Today, December 18, 2023, the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a declaration, Fiducia supplicans, On the Pastoral Meaning of Blessings. In clarifying the meaning of blessings, and indeed in making a distinction between formal, liturgical blessings and more informal, spontaneous blessings, the Vatican opened the possibility of ordained ministers (bishops, priests, deacons) offering spontaneous, informal blessings to couples in unions that are either “irregular” (non-sacramental) or same sex (non-sacramental).
The document explicitly states that rites and prayers that could be confused with the sacrament of marriage are inadmissible,” thereby maintaining a clear distinction between the sacrament of marriage and the spontaneous blessings for couples in non-sacramental unions. The declaration reaffirms the Church’s definition of the sacrament of marriage as the “exclusive, stable, and indissoluble union between a man and a woman, naturally open to the generation of children,”(4) as clarified by Pope Francis earlier this year.
Yet, the Church recognizes the pastoral need to respond to those who humbly seek a blessing and express a desire for God’s mercy and assistance in order to dialogue with and invite them to a deeper relationship with the Lord. Thus, the declaration notes that the “ordained minister [may] 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” (30). This declaration represents an important clarification that acknowledges and responds to the diverse realities of people’s lives while upholding the Church’s teachings on sacramental marriage.
Text of Fiducia Supplicans: https://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/it/bollettino/pubblico/2023/12/18/0901/01963.html#en