expanding on the thing I’m quoted saying in this America piece. My apologies if the line breaks are weird; this is c&p’d from my email.
I’m glad that the CDF mentioned “positive elements” of sexually-active gay relationships. It’s an act of wisdom and humility to see that many people enter into these relationships because they’re trying to lead lives of care, devotion, and love. But what happens when people in such a union come to the Church and seek Her guidance in living out their love? What are the actual possible paths for such a couple to love as practicing Catholics?
Such possible paths would include covenant or vowed friendships. We see these in Scripture, in the love shared by Jonathan and David, and they were practiced for centuries by Christians seeking to become kin to someone of the same sex. The CDF weirdly assumes here that the only kind of same-sex love anybody might want to bless is a sexual union, but many people (of all sexual orientations) are rediscovering traditions in which friends became family to one another.
There are many such traditions; the Western ones traditionally didn’t involve a priest’s blessing, but it seems obvious why two people might want a priest to bless their union as they seek to do something as countercultural as pursuing a life of shared celibate love.* I don’t see anything in the CDF response which would bar such a blessing–largely because the CDF response simply doesn’t offer any guidance for the “positive elements” it acknowledges in gay marriages. Some encouragement, some suggestion that it’s possible to live out these “positive elements” in harmony with the Catholic faith, would have made this statement more hopeful for gay people (especially those in same-sex unions, whether sexual or celibate) and more helpful for the priests who seek to guide us.
* I know I’m using “celibate” loosely here, don’t @ me. ANYWAY, too often Church hierarchs speak in terms of either a) here’s what you can’t do (a catechism of “no”) or b) the Church’s teaching isn’t quite as bad as you might think! Neither of these are really guidance for people’s loves and imho the second one is often less “pastoral” or healing than just a straightforward, self-abasing acknowledgment of concrete ways gay people have been harmed in Catholic settings. (See also this very powerful post.)
The Church can guide our loves. But nobody’s gonna trust Her if Catholics focus on protecting doctrines and ignore the need to defend people. Jesus defended the woman taken in adultery before he said anything at all to her–even “Neither do I condemn you”!–and this is the right order of priorities.
Anyway I said all this stuff better, I think, in that Washington Post piece from last year, but here I am saying it again, there is nothing new under the sun. This post by Chris Damian is also relevant and helpful imo. ETA: If you’d like my longer thoughts on traditions of vowed friendship & the role of the priest’s blessing, they are here.