizing.”
While the document asserted that those in what it called “irregular” unions, both gay couples or straight, are in a state of sin, it stressed that those people should not be deprived of God’s love and mercy.