The White House weighed in on the news that Pope Francis, the head of the Catholic Church, reaffirmed Catholic teaching on the subject of gay marriage Monday, signing off on a document explicitly prohibiting priests from blessing same-sex unions.
President Joe Biden, Press Secretary Jen Psaki noted at her Monday afternoon press conference, disagrees with the Church’s stance despite considering himself a devout Catholic.
Back in November, the Vatican rushed to explain a comment on same-sex marriage that Pope Francis made in a documentary, in which he appeared to endorse the idea of civil unions and to suggest that there could be a path forward for the Catholic Church to recognize such relationships, according to NBC News.
At the time, the Vatican noted that Pope Francis, then archbishop of Buenos Aires, was speaking in favor of extending legal protections to same-sex couples, but that Francis did not suggest changing Catholic doctrine. Vatican officials pointed to a 2003 document stating, without reservation that, though the Church cares for and supports gay people, recognition “cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behavior or to legal recognition of homosexual unions.”
On Monday, the Pope reaffirmed Catholic teaching on the subject, endorsing a decision by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, the Church’s central teaching body, barring priests from blessing same-sex unions.
“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 CDF’s report said. God, the document continued, “does not and cannot bless sin: He blesses sinful man, so that he may recognize that he is part of his plan of love and allow himself to be changed by him.”
The Catholic Church also does not perform nor recognize same-sex unions. Marriage, a sacrament within the Church, is limited to one man and one woman.
Biden, who deviates from the Catholic Church on a number of key issues — most notably in his support for abortion rights — also supports gay marriage, the White House reiterated Monday.
“The Vatican today said that it would not bless same-sex unions,” one reporter queried Psaki. “The president is a devout Catholic. Does he have a personal response to that?”
“I don’t think he has a personal response to the Vatican,” Psaki said. “He continues to believe and support same-sex unions, as you know, and he’s long had that position.”
That puts Biden at odds with the Church and suggests that while calling himself a “devout” Catholic, Biden has serious issues with teachings that are central to Catholic dogma, like its teachings on the sacrament of marriage.
Such issues have spelled trouble for Biden before. Ahead of his inauguration, Archbishop José H. Gomez, the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, issued a scathing statement decrying Biden’s support for abortion and warning that “our new President has pledged to pursue certain policies that would advance moral evils and threaten human life and dignity, most seriously in the areas of abortion, contraception, marriage, and gender.” “For the nation’s bishops,” the statement went on, “the continued injustice of abortion remains the preeminent priority.”
Psaki has responded to criticism of Biden on abortion by reaffirming the president’s support for reproductive rights.