Pope Francis opened the door Monday for some Catholic priests to bless same-sex unions, hinting at a reversal of the official Vatican position that has put it at odds with many of its own progressive followers.
However, Francis outlined some major caveats, including that they should be decided on a case-by-case basis and not seen as equivalent to heterosexual wedding ceremonies.
As recently as 2021 the Vatican said it could not condone same-sex unions because “God cannot bless sin.” But on Monday, Francis signaled that there could be exceptions to that stance.
“We cannot be judges who only deny, reject, and exclude,” the pope said in a letter to five conservative cardinals who asked for clarity on the issue ahead of a major global gathering on the future of the Church that begins Wednesday.
Though Vatican policy has not changed, Francis’ comments have been seen by some LGBTQ+ Catholics as a huge step in undoing the marginalization they still experience within the church despite the current pope’s decade of modernization.
The remarks came in a letter written by Francis and published Monday by the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith. He was responding to to a list of “dubia” (literally “doubts” — or questions) presented by five conservative cardinals from Asia, Europe, Africa, the United States and Latin America.
They challenged him to reinforce traditional Catholic teaching on same-sex marriage and other thorny issues such as women’s ordination.
But in response, Francis said there may be “forms of blessing, requested by one or more persons” that could be granted on an occasional basis. He called for the clergy to show “pastoral charity,” including “kindness, patience, understanding, tenderness, and encouragement.”