The Roman Catholic Church and its priests can't give their blessings to same-sex unions because God "cannot bless sin."

This was a declaration that didn't surprise lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics in the U.S. - yet it hurt nevertheless, according to The Associated Press.

"The fact that our church at its highest levels cannot recognize the grace in that and cannot extend any sort of blessing to these couples is just tragic," The Associated Press quoted DignityUSA executive director Marianne Duddy-Burke as saying.

Explaining the church's ruling this week, the Holy See referred to unions by couples of the same sex as a "choice" and described them as sinful.

"The blessing of (gay and lesbian) unions cannot be considered licit," the Vatican's doctrinal watchdog - the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith - wrote in the statement and added that God "does not and cannot bless sin."

The judgment was issued in response to questions raised by some pastors and parishes that sought to be more welcoming and inclusive of gay couples.

The antagonistic decision that Pope Francis authorized threatens to widen the gap between the church and much of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

The Vatican doctrine maintains that lesbians and gays should be treated with dignity and respect, but that gay sex is "intrinsically disordered" and that same-sex unions are sinful.

Francis DeBernardo, executive chief of The New Ways Ministry, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender-centered Catholic ministry, said the ruling was disappointing but not surprising. Catholics, DeBernardo said, will continue to find creative ways to bless the couples they love and support.

Natalia Imperatori-Lee, a professor of religious studies at Manhattan College, said the Vatican's judgment is problematic.

Juan Carlos Cruz, a Chilean advocate for victims of sexual abuse and who is gay, said in 2018 that when he met with Francis, the pope had told him, "God made you like this, and he loves you."

"If the church and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith don't advance with the world... Catholics will continue to flee," he said.

The Vatican's statement comes less than six months after revelations of Francis' stunning support of same-sex civil unions were made public.

In a 2019 interview for the documentary "Francesco," the Pope said that gay and lesbian people have "the right to be in a family. They are children of God."