A change in Vatican policy has some asking questions about what direction the Catholic church is headed when it comes to same-sex marriages.

For years, the issue has been a topic of conversation among Catholic leaders. Gay parishioners are allowed in church, but when it comes to marriage, the Vatican does not recognize gay marriage based on church doctrine.

In a letter to cardinals in October, Pope Francis said blessings could be offered to same-sex couples. On Monday, the Vatican clarified the policy, saying while same-sex couples may be blessed, it should not be at the same times as a civil union or while using wedding rituals.

Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi, of the Archdiocese in Mobile, said because the declaration is so new, the church will need time to figure out how to go forward.

"This morning the Vatican issued the Declaration, 'Fiducia Supplicans,' which was approved by Pope Francis," Rodi said in a statement to 1819 News. "Since it was only released today, there has not been sufficient time to reflect upon it."

The document states blessings are not to be confused with the sacrament of marriage, and Francis reiterated that marriage is between a man and a woman. He said blessings should not always be denied to those seeking them based on "moral analysis."

"In particular, reflection and consultation will be necessary in order to determine the most appropriate fashion to give a blessing to a couple while at the same time, and as required by the Vatican document, avoiding any element that remotely resembles a marriage rite," Rodi continued. "It is also important to note that the Archdiocese of Mobile is always guided by the teachings of the Holy Father."

To connect with the author of this story or to comment, email [email protected].

Don't miss out! Subscribe to our newsletter and get our top stories every weekday morning.