The Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith - the Vatican's orthodoxy office - issued a statement on Monday clarifying that the Church does not possess the power to bless same-sex unions, as God "does not and cannot bless sin."
"The Christian community and its Pastors are called to welcome with respect and sensitivity persons with homosexual inclinations, and will know how to find the most appropriate ways, consistent with Church teaching, to proclaim to them the Gospel in its fullness," the explanatory note read.
The release notes that Pope Francis "gave his assent" before the response was published.
As celebrities, rights groups and everyday netizens weigh in on the decree, many have expressed confusion about the response due to Francis' past comments.
"If a person is gay and seeks out the Lord and is willing, who am I to judge that person?" Francis said in 2016, recounting now-famous remarks made during a press conference in 2013.
"I prefer that homosexuals come to confession, that they stay close to the Lord, and that we pray all together," the religious leader added. "You can advise them to pray, show goodwill, show them the way, and accompany them along it."
More recently, Francis was featured in the documentary "Francesco," and spoke of the need to pass laws regarding same-sex unions.
"Homosexuals have the right to be in the family. They are children of God and have the right to a family. No one should be excluded. What we need to do is pass a law on civil unions so that homosexuals can be legally protected," he said.
Esteban Paulon, an LGBTQ activist in Francis' home country of Argentina, told the Associated Press that the pontiff's past statements on same-sex marriage were just lip service.
“They were not institutional pronouncements,” said Paulon, executive director of the Institute of Public Policies LGBT+. “Saying that homosexual practice is a sin takes us back 200 years and promotes hate speech that unfortunately, [particularly] in Latin America and Europe, is on the rise.”
English recording artist Elton John also slammed the Vatican for what he described as "hypocrisy."
"How can the Vatican refuse to bless gay marriages because they 'are sin', yet happily make a profit from investing millions in 'Rocketman' — a film which celebrates my finding happiness from my marriage to David??" John asked on Instagram and Twitter. The award-winning artist married his husband, David Furnish, in 2014.
How can the Vatican refuse to bless gay marriages because they “are sin”, yet happily make a profit from investing millions in “Rocketman” - a film which celebrates my finding happiness from my marriage to David?? #hypocrisy@VaticanNews @Pontifex pic.twitter.com/sURtrWB6Nd— Elton John (@eltonofficial) March 15, 2021
According to a 2019 report by The Daily Beast, the Church invested $4.5 million in "Men in Black: International" and "Rocketman," a biographical film on John's life (and sexuality) that grossed $195 million in the box office.
However, more conservative members of the Catholic Church, like Catholic League President Bill Donohue, welcome the Church's unchanged stance.
"There will be no recognition of homosexual unions or marriage by the Catholic Church. It is non-negotiable. End of story," Donohue told the Associated Press in a statement.