In an extraordinary show of harmony both the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby and Pope Francis have separately announced the ground-breaking decision that Roman Catholic priests and vicars in the Church of England can now give blessings to same-sex couples, together with a softening towards divorced and remarried couples.
This huge step forward for the LGBTQ+ community was not without strong objections from other clerics within the respective Churches. Both Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Canterbury have had to face robust opposition from among their most senior clerics.
The General Synod of the Church of England issued the following statement after agreement that services of prayer and dedication should soon be introduced on a trial basis:
“That this Synod, conscious that the Church is not of one mind on the issues raised by Living in Love and Faith, that we are in a period of uncertainty, and that many in the Church on all sides are being deeply hurt at this time, recognise the progress made by the House of Bishops towards implementing the motion on Living in Love and Faith passed by this Synod in February 2023, as reported in GS 2328, encourage the House to continue its work of implementation, and ask the House to consider whether some standalone services for same-sex couples could be made available for use, possibly on a trial basis, on the timescale envisaged by the motion passed by the Synod in February 2023.”
Similarly, The Vatican issued the doctrinal office’s document, reversing a previous declaration, emphasised that such blessings do not endorse irregular situations but signify God’s inclusive love. Highlighting that the blessing seeks enrichment, healing, and elevation by the Holy Spirit for the true, good, and humanly valid aspects of people’s lives and relationships.
Clarifying that this gesture is distinct from the sacrament of heterosexual marriage, the Vatican urged priests to evaluate each case individually and not hinder the Church’s support for people seeking spiritual help through a simple blessing.
This move follows hints by Pope Francis in October during a bishops’ synod. While the October response was more nuanced, Monday’s comprehensive eight-page document titled “On the Pastoral Meaning of Blessings” explicitly outlined scenarios regarding blessings for couples in irregular situations and same-sex couples.
However, this decision is likely to face opposition from conservatives, the new guidance could lead to misunderstanding and division within the Church.
The document specified that the blessing should not align with a civil marriage ceremony and must not mimic wedding rituals. It suggested alternative settings for these blessings, such as pilgrimages, meetings with priests, or group prayers.
The ruling, signed by Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernandez, the head of the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, was approved by the Pope during a private audience on Monday 18th December.
Religious devotion of all types is dwindling and religious traditionalists may find themselves out of step with their congregations. Hard-liners may find that they fracture the diminishing congregations and that they must adapt or suffer decline.
Gay Lawyers, Giambrone & Partners’ LGBTQ+ division can advise and assist the LGBTQ+ community in a wide range of legal issues.
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