Catholic priests will no longer be barred from blessing same-sex relationships after a Dec. 18 announcement from the Vatican on behalf of Pope Francis. Longstanding Catholic practices have forbidden these blessings due to the church’s marriage doctrine, which explicitly states that marriage, in the eyes of the Catholic church, is valid only between one woman and one man.
Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernández said in a declaration the new guidelines do not impact the sacrament of marriage. “It is precisely in this context,” Cardinal Fernández wrote, “that one can understand the possibility of blessing couples in irregular situations and same-sex couples without officially validating their status or changing in any way the church’s perennial teaching on marriage.”
Still, Fernández acknowledged in the declaration that the change is a “real development” and a “specific and innovative contribution to the pastoral meaning of blessings.” He also made clear that the decision was “based on the pastoral vision of Pope Francis.”
Since being named Pope in 2013 following the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, Francis has been increasingly vocal in his affirmation of LGBTQ+ community members, speaking out against global legislation criminalizing homosexuality and discriminating against LGBTQ+ people. In January 2023, he told the Associated Press that being homosexual “isn’t a crime.”
The backlash on social media was immediate, with X users like @n3liason calling Francis a heretic and an “antipope,” a term that arose in the third century for a person claiming to be the leader of the Catholic Church in opposition to a legitimately elected pope. "Pope Francis' Christmas gift to the church was finally confirming that he is a heretic and quite likely an antipope," another Catholic X user, @n3liason, posted. "He must be opposed completely now, and any bishop who doesn't is complicit."
X user @CarmineSabia posted, “Blasphemy for the Catholic Church to bless same sex marriage. Pope Francis needs to be removed.”
Others are praising the progressive move. In the New York Times, Rev. James Martin said the news is a “major step forward in the church’s ministry to LGBTQ people and recognizes the deep desire in many Catholic same-sex couples for God’s presence in their loving relationships.”