Same-Sex Blessings and the Church
By Father Kenneth Wasilewski
In my last article (April 9) I gave a brief overview of the role blessings play in the life of the Church. It’s important to have a little background in order to better understand a recent decision by the Vatican regarding certain blessings which cannot be given.
On Feb. 22, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, with Pope Francis’ consent, published their answer to a question raised about the possibility of the Church blessing the unions of committed same-sex couples. The Congregation responded by saying that the Church could not offer such a blessing. It then explained why it reached that conclusion. 
For those who may be particularly interested in this topic and would like to read the document firsthand, it can be found at the Vatican website or through an internet search. The actual title is: “Responsum of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to a dubium regarding the blessing of the unions of persons of the same sex.” 
The Vatican’s decision was not well received by some in the Church, perhaps most notably, a group of over 200 German theologians who issued a formal rejection of the Congregation’s conclusion. That rejection was echoed by some prominent clergy members in Germany and elsewhere. Nevertheless, it may be helpful to look at some of the points the Responsum makes..
But first, it’s good to keep in mind that the Church’s long-standing teaching about marriage is based on divine revelation. As such, it’s not as malleable as the modern world’s view of marriage and sexuality. Therefore, the Congregation’s response should not come as a great surprise. 
The Responsum simply explains that no union can be blessed which isn’t in conformity with the Church’s understanding of marriage. This would pertain not only to same-sex unions, but would be equally true of some heterosexual unions. 
The Church would never offer a blessing for the union formed by a heterosexual couple who decide to live together before marriage. There is no such thing as a “cohabitation blessing” in the Catholic Church. 
Likewise, the Church would not offer a blessing for the union of a Catholic couple who choose to forego marriage altogether (for instance for those who enter a formal non-nuptial agreement) or who want to be in a polygamous relationship or, much more commonly, who are simply married outside the Church. 
This current response, although specific to same-sex unions, is the same response that would be given regarding any of these other relationships which might exist. 
Relationships like these, as with many same-sex unions, may involve sincere love and sacrifice. These couples may have genuine virtue and there may be many noble elements in their relationships. 
This is something that the Vatican’s response also mentions. No one would deny that there can be many good points in any of these relationships. But such things do not erase the fact that the union itself (and this is, after all, what is in question) is not in agreement with the Church’s understanding of God’s design for marriage. To ask God’s favor on that which departs from His design would not only be a contradiction but would publicly condone that which Church teaching has always said “no” to. 
It is important to reiterate though, that it is the union itself which is ineligible for a blessing. The individuals involved — being made in God’s image and likeness — can still receive a blessing, as we all can. The Church does not and would not deny a person striving to live their Christianity a blessing, but it cannot and will not bless something that contravenes what it understands to be God’s design. 
While some may want the Church to alter her teaching or adopt a more progressive view of marriage and sexuality, this recent statement emphasizes the fact that the Church is only tasked with safeguarding God’s plan for marriage, not changing it.