NEW YORK (CBSNewYork)The Vatican sent a clear, but still controversial, message to the world Monday.

The Catholic church cannot give a blessing to same sex marriage.

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“That has been what the church has taught for a millennium,” said Father Tom Reese, S.J. of the Religion News Service.

“What would you say to people — practicing Catholics — who continue to really struggle with these teachings?” asked CBS2’s Jessica Layton.

“The church has come a very long way in welcoming and embracing gay couples — it’s saying no to gay marriage and now to blessing gay unions — but it’s not trying to demonize gay people,” Reese said.

But it’s a difficult position to reconcile for members of Dignity New York, a group made up of gay Catholics.

“How do you juggle those two sides?” Layton asked.

“I think you see the church does change. It changes very slowly,” said Jeff Stone of Dignity New York. “Although this is, obviously, not a good development.”

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“We’ve taken one step forward and now a few hundred years steps back,” said Cathy Renna of the National LGBTQ Task Force.

Renna was raised Catholic, and says the reaffirmation of the longstanding ruling is disappointing, given recent positive messages from Pope Francis. Back in October, he revealed his support for same-sex civil unions. He says the latest document is not unjust discrimination, but a clarification: The church believes marriage is between a man and a woman, intended for the purpose of creating new life.

“They’re just out of step, they’re not paying attention to the people in the pews. The truth is U.S. Catholics have been backing marriage equality since 2011,” Renna said.

According to the Pew Research Center, more than six in 10 Catholics say they favor allowing same sex marriage.

“This hierarchy needs to understand they are not only out of step, but they are on the wrong side of history,” Renna said.

Most would agree this pope has signaled a more tolerant tone than his predecessors, but Renna points out tolerance is still not acceptance. And it’s certainly not celebration.

The office of the Archdiocese of New York, while not doing interviews, said the pope is reiterating what has long been taught, but all people are to be welcomed and respected.

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Jessica Layton contributed to this report. 

CBSNewYork Team