Priests cannot bless same-sex unions according to a Vatican decree issued on Monday that has the approval of Pope Francis.
The decree, which links blessings categorically to sacraments such as marriage, rules that same-sex unions — which the Church does not recognize as married unions — are illicit and, as such, cannot be blessed.
“The declaration of the unlawfulness of blessings of unions between persons of the same sex is not, therefore, and is not intended to be, a form of unjust discrimination,” the decree adds, “but rather a reminder of the truth of the liturgical rite and of the very nature of the sacramentals, as the Church understands them.”
While Pope Francis has shown more favorable attitudes toward same-sex unions than his predecessors, the decree is a reminder that the Church’s view of marriage remains rooted in the notion of a union between a man and a woman. The Washington Post reports that its issuance is designed to dissuade priests who are, or are considering, blessing same-sex unions within their own parishes.
“[Pope Francis] has extended a warmer welcome than any of his predecessors have done,” Patrick Hornbeck, professor of theology at Fordham University, told the Post. “But today’s statement shows that his hospitality has limits.”
The Church’s stand against gay marriage is in opposition to the views of many of its own parishioners across much of the United States and Western Europe. According to the Pew Research Center, 61% of Catholics in the United States support same-sex marriage, which is also supported by a majority of Catholics across 11 Western European countries.