Chicagoans react to Pope Francis same-sex blessing decision, radical change to Vatican policy

Monday, December 18, 2023
Chicagoans react to Pope Francis same-sex blessing decision
The pope said Monday that Catholic priests can bless same-sex couples, in a major change to Vatican policy.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Pope Francis is now allowing Catholic priests to bless same-sex couples.

This is a radical change in Vatican policy.

In a document, the pope said anyone seeking God's love should not be subject to moral analysis.

But the co-director of AGLOChicago, an LGBTQ+ outreach organization in Chicago, said they've waited for this for decades.

"Caught myself just like filled with joy. It was just a sense of affirmation," Rick Guasco said.

The pope said Monday that Catholic priests can bless same-sex couples, in a major change to Vatican policy.

AGLOChicago stands for the Archdiocesan Gay and Lesbian Outreach of Chicago.

Guasco said the allowing of blessings of same-sex couples in the Catholic Church is a step in the right direction.

"Progress is not going to stop with this announcement. So, it's gradual," Guasco said.

"First of all, I was very surprised. I couldn't believe it, in a good way," said Katherine Abel.

Abel co-founded Affirmed, a ministry welcoming LGBTQ+ Catholics that originated at St. Clement Parish in Lincoln Park.

"I think he really is trying to say, you know, you have a safe space here. You are worthy of salvation in the same way as every Catholic is worthy of salvation," she said. "I would hope that it leads to the church being able to fully recognize the marriages of all human beings."

The announcement from the Vatican does come with clarification.

The decision does not change the church's position on marriage: That remains a union between a man and a woman.

The blessing can't be performed during a civil union or with any clothing, gesture or words that would be used at a wedding.

The blessing can be offered during a visit to a Catholic shrine, a meeting with a priest or group prayer.

Guasco said while the announcement is a great moment for the LGBTQ+ community, he understands not everybody is in agreement.

"I can't change who I am, even if I want it to. And I'm certainly not going to change just because somebody on one side of the issue or another is angry or doesn't agree," Guasco said.

But, he said he wants those who may feel different to still feel at home in church.

"There is a place for them in church, that we are people of faith who walked together," Guasco said.

In a statement Monday night, Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, archbishop of Chicago, said:

"Today, with the approval of the Holy Father, the Dicastery of the Doctrine of the Faith issued the Declaration Fiducia supplicans. The Declaration clarifies that there are forms of blessings, as we see throughout the Scriptures, which are 'poured out on others as a gesture of grace, protection, and goodness.' Consequently, it is now permissible for ordained ministers of the Church to 'join in the prayer of those persons who, although in a union that cannot be compared in any way to a marriage, desire to entrust themselves to the Lord and his mercy, to invoke his help, and to be guided to a greater understanding of his plan of love and of truth.'

"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.' 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.

"At the same time, the Declaration 'remains firm on the traditional doctrine of the Church about marriage, not allowing any type of liturgical rite or blessing similar to a liturgical rite that can create confusion.' This is in keeping with what Pope Francis wrote in July of this year, that while 'pastoral prudence must adequately discern whether there are forms of blessing, requested by one or more persons, that do not convey an erroneous conception of marriage, is not appropriate for a diocese, a bishops' conference, or any other ecclesial structure to constantly and officially establish procedures or rituals for all kinds of matters.'

"The Declaration is quite specific in this regard, noting that in order 'to avoid any form of confusion or scandal, when the prayer of blessing is requested by a couple in an irregular situation, even though it is expressed outside the rites prescribed by the liturgical books, this blessing should never be imparted in concurrence with the ceremonies of a civil union, and not even in connection with them. Nor can it be performed with any clothing, gestures, or words that are proper to a wedding. The same applies when the blessing is requested by a same-sex couple.'

"Consequently, such blessings should take place 'in other contexts, such as a visit to a shrine, a meeting with a priest, a prayer recited in a group, or during a pilgrimage. Indeed, through these blessings that are given not through the ritual forms proper to the liturgy but as an expression of the Church's maternal heart-similar to those that emanate from the core of popular piety-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.'

"In sum, what is required is a pastoral approach, for the Church, as a loving mother, 'must shy away from resting its pastoral praxis on the fixed nature of certain doctrinal or disciplinary schemes, especially when they lead to a narcissistic and authoritarian elitism, whereby instead of evangelizing, one analyzes and classifies others, and instead of opening the door to grace, one exhausts his or her energies in inspecting and verifying... Thus, when people ask for a blessing, an exhaustive moral analysis should not be placed as a precondition for conferring it. For, those seeking a blessing should not be required to have prior moral perfection.'

"Here in the Archdiocese of Chicago, we welcome this declaration, which will help many more in our community feel the closeness and compassion of God."