The Catholic Church does not have the power to bless same-sex unions although it can give blessings to individual persons "with homosexual inclinations," the Vatican has said.
The message on March 15, approved by Pope Francis, came in response to questions about whether the church should reflect the increasing social and legal acceptance of same-sex unions.
"Does the Church have the power to give the blessing to unions of persons of the same sex?" the question asked.
"Negative," replied the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which is responsible for defending Catholic doctrine.
In its "explanatory note," the Vatican said that in some ecclesial contexts, plans and proposals for blessings of unions of persons of the same sex were being advanced.
"Such projects are not infrequently motivated by a sincere desire to welcome and accompany homosexual persons, to whom are proposed paths of growth in faith, '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.'"
As blessings on people are in relationship with the sacraments, the blessing of homosexual unions cannot be considered acceptable.
"This is because they would constitute a certain imitation or analogue of the nuptial blessinginvoked on the man and woman united in the sacrament of Matrimony, while in fact 'there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God's plan for marriage and family.'"
NOT INTENDED AS 'UNJUST DISCRIMINATION'
The doctrinal congregation said that the declaration of the unlawfulness of blessings of unions between persons of the same sex is not intended to be, a form of unjust discrimination.
It is rather "a reminder of the truth of the liturgical rite and of the very nature of the sacramentals, as the Church understands them."
The declaration said the Church recalls that God Himself never ceases to bless each of His pilgrim children, because for Him "we are more important to God than all of the sins that we can commit."
"But he does not and cannot bless sin: he blesses sinful man, so that he may recognize that he is part of his plan of love and allow himself to be changed by him. He in fact 'takes us as we are, but never leaves us as we are.'"
"For the above mentioned reasons, the Church does not have, and cannot have, the power to bless unions of persons of the same sex in the sense intended above."
The National Catholic Register in the United States ran a story on the announcement headlined, "Vatican says priests can't bless gay couples. Why did Pope Francis approve this decree?"
"Pope Francis, who made headlines in the first months of his papacy by responding, "Who am I to judge? when asked about gay priests, has now signed off on a Vatican decree that priests cannot bless same-sex unions since God "cannot bless sin."
"For some, the new decree may result in whiplash, coming less than five months after the Pope made headlines in a documentary film for once more affirming his support of civil union laws for same-sex couples.
"For others, it's further affirmation of the church's teaching that 'homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.' But for all, it's another tricky move in Francis' tightrope walk of upholding church teaching, while also trying to extend a warmer welcome to LGBTQ persons."
NCR said the Vatican's decree comes at a time when Catholics in Western Europe and the United States are increasingly accepting of LGBTQ relationships, with 61 percent of U.S. Catholics approving of gay marriage.
Another U.S. outlet Christian Headlines reported, "The Vatican on Monday pointed to Scripture and centuries of church teaching in stating it does not have the power to bless same-sex unions.