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of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
to a dubium regarding
the blessing of the unions of persons of the same sex
Article of Commentary on the
Responsum ad dubium
The new statement of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is a
response to a question – in classical terms, to a dubium – occasioned, as
is normally the case, by pastors and faithful who require clarification and
guidance concerning a controversial issue. When questions are triggered by
problematic assertions or practices in important areas of Christian life, an
affirmative or negative response is provided, along with a statement of the
reasoning that supports the response presented. The purpose of such
interventions is to help the universal Church to respond better to the demands
of the Gospel, to settle disputes, and to foster healthy communion among the
holy people of God.
In the present case, a disputed question has arisen in the framework of the
“sincere desire to welcome and accompany homosexual persons, to whom are
proposed paths of growth in faith” (Explanatory Note), as indicated by
the Holy Father Pope Francis at the conclusion of two Synodal Assemblies on the
family: “so that those who manifest a homosexual orientation can receive the
assistance they need to understand and fully carry out God’s will in their
lives” (Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia, n. 250). These words are
an invitation to evaluate, with appropriate discernment, projects and pastoral
proposals directed to this end. Among these are blessings given to the unions of
persons of the same sex. It is therefore asked whether the Church has the power
to impart her blessing: this is the formula contained in the quaesitum.
The answer - the Responsum ad dubium – is explained and motivated in the
attached Explanatory Note of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the
Faith, dated February 22, 2021, to the publication of which Pope Francis himself
has given his assent.
The Note is centered on the fundamental and decisive distinction between
persons and the union. This is so that the negative judgment on the blessing of
unions of persons of the same sex does not imply a judgment on persons.
Persons first and foremost. In their regard, what is stated in n. 4 of the
Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between
Homosexual Persons written by the same Congregation, and recalled by the
Catechism of the Catholic Church, must never be forgotten: “According to the
teaching of the Church, men and women with homosexual tendencies ‘must be
accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust
discrimination in their regard should be avoided’ (2358)”. This teaching is
recalled and reaffirmed by the Note.
As for unions of persons of the same sex, the response to the dubium
“declares illicit any form of blessing that tends to acknowledge their unions as
such”. The Explanatory Note bases the illicitness on three interconnected
The first reason arises from the truth and value of blessings. They belong to
the genre of sacramentals, which are “liturgical actions of the Church”
that require consonance of life with what they signify and generate. There are
meanings and outcomes of grace that the Note explains in concise form.
Consequently, a blessing on a human relationship requires that it be ordered to
both receive and express the good that is pronounced and given by the blessing.
Thus we come to the second reason: the order that makes one fit to receive the
gift is given by the “designs of God inscribed in creation, and fully revealed
by Christ the Lord”. These are designs to which “relationships, or partnerships,
even stable, that involve sexual activity outside of marriage” do not
correspond, for they are “outside the indissoluble union of a man and a woman
open in itself to the transmission of life.” However, not only these unions – as
if the problem were only such unions – but any union that involves sexual
activity outside of marriage, which is illicit from the moral point of view,
according to the perennial teaching of the ecclesial Magisterium.
This all implies a power that the Church does not possess, because she does not
have the power over God's designs, which would otherwise be rejected and denied.
The Church is not the arbiter of these designs and the truths they express, but
their faithful interpreter and witness.
The third reason is to avert an error into which one would easily be led: that
of assimilating the blessing of unions of persons of the same sex to that of
matrimonial unions. Because of the connection between blessings of persons and
the sacraments, the blessing of such unions could in a sense imply “a certain
imitation or analogue of the nuptial blessing”, imparted to a man and a woman
united in the sacrament of Matrimony. This would be erroneous and misleading.
For the above reasons “the blessing of homosexual unions cannot be considered
licit”. This statement in no way detracts from the human and Christian
consideration in which the Church holds each person. So much so that the
response to the dubium “does not preclude the blessings given to
individual persons with homosexual inclinations who manifest the will to live in
fidelity to the revealed plans of God as proposed by Church teaching”.