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(WB) The Vatican on Monday said the Catholic Church cannot bless same-sex unions.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which defends Catholic teachings, in a two-page decree it published on its website said it cannot bless “sin.”

“It is not licit to impart a blessing on relationships, or partnerships, even stable, that involve sexual activity outside of marriage [i.e., outside the indissoluble union of a man and a woman open in itself to the transmission of life], as is the case of the unions between persons of the same sex,” reads the decree. “The presence in such relationships of positive elements, which are in themselves to be valued and appreciated, cannot justify these relationships and render them legitimate objects of an ecclesial blessing, since the positive elements exist within the context of a union not ordered to the Creator’s plan.”

The decree, which Pope Francis approved, is dated Feb. 22. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published it less than five months after the pontiff publicly endorsed civil unions for same-sex couples.

“Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family,” said Francis in “Francesco,” a documentary about his life that debuted at the Rome Film Festival on Oct. 21, 2020. “They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out, or be made miserable because of it.”

Francis, who was then known as Jorge Bergoglio, vehemently opposed a marriage equality bill in his native Argentina. Francis was the archbishop of Buenos Aires when then-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner signed it into law in 2020.

The Vatican’s tone towards LGBT-specific issues has softened since Francis became pope in 2013. Church teachings on homosexuality and gender identity, however, have not changed.

“It is not surprising, but still disappointing, that the Vatican has responded ‘no’ to the dubium about whether the church can bless same-sex unions,” said Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, a Maryland-based group that ministers to LGBT Catholics, in a statement.

“This decision though is an impotent one because it won’t stop the movement to bless such couples, and, in fact, it will actually encourage Catholics in the pews and the many Catholic leaders who are eager for such blessings to happen to work harder in their support — and blessing — of same-sex couples,” added DeBernardo.

Esteban Paulón, an LGBT activist in Argentina, echoed DeBernardo.

“It truly doesn’t surprise me,” Paulón told the Washington Blade on Monday after the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published its decree. “We have seen consistently ambiguous signals in relation to the LGBTI community during the eight years of Francis’ papacy.”

Juan Carlos Cruz, a gay man from Chile who is a survivor of clergy sex abuse, met with Francis at the Vatican in 2018.

Cruz on Monday referenced Tomás de Torquemada, who spearheaded the Spanish Inquisition, in his response to the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith’s decree.

“The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and especially its prefects are completely in a world of their own, away from people and trying to defend the indefensible,” Cruz told the Blade. “We see it in this quest to annihilate LGBT people, in the slowness with which the crimes of abuse are dealt with, their inhumanity in their awareness of people’s suffering so contrary to Pope Francis who I don’t know why he allows such inhumane and self-interested people in charge.”

Cruz added if “the church and the CDF [Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith] do not advance with the world and in addition to living constantly rejecting and speaking negatively and not putting priorities where they should be, Catholics will continue to flee and we will become a rigid church, of norms, pointing the finger at many and that will only make people run and walk away.”

“As a Catholic, I would immediately ask for a change in the leadership of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which every day resembles that of the infamous Torquemada himself and not that of the pastors that Francis proposes to us,” said Cruz.