Same sex couples cannnot be denied a blessing, says Catholic Archbishop of Dublin

A priest is now permitted to give ‘short and simple pastoral blessings – that are neither liturgical nor ritualised – of couples in irregular situations’, Archbishop Farrell said

Couples in so-called irregular unions, including same sex couples, cannot be refused a blessing by a Catholic priest, Archbishop of Dublin Dermot Farrell has said.

Couples in so-called irregular unions, including same sex couples, cannot be refused a blessing by a Catholic priest, Archbishop of Dublin Dermot Farrell has said.

In a statement on Monday, he noted how last month’s Vatican declaration on the matter said “prudence and attention to the ecclesial context and to the local culture” could allow for different forms of blessing, but not for “a total or definitive denial”.

He noted how this latter point was emphasised in the Vatican declaration and said “anyone who, in good faith, seeks a blessing is turning towards the Lord and his way”.

Archbishop Dermot Farrell and Archbishop Michael Jackson photographed in Saint Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, Dublin. Photograph Nick Bradshaw for The Irish Times

On December 18th the Vatican Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith issued the declaration ‘Fiducia Supplicans, on the Pastoral Meaning of Blessings’ which “allowed the giving of simple or pastoral blessings to couples in irregular situations, including same-sex unions,” as Archbishop Farrell put it.

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A Vatican press release of January 4th clarified “the reception of ‘Fiducia Supplicans’ which asks us, as priests, to show pastoral sensibility in such situations,” he said.

Approved by Pope Francis, the December Declaration reversed a 2021 Vatican position which barred such blessings on the grounds that God “does not and cannot bless sin”.

A priest is now permitted “to give ‘short and simple pastoral blessings – that are neither liturgical nor ritualised – of couples in irregular situations, (but not of their unions)’, ” Archbishop Farrell said.

This underlined “that these are blessings without a liturgical format which neither approve nor justify the situation in which these people find themselves,” he said. The declaration “makes clear that the blessings are to be spontaneous and pastoral – and ‘without an approved ritual’ or ‘book of blessings’, ” he said.

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Archbishop Farrell recalled how last Saturday “we celebrated the Epiphany, the feast of those who many considered on the outside.” He continued that, “as Pope Francis brought out in his homily on Saturday, the journey of the Magi `is the pilgrimage of humanity, of each of us, moving from distance to closeness’. I welcome the declaration, and the subsequent clarification, which will help us minister to our brothers and sisters who long for the closeness and compassion of God.”

The Vatican declaration has been opposed by more conservative elements in the Catholic Church, including former Vatican prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Cardinal Gerhard Müller, as well as the Polish bishops, some African bishops and more conservative Catholic in the UK.

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Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times