The Vatican on Monday said that the Catholic Church won't bless same-sex unions, describing them as sinful and a "choice." The Vatican's top doctrinal office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said same-sex unions "cannot be recognized as objectively ordered" to God's plans. But what came as a surprise to millions of gay and lesbian Catholics is that the Vatican's statement was approved by Pope Francis, who had a welcoming tone towards LGBTQ community.

In a detailed note, the Holy See said the blessings of homosexual unions cannot be considered licit and that God "does not and cannot bless sin."

"It is not licit to impart a blessing on relationships or partnerships, even stable, that involve sexual activity outside of marriage, as is the case of the unions between persons of the same sex," the statement said.

Pope Francis

Furthermore, the statement said that gays and lesbians will not be deprived of blessings if they live according to Church teachings as individuals.

"[The ruling] does not preclude the blessings given to individual persons with homosexual inclinations who manifest the will to live in fidelity to the revealed plans of God as proposed by Church teaching," the CDF statement said.

The statement was in response to a question received by the Vatican's office on whether Catholic clergy have the authority to bless gay unions. The response, which was negative, was published in seven languages and approved by Pope Francis.

There goes hope of a progressive Catholic leadership

pope francis
pope francis looks out on the vacant streets

Just as the statement was released, a wave of discontent and disagreement was sent across the LGBTQ community around the world. The decision by the Holy See is seen as a major setback for Catholics who hoped to see a progressive Catholic leadership.

The hope was not without reason. Only last year, Pope Francis called for the creation of civil union laws for same-sex couples. Pope Francis has long expressed an interest in outreach to the church's LGBT followers.

"Homosexual people have a right to be in a family. They're children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out or be made miserable over it," the Pope had said, adding: "What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered."

Soon after, the Vatican backtracked those remarks and said they had been taken out of context.

Reacting to the Vatican's recent statement, Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director of the gay Catholics group New Ways Ministry, said "It is not surprising, but still disappointing, that the Vatican has responded 'no'," while assuring that "it will not stop the Catholic people in the pews, nor many Catholic leaders, who are eager for such blessings to happen."