The Vatican has moved to ease the backlash following its decision to permit priests to bless gay couples.
The clarification specifies that such blessings should be brief, lasting no more than 15 seconds, and should not be misconstrued as legitimizing homosexual relationships.
Last month, the Holy See's declaration allowing priests to bless same-sex couples, under certain conditions, was met with opposition, particularly from conservative quarters in Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe.
Concerns arose that the decision signaled a significant softening of the Catholic Church's traditional stance on gay marriage and homosexuality, both of which are viewed through the lens of disorder and sin in current doctrine.
To address these concerns, the Vatican emphasized that the brief pastoral blessings for gay couples are distinct from formal liturgical or ritualized blessings associated with heterosexual marriages.
The Vatican's doctrinal office released a five-page statement emphasizing the brevity of the blessings, lasting around 10 to 15 seconds, with a focus on seeking peace, health, and other positive outcomes for the couple.
The clarification stressed that allowing priests to perform such blessings is neither heretical nor contradictory to the Church's traditions.
Acknowledging the varying attitudes towards homosexuality globally, the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith emphasized the need for "pastoral prudence." It recognized that in countries where laws criminalize homosexuality, openly blessing gay couples could lead to persecution, imprisonment, or even threats to life.
This move to clarify the original declaration comes amid strong opposition to the blessing of gay couples in countries such as Zambia, Nigeria, and Malawi.
The Archbishop of Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo, said last month: “The ambiguity of the declaration, which lends itself to numerous interpretations and manipulations, is causing much perplexity among the faithful.”
In Uruguay, Cardinal Daniel Sturla, the archbishop of Montevideo, said the blessing of gay couples was “a controversial issue and it’s creating divisions within the Church”.
In Kazakhstan, an archbishop prohibited the new blessing, saying that it contradicts the 2,000-year-old “doctrine and practice of the Catholic Church”.
The Vatican's reiteration attempts to assert that these blessings should not be perceived as justifications for individuals' actions or endorsements of their lifestyles, maintaining a delicate balance between pastoral outreach and adherence to traditional doctrine.