One of Pope Francis’s most vocal allies in the American hierarchy has said that while it’s fine for a priest concerned about marriage to refuse to offer blessings of persons in same-sex relationships, much of the U.S. opposition to a recent Vatican document authorizing such blessings is rooted not in doctrinal principle but what he called an “enduring animus” against gays and lesbians.

“It is wholly legitimate for a priest to personally decline to perform the blessings outlined in Fiducia because he believes that to do so would undermine the strength of marriage,” Cardinal Robert McElroy of San Diego said Friday….

“It is particularly distressing in our own country that the opposition to Fiducia focuses overwhelmingly on blessing those in same-sex relationships, rather than those many more men and women who are in heterosexual relationships that are not ecclesially valid,” said McElroy, who’s widely seen as a leader of the progressive wing of the American church and a strong Francis supporter….

Noting that Fiducia Supplicans has stirred intense debate around the world, including a statement from the bishops of Africa to the effect that such blessings would be inappropriate in their cultural context, McElroy cited these “diverging pastoral paths” as a positive example of decentralization.

“We have witnessed the reality that bishops in various parts of the world have made radically divergent decisions about the acceptability of such blessings in their countries, based substantially on cultural and pastoral factors as well as neo-colonialism,” he said.

“This is decentralization in the life of the global Church,” McElory said, implying that such differences in principle can be positive, reflecting adaptation to local cultures.

Nonetheless, he insisted that decentralization not become an excuse for anti-gay prejudice….

McElroy, 70, was speaking during a session of the Religious Education Congress sponsored by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the largest annual Catholic gathering in North America, on the subject of Pope Francis’s ongoing Synod of Bishops on Synodality….

Finally, McElroy’s most succinct comment, and his only real laugh line, came in response to a question as to whether synodality will outlive Pope Francis.

“I hope so, I think so,” he said, adding, “I’m not sure.”

From the National Catholic Reporter