Pope Francis on Monday announced that Catholic Bishops can now give same-sex couples their blessing under certain conditions, a major shift as the Catholic Church signals its intent to become more LGBTQ-friendly.
The Vatican stressed that the blessing does not infringe upon “the traditional doctrine of the church about marriage” because the blessing falls outside the liturgical context.
Vatican observers had for months predicted some change to longstanding church policy following similar drafts emerging from Bishop conferences in the last several months.
Some call it “meaningful,” others believe it’s “blasphemy”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, reaction to the Pope’s move was divided along progressive-conservative lines. It is “meaningful” given “the increased aggression of anti-LGBTQ extremists” over the past few years, wrote Charlotte Clymer, a former press secretary at the Human Rights Campaign, while right-wing commentator Carmine Sabia said it was “blasphemy” and called for Pope Francis to be removed. But the significance “cannot be overstated”, one member of the LGBTQ-friendly New Ways Ministry told the Associated Press, adding that it indicates LGBTQ couples are no longer subject to “an exhaustive moral analysis.” Meanwhile, Catholic traditionalist T.S. Flanders wrote for news blog One Peter Five that the decision is “another bunch of nonsense,” arguing that other Francis-issued doctrines contradict the latest announcement because the Pope has previously said that Bishops can bless LGBTQ individuals but not couples.
CORRECTION: Charlotte Clymer is a former press secretary at Human Rights Campaign. An earlier version of this story mistakenly said she was a former communications director at Human Rights Watch.
Francis’ church is very different from Benedict’s
“The church of 2023 is certainly not the church of 2013,” an editorial from the progressive National Catholic Review said. Since Francis’ accession, there has been an “extraordinary, if tentative, movement” within the church to include LGBTQ members. This is a stark contrast to the church under former Pope Benedict, a traditionalist who worked to exclude any gay man from entering the Catholic seminary. While noting Francis’ reforms like allowing transgender people to become godparents, there are also “many disappointments,” the editorial said, citing the 2023 synod assembly’s failure to acknowledge discussions of LGBTQ issues in its final document and the U.S. diocese largely ignoring Vatican doctrines and creating a “culture of fear” for LGBTQ students.
Conservative American Catholics spend millions to oppose “woke” pope
While Francis is popular in the U.S., a group of wealthy conservatives is pushing the American church to the right to oppose his “woke ideology,” the Los Angeles Times reported. These efforts have been spearheaded by laypeople like attorney Tim Busch, whose growing influence among conservative Catholics illustrates the dwindling power of scandal-plagued American bishops and reflects the divided politics of Catholic leaders like President Joe Biden around the abortion issue. Some have poured millions into funding conservative Catholic challengers to Francis, invigorating many Republican voters, but also provoking the Vatican to start purging vocal critics of Francis’ reforms. But the pope is “a victim of mistaken identity,” one conservative Catholic told the Times, given that he remains very conservative on key issues like abortion. Francis’ opponents often do not actually read the Pope’s teachings and “allow liberals to define him in the media.”