Pope Francis approved the directive published in an eight-page document titled “Fiducia supplicans: on the pastoral meaning of blessings”, which has been a subject of controversy since its release.
Some have described the decision as an endorsement of homosexuality. While this development excites supporters of the homosexual cause, some conservative Christians perceive it to be a deviation from Scripture.
The Associated Press (AP) reported few days ago that some Catholic bishops in Africa, Poland and elsewhere say they will not implement the new Vatican policy allowing blessings for same-sex couples.
It noted that others downplayed the policy approved this week by Pope Francis as merely reaffirming the Vatican’s long-standing teaching about marriage being only a union between a man and a woman.
Martin Otse, a Nigerian social media content creator popularly known as the ‘VeryDarkBlackMan,’ said on Instagram that the Pope issued the publication to authorise priests to officiate marriage ceremonies between persons of the same sex.
In a three-minute video posted on his Instagram page on Monday, December 18, 2023, and archived by this reporter, Otse claimed the Pope was part of a grand scheme to legalise homosexual relationships in Africa through religion.
The video begins with Otse saying, “Breaking news: Pope Francis has approved that reverend fathers will bless same-sex marriage. That means from now on, if you go Catholic Church, man and man say dem wan marry, father no get any other choice than to bless am because the order is coming from the Pope, because they know say na Pope get divine say.”
Otse also said same-sex marriage was being introduced to Africa through the church, but despite speaking of a grand conspiracy, he did not mention names other than the Pope and the church.
Pope Francis endorsed same-sex marriage and asked priests to officiate it.
Checks show that Otse’s claim is MISLEADING.
This reporter obtained the Vatican document and reviewed its wording to see how Otse’s claim holds up.
An excerpt from this document reads: “The value of this document, however, is that it offers a specific and innovative contribution to the pastoral meaning of blessings, permitting a broadening and enrichment of the classical understanding of blessings, which is closely linked to a liturgical perspective.”
It adds, “It is precisely in this context that one can understand the possibility of blessing couples in irregular situations and same-sex couples without officially validating their status or changing in any way the Church’s perennial teaching on marriage.”
What the church said in its document is that priests will now be able to bless same-sex couples, divorcees, and others they naturally wouldn’t bless, as long as it is not done in church as a form of marriage ceremony or an event that indicates the joining of two people of the same sex in marriage.
“Therefore, rites and prayers that could create confusion between what constitutes marriage—which is the ‘exclusive, stable, and indissoluble union between a man and a woman, naturally open to the generation of children’—and what contradicts it are inadmissible. This conviction is grounded in the perennial Catholic doctrine of marriage; it is only in this context that sexual relations find their natural, proper, and fully human meaning. The Church’s doctrine on this point remains firm,” the document adds.
The church allows priests to refuse to bless people of the same sex if it would be perceived as an endorsement of their union.
“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,” a portion of the document reads.
The claim by Otse that Pope Francis endorsed same-sex marriage and asked priests to officiate it is MISLEADING; the Vatican document restates the Catholic church’s doctrine of marriage as “an indissoluble union between a man and a woman, naturally open to the generation of children.”
* This fact-check was written by Daniel Ojukwu, a fellow of the ICIR’s Countering Misinformation and Promoting Media Literacy project, supported by the German Embassy in Abuja, Nigeria.