Pope Francis has introduced the possibility, for the first time, that Catholic priests may offer blessings to individuals in same-sex unions on a “case-by-case” basis. This appears to represent a change from his previous statements.
This suggestion came in response to a letter from five conservative cardinals who had sent a formal set of questions, known as a “dubia” (Latin for “doubt”), to the Pope, seeking clear answers on various matters related to the Church’s governance.
The cardinals – Walter Brandmuller, Raymond Leo Burke, Juan Sandoval Iniguez, Robert Sarah, and Joseph Zen Ze-kiun – initially sent their letter to Pope Francis on July 10.
The letter inquired about the impact of an upcoming October bishops’ meeting on Church teaching and included questions about the Pope’s intentions regarding the blessing of same-sex unions and the ordination of women as priests.
According to American Cardinal Raymond Burke’s blog post, the five cardinals, unsatisfied with the initial response from the Pope, rephrased their “dubia” letter and resent it on August 21, citing the seriousness of the matter.
In response, the Vatican released a letter dated September 25, signed by Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernández, the Vatican’s new chief of doctrine. The letter contained Pope Francis’ responses to the “dubia,” which were signed by the Pope himself.
Regarding same-sex unions, Pope Francis reiterated the Church’s stance recognizing marriage as a union between a man and a woman but indicated that individual blessings for those in same-sex unions could be considered.
He stated that when individuals request a blessing, they are essentially seeking help from God and expressing a desire to live better.
However, he emphasized that clergy must exercise pastoral prudence to determine if such blessings convey an incorrect concept of marriage.
This response appears to contrast with the Pope’s statement in March when he stated that the Church could not bless same-sex unions as they constituted a “blessing of sin.”
Ordination of Women
The Pope’s response also addressed the issue of women’s ordination. He affirmed the late Pope John Paul II’s declaration from 1994 that the Church had “no authority” to ordain women but expressed the need to study the issue to educate those with doubts.
Regarding the upcoming meeting of Catholic bishops, Pope Francis emphasized the importance of synodality within the Church, allowing various voices to be heard.
However, he cautioned against imposing a specific synodal methodology as a norm, as this could hinder the synodal path.
The upcoming Synod in Rome has faced skepticism from conservative quarters of the Church, particularly concerning the inclusion of women’s voices and the consensus-based implementation of Church teaching.