Chicago priest apologizes for same-sex blessing, saying it violated Church norms

same-sex wedding rings Credit: Reshetnikov_art/Shutterstock

A priest in Chicago has apologized for the controversial way in which he blessed a same-sex couple in April, calling it a “very poor decision” that violated Catholic Church’s new guidelines.

In a statement dated May 8, Father Joseph Williams, the pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Parish near downtown Chicago, offered an apology in which the priest said he “regrets the language of the blessing and the use of vestments and the church itself, which he now recognizes were a violation of the norms approved by the Church.”

The priest blessed a same-sex couple in the city parish in April. In a video of the event posted to social media, Williams — wearing priestly vestments — can be seen asking the couple if they “freely recommit yourselves to love each other as holy spouses and to live in peace and harmony together forever.” The two women respond, “I do.”

Williams in the video asks God to “increase and consecrate the love” the two women have for each other, stating that the “rings that they have exchanged are the sign of their fidelity and commitment.” 

The priest had initially suggested that the Vatican’s December 2023 document Fiducia Supplicans allows the type of blessing he administered in April. That document said that Catholic priests can bless same-sex couples as an expression of pastoral closeness without condoning their sexual relations and without making the blessing seem like a wedding. 

The way in which he conducted the blessing “came about due to my attempt to provide for them a meaningful moment of God’s grace,” the pastor said in the statement.

“I wanted to do it well,” he said. “A week or so after the fact, I viewed the video. I immediately realized that I had made a very poor decision in the words and visuals captured on the video.”

The controversy “has been a valuable learning experience” for the priest, the statement said. 

“I am deeply sorry for any confusion and/or anger that this has caused, particularly for the people of God,” Williams said. 

The statement was issued by the Congregation of the Mission, also called the Vincentians, who administer the downtown Chicago parish. 

The Archdiocese of Chicago did not immediately respond to an emailed query on Tuesday morning.

Fiducia Supplicans generated global controversy after it was announced on Dec. 18, with bishops around the world either declaring their support for it or stating their intention not to implement it. 

The Vatican declaration, which also applies to Catholics civilly remarried without having received an annulment as well as to couples in other “irregular situations,” underscored that such blessings cannot be offered in a way that would cause any confusion about the nature of marriage.

“The Church’s doctrine on this point remains firm,” the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith said when the document was released.

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