FACT CHECK: Does The Recent Vatican Document Allow For The Blessing Of Same-Sex Unions?

Elias Atienza | Senior Reporter

Newsweek reported that the recent Vatican document –Fiducia Supplicans– allows for the blessing of same-sex unions and marriages.

Verdict: Misleading

While the document allows for the pastoral blessings of persons within same-sex relationships and other “irregular relationships,” it does not allow for the blessings of same-sex unions and marriages, according to Pope Francis and Cardinal Victor Fernandez.  Newsweek later issued corrections.

Fact Check:

Cardinal Fernandez, the prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF), published a document –titled Fiducia Supplicans– that allows for the pastoral blessings of same-sex couples and other couples in “irregular situations,” according to Catholic News Agency.

Newsweek has reported that the document allows for the blessings of same-sex unions and marriages.

“Pope Francis’s recent decision authorizing Catholic Church officials to bless same-sex marriages has spurred a wave of backlash online,” Newsweek reported Dec. 18 (Emphasis added by Check Your Fact.)

“A group of 90 Catholic clergymen, scholars and authors have published a joint letter to “all Cardinals and Bishops of the Catholic Church,” urging them to oppose a Vatican document approved by Pope Francis that allows priests to bless same-sex unions for the first time,” Newsweek reported Feb. 3 (Emphasis added by Check Your Fact).

However, the document does not appear to allow for the blessings of the same-sex union or marriage itself but rather for the people themselves. Vatican News, the official news website for the Holy See, states, “Although the couple is blessed but not the union, the Declaration notes that what is blessed is the legitimate relationship between the two people.”

The document itself says, “Such is also the meaning of the Responsum of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which states that the Church does not have the power to impart blessings on unions of persons of the same sex.” (Emphasis added by Check Your Fact.)

The document also states that blessings cannot be liturgical or be done “in concurrence” or “in connection” with a civil union ceremony or wedding. The document reads:

“In any case, precisely to avoid any form of confusion or scandal, when the prayer of blessing is requested by a couple in an irregular situation, even though it is expressed outside the rites prescribed by the liturgical books, this blessing should never be imparted in concurrence with the ceremonies of a civil union, and not even in connection with them. Nor can it be performed with any clothing, gestures, or words that are proper to a wedding.The same applies when the blessing is requested by a same-sex couple.”

Cardinal Fernandez said in a Dec. 23 interview with the Pillar that “[c]ouples are blessed” but not unions. (RELATED: No, Pope Francis Did Not Authorize The WEF To Rewrite A ‘Fact Checked’ Holy Bible)

“It is necessary to distinguish well, and the declaration makes this distinction. Couples are blessed. The union is not blessed, for the reasons that the declaration repeatedly explains about the true meaning of Christian marriage and sexual relations,” Fernandez said.

The DDF issued a Jan. 4 clarification. The clarification reads, “The Declaration contains a proposal for short and simple pastoral blessings (neither liturgical nor ritualised) of couples in irregular situations (but not of their unions), underlining that these are blessings without a liturgical format which neither approve nor justify the situation in which these people find themselves.” (Emphasis added by Check Your Fact.)

Pope Francis further stated on Jan. 26 that the blessings applied to the people, saying, “when a couple spontaneously approaches [a minister] and asks for them, he is not blessing the union, but simply the people who together have requested it,” according to Vatican News.

“Not the union. But the persons, naturally taking into account the context, sensitivities, the places where one lives, and the most appropriate ways to do it,” Pope Francis said.

Mike Lewis, the editor of the Catholic website Where Peter Is, explained the differences between couples and unions, writing Dec. 28 that a “couple might be married, engaged, or involved in another type of relationship.” (RELATED: Did Pope Francis Say That Jesus Was Born During A Census Taken By King David)

“A union is a type of arrangement or agreement between two people. The Catholic Church only blesses one type of ‘union’ between a couple — sacramental marriage. But the Church can give a simple blessing to one person, a couple, a group, a sports team, or to an entire stadium full of people. The pope’s Urbi et Orbi blessing is to ‘the city and the world.’ The Church can bless two people who are a couple without sanctioning everything that they do, nor recognizing every agreement they make,” Lewis wrote.

Chieko Noguchi, the executive director of public affairs for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), told Check Your Fact in an email that the document “was not about validating the status of a relationship” or changing Church doctrine on marriage. 

“In issuing Fiducia supplicans, and the subsequent press release clarifying the document, the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF) was clear that it was not about validating the status of a relationship or changing the Church’s teaching on marriage,” Noguchi said and directed Check Your Fact to the USCCB’s press releases on the matter, including one from Bishop Robert Barron, the chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth.

“The blessings that it allows for those in irregular relationships are not liturgical in nature and hence do not imply any approbation of such relationships. Rather, these benedictions are informal and spontaneous, designed to call upon God’s mercy to heal, guide, and strengthen,” Barron says in the press release. “Despite some misleading coverage in the press, the declaration does not constitute a ‘step’ toward ratification of same-sex marriage nor a compromising of the Church’s teaching regarding those in irregular relationships.”

Newsweek issued corrections for both articles. A  Newsweek representative told Check Your Fact that the outlet corrected the articles “following a review.”

“Following a review of these articles, we have corrected them to clarify that the blessings of same-sex couples extended only to pastoral blessing, and not to liturgical rites including marriage.”

Elias Atienza

Senior Reporter
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