Catholic priest apologizes after blessing same-sex couple as 'holy spouses'

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A Catholic priest has apologized after using the term "holy spouses" when providing a blessing to a same-sex couple and saying the rings they exchanged were a "sign of their fidelity."

The Rev. Joseph Williams, pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church in Chicago, Illinois, issued a statement last week after a video of him blessing a same-sex couple at the church two weeks earlier gained national attention.

The video, posted to Instagram by self-described queer Methodist pastor Kelli Knight on April 22, documents Williams asking Knight and her same-sex partner Myah, "Do you freely recommit yourselves to love each other as holy spouses and to live in peace and harmony together forever?"

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After the women answered in the affirmative, Williams issued a prayer calling on God "to increase and consecrate the love which Kelli and Myah have for one another." He added, "The rings that they have exchanged are a sign of their fidelity and commitment," expressing hope that "they continue to prosper in your grace and blessing." 

In his statement, Williams recalled how "the shape that the blessing took as portrayed in the video came about due to my attempt to provide for them a meaningful moment of God's grace." 

"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," he explained. "I am deeply sorry for any confusion and/or anger that this has caused, particularly for the People of God." 

In addition to serving as pastor of St. Vincent De Paul, Williams is part of the Vincentians of the Congregation of the Mission's Western Province, which leads "dozens of parish missions each year, [operates] a range of assistance programs for the materially poor, [consoles] patients and their families as hospital chaplains, and [assists] with the formation of future priests in seminaries across the country."

The Congregation of the Mission published Williams' apology and elaborated on the context behind it. 

The statement indicated that Williams "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."

"While Pope Francis in December formally approved the blessing of couples in irregular situations and same-sex couples, he specified that such blessings do not equate to a wedding and should not employ the clothing and gestures that accompany a wedding," the statement reads.  

"Fr. Williams stated that he performed the blessing after being approached by the couple and explained to them at the time it would merely be a blessing and not a wedding itself."

Knight's Instagram post suggests that she might not have understood this.

"Myah always wanted to get married at the chapel of her Alma mater, so I surprised her with a blessing of our marriage," Knight wrote. "Thanks, Fr. Joe for your open heart and willing spirit!"

The post featured emojis of the rainbow flag, which has come to symbolize the LGBT movement, and hashtags reading #samesexmarriage and #samesexweddings.

The blessing ceremony came four months after the Vatican's Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a declaration titled "Fiducia Supplicans."

"Fiducia Supplicans" declares that priests may offer same-sex couples "a blessing that descends from God upon those who — recognizing themselves to be destitute and in need of his help — do not claim a legitimation of their own status, but who beg that all that is true, good, and humanly valid in their lives and their relationships be enriched, healed, and elevated by the presence of the Holy Spirit."

The document warned that "One should neither provide for nor promote a ritual for the blessings of couples in an irregular situation," stressing, "At the same time, one should not prevent or prohibit the Church's closeness to people in every situation in which they might seek God's help through a simple blessing."

"In a brief prayer preceding this spontaneous blessing, the ordained minister could ask that the individuals have peace, health, a spirit of patience, dialogue, and mutual assistance — but also God's light and strength to be able to fulfill his will completely," "Fiducia Supplicans" stated.

Amid backlash over the declaration, the Vatican issued guidance maintaining that "the document is clear and definitive about marriage and sexuality" and that the "non-ritualized form of blessing" it authorizes "does not intend to justify anything that is not morally acceptable."

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at:

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