NEW YORK – Two cardinals on Wednesday defended a recent Vatican decree that restated the churches stance against the blessing of same-sex couples by invoking the teachings of the church that the sacrament of marriage is between a man and a woman.

Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston, the only American on Pope Francis’s Council of Cardinals, stated that the church “has a very clear teaching about marriage that needs to be proclaimed,” while further noting that the pontiff “tries to be very sensitive and pastoral in his outreach.”

Cardinal Peter Turkson, Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, added the “concern and the solicitude of the pope for said people are there.”

“It’s not to say those who do not recognize are not on the path to salvation, but it’s recognizing whatever state of life we live in at a certain point we need to bring it all to the Lord and have the Lord evaluate us and that’s what I think this one’s about,” the Ghanaian cardinal said. “It’s not calling anything sinful, or anything evil.”

The cardinals’ comments were in response to a question during a Georgetown University Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life Dahlgren Dialogue, “The Francis Factor at Eight Years: Global Impacts, U.S. Challenges,” that took a look at the pressing issues of today through the lens of Pope Francis’ pontificate.

Participants in the March 18 Georgetown dialogue on “The Francis Factor at Eight Years: Global Impacts, U.S. Challenges.” Top row: John Carr of the Initiative, Michelle Gonzalez Maldonado of the University of Scranton, and Cindy Wooden of Catholic News Service. Bottom Row: Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston, and Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect for the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development (Credit: Georgetown University Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life).

The March 15 Vatican document on same-sex blessings was issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It came with an explanatory note that the statement was in response to a question, known as a dubium, submitted by pastors and faithful requesting clarification and guidance concerning an issue that might pose controversy. It wasn’t specified who raised the question.

The participants of the Georgetown discussion also looked at racial justice in the United States.

Turkson spoke about the emphasis Francis places on upholding the dignity of every person as something Americans should adopt to combat racism. Until that happens, he called the racism that exists an obstacle “to our living as a family of brothers, as it were, created as said by God.”

Michelle Gonzalez Maldonado, a former president of the Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians in the United States, added on the topic of racism that we need to “interrogate how we benefit from white privilege, white supremacy” and “try to reimagine a world of compassion and kinship ultimately grounded in our Catholic theology.”

The University of Scranton dean of the College of Arts and Sciences also related Francis’s teachings to the culture of consumerism that exists across the nation.

“For us, I think his message of recognizing the full humanity for all individuals and talking about rejecting that culture that values individuals based on literally their economic worth is something that’s very important,” Maldonado said.

O’Malley looked at the dynamic of the relationship between Francis and President Joe Biden. Much has been made in the states about the Catholic president’s pro-choice beliefs and it’s something that’s been challenged by U.S. bishops on multiple occasions.

O’Malley instead focused on Biden’s areas of agreement with the Church.

Particularly, he said he’s sure the Holy See looks forward to working with the U.S. when it rejoins the Paris Accords, as well as on the issue of immigration. The one challenge the Boston prelate posed to the U.S. was on the importance of sharing vaccine resources with less fortunate countries.

“There are over 100 countries where there’s been no vaccinations at all yet because of

the lack of vaccines and the Holy Father is certainly challenging the United States and European countries to share their resources,” O’Malley said.

The online dialogue also served as an opportunity to talk about Francis and what his pontificate has meant to the world. O’Malley said from the start of his pontificate “Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio reminded us of our mission and challenged us to be outward looking.”

Maldonado emphasized how important it was that the pope was from Latin America.

“When we think about the Catholic intellectual tradition, when we think about the great theologians and scholars that have formed our Catholic faith people often don’t think about Latin America,” she said. “A huge moment for us is kind of the recognition and acknowledgment of our existence, which has the largest population of the faithful globally.”

Looking at the global crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Maldonado said she hopes we can look to Pope Francis as inspiration to come out better on the other side.

“I think that Pope Francis, it’s his gestures often, it’s those moments, it’s not his words that have such a huge impact,” Maldonado said. “There has never been a year that has brought us together for unfortunate reasons and such concrete ways recognizing ourselves as a human community. My hope is like him we can embody that in what we do and not just what we say.”

Follow John Lavenburg on Twitter: @johnlavenburg