Catholic Church’s teaching on marriage ‘has not changed’ after Vatican document, US bishops say

A document from the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith that approved blessings for people in same-sex relationships caused waves as prelates in the U.S. attempt to clarify the document.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) published guidance for the U.S. faithful on Monday after the release of “Fiducia supplicans,” the document which approved pastoral blessings given to remarried individuals and people in same-sex relationships under strict parameters.

“The Declaration issued today by the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF) articulated a distinction between liturgical (sacramental) blessings, and pastoral blessings, which may be given to persons who desire God’s loving grace in their lives,” the USCCB wrote.

“The Church’s teaching on marriage has not changed, and this declaration affirms that, while also making an effort to accompany people through the imparting of pastoral blessings because each of us needs God’s healing love and mercy in our lives,” the bishops continued.

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In this photo, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops hosts its annual General Assembly meeting in Baltimore. (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

The document affirmed the Catholic Church’s inability to change the sacrament of marriage, which it defines as an “exclusive, stable, and indissoluble union between a man and a woman, naturally open to the generation of children.”

“This is also the understanding of marriage that is offered by the Gospel. For this reason, when it comes to blessings, the Church has the right and the duty to avoid any rite that might contradict this conviction or lead to confusion,” the Vatican document reads. “Such is also the meaning of the Responsum of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which states that the Church does not have the power to impart blessings on unions of persons of the same sex.”

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Vatican City State

The city of Rome, in Italy, is seen beyond St. Peter’s Square from the roof of the Basilica in Vatican City. (Alessia Pierdomenico/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Since the document was published, individual bishops in the U.S. have offered their own personal explanations to help their parishioners understand the document.

“This blessing is not for people seeking a legitimation of same sex union but for those seeking to live better,” said Bishop Andrew Cozzens of the Diocese of Crookston.

Cozzens emphasized a quote from the document in his statement: “There is no intention to legitimize anything, but rather to open one’s life to God, to ask for his help to live better, and also to invoke the Holy Spirit so that the values of the Gospel may be lived with greater faithfulness.”

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Cardinal Blase Cupich

Cardinal Blase Joseph Cupich leads Easter Mass at St. Francis Borgia Parish on the Northwest Side of Chicago. (Jacek Boczarski/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Cardinal Blase Cupich, archbishop of Chicago, spoke glowingly of “Fiducia Supplicans” and called the document a “step forward” for the Catholic Church.

“At the heart of the Declaration is a call for pastors to take a pastoral approach by being available to people who, while not claiming a legitimation of their own status, recognize their need for God’s help and ‘who beg that all that is true, good, and humanly valid in their lives and their relationships be enriched, healed, and elevated by the presence of the Holy Spirit,’” the cardinal wrote.

He continued, “As such, the Declaration is a step forward, and in keeping not only with Pope Francis’s desire to accompany people pastorally but Jesus’s desire to be present to all people who desire grace and support.”

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German Cardinal Marx

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, center, bishop of Munich and Freising and head of the German Bishops’ Conference, arrives for the opening mass of the bishops’ conference in Fulda, Germany. (Arne Dedert/dpa via AP)

However, despite the continued reassurances that “Fiducia Supplicans” does not materially change any Catholic teaching on marriage and sexuality, laity around the world have expressed concern that the document will invigorate leaders in the Church who have historically stood opposed to the doctrine.

The German Bishops’ Conference — infamous for its yearslong push for changes to priestly celibacy, male-only ordination, and traditional marriage — amplified in its statement a reaction to the document from Chairman of the Federation of German Catholic Youth Gregor Podschun, who criticized the document for not going far enough in accepting “queer” individuals.

“The text from Rome also continues to contain an attitude and theology that is discriminatory and anti-queer,” Podschun said in a statement. “The bishops, who, with reference to Rome, did not want to implement the decision of the Synodal Path on the subject of blessings, now have no reason to wait any longer. We expect that blessings will now be made possible in all dioceses.”

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