Joseph Peter Calleja, Manila
Updated: March 16, 2021 07:45 AM GMT
Pope Francis has approved a document issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which states the clergy cannot bless same-sex unions. (Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP)
Gay couples in the Philippines have hit out at Pope Francis and the Catholic Church after the Vatican ruled out giving blessings to same-sex unions.
The Church cannot bless a sexual relationship that falls outside the bounds of a marriage between a man and a woman, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) said on March 15 in a document approved by the pope.
The CDF is one of nine congregations of the Roman Curia tasked to promulgate and to defend Catholic doctrine.
It was responding to a question as to whether the Church has the power to bless gay unions.
It also came just months after the pope indicated in a documentary that he backed civil unions for same-sex couples.
“We are hurt. We thought Pope Francis was welcoming of same-sex couples. We’ve been hoping that at least a blessing could be given as an act of mercy and compassion, but I think there was a denial of mercy and compassion in this case,” one gay couple told UCA News.
A blessing and a wedding are two different things, they said.
Reading the document was discouraging and disheartening to members of the gay community in the Philippines and around the world, they added.
“We were discouraged because we thought Pope Francis could be our voice in a church dominated by very conservative Catholics. The battle is not over. We will continue to hope,” the couple said.
The document affirmed the Catholic Church’s stance on same-sex marriage that it does not conform to God’s plan.
“The presence in such relationships of positive elements, which are in themselves to be valued and appreciated, cannot justify these relationships and render them legitimate objects of an ecclesial blessing since the positive elements exist within the context of a union not ordered to the Creator’s plan,” said the document.
The Vatican said that although the Catholic Church can bless sinners, it could not bless sin itself.
“But he [God] does not and cannot bless sin: he blesses sinful man, so that he may recognize that he is part of his plan of love and allow himself to be changed by him. He in fact ‘takes us as we are, but never leaves us as we are’.”
Father Roland Benitez of Catarman Diocese in Samar province said members of the gay community could still seek blessings as individual members of the Catholic Church.
“The Vatican does not say it marginalizes the gay community. What it simply says is that the Church does not have the authority to bless a union that is contrary to its teachings to begin with,” Father Benitez told UCA News.