Italian Church Offers Public Blessing to Gay Couple Amidst Controversy

A couple hold hands as protesters march through the Dutch capital Amsterdam to show solidarity for two gay men who were badly beaten over the weekend in the eastern city of Arnhem, Wednesday, April 5, 2017. The peaceful match was part of a national outpouring of anger at the incident …
AP Photo/Michael C Corder

ROME — A Catholic church outside Bologna bestowed a public blessing on a gay couple last week with the permission of Bologna’s Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, a leading candidate for the next papal election.

On June 11, Pietro Morotti and Giacomo Spagnoli were joined civilly in the Municipality of Budrio in the province of Bologna, after which they processed from the Town Hall across the square into the Church of San Lorenzo for a special Mass concelebrated by 7 Catholic priests.

“It was a blessing of two men just civilly united,” said Father Antonio Bai, pastor of the church of Budrio, but then again, “a blessing is not denied to anyone, right?”

The main celebrant of the thanksgiving Mass — which included all the typical wedding trappings such as flowers, tuxedos, and a photographer — was Father Gabriele Davalli, who has been providing pastoral care for the two men as part of his LGBT outreach and who declared that Bologna Archbishop Cardinal Matteo Zuppi had been informed of the special celebration.

In March 2021, the Vatican’s doctrinal office (CDF) reiterated the Church’s prohibition of blessings for same-sex couples, insisting that God Himself “does not and cannot bless sin.”

Supporters hold up rainbow flags to signal their support for reforms of the Catholic Church in dealing with homosexual blessings on the opening day of a congress of the “Synadoler Weg” Catholic reform movement on February 03, 2022 in Frankfurt, Germany. (Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images)

The Church does not have the power to give a blessing to unions of persons of the same sex, the Vatican text stated, since blessings require “that what is blessed be objectively and positively ordered to receive and express grace.”

It is not licit to impart a blessing on unions between persons of the same sex because the union itself is “not ordered to the Creator’s plan,” the text declared.

The denial of the possibility of blessing a homosexual couple “does not preclude the blessings given to individual persons with homosexual inclinations,” the text clarified, but only “any form of blessing that tends to acknowledge their unions as such.”

The case of a Church blessing for a gay couple outside Bologna has raised quite a stir because the archbishop of Bologna was personally appointed by Pope Francis last month as president of the Italian Bishops’ Conference (CEI).

Italian Cardinal Matteo Maria Zuppi hosts a press conference closing the Italian Bishops’ Conference (Conferenza Episcopale Italiana, CEI) on May 27, 2022 in Rome. (ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP via Getty)

The cardinal famously wrote the preface for the Italian edition of Jesuit Father James Martin’s 2018 book Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity.

Zuppi is also considered a leading contender for the papacy were a conclave to be held in the near future and is deemed to be a favorite among progressives.

In a recent article for Crux, an online Catholic news agency, veteran Vatican journalist John L. Allen, Jr. placed Cardinal Zuppi on the short list of papabili or papal candidates, noting his status as “a strong Francis ally” and “a product of the Community of Sant’Egidio,” which has long had a presence in the Catholic peripheries favored by Francis.

Italian Vatican analyst Domenico Agasso similarly underscored Zuppi’s prominence as a favorite for the papacy, declaring that he knows “no other figure at this high level that has the capacity for dialogue and consensus as Zuppi,” while the Communist daily newspaper Il Manifesto simply announced that Zuppi is “truly papabile.”

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