Co Cork priest Tim Hazlewood has said that he would bless the union of same sex couples. Reacting after a Vatican document published on Monday sustained a ban on same sex blessings, he said: “If Christ was with us now, he would do the caring, the loving thing” .
Former president Mary McAleese has described the document, approved by the pope, as “withering” and criticised Pope Francis as a populist who raises expectations only to dash them .
Fr Hazlewood, who ministers in a parish in east Cork and is a representative of the Association of Catholic Priests, said he had been approached by families who have somebody who is in a same sex relationship. "Our experience is that they are lovely couples and to hear something like that, that their relationship is sinful, I wonder how many of them know and meet and interact with those families and those people,"he told RTÉ radio's Morning Ireland
There was a deeper issue involved here, he said. The Pope had introduced a new synodality way forward for the church, which meant that issues were now going to be brought to the surface at synods. At a recent synod in Germany bishops indicated that they were going to bless same sex marriages.
Fr Hazlewood explained that the German outlook had then been sent to Rome, to the Congregation of Doctrine and Faith “and they have come out with this.” The Pope was in a difficult position. “He has said some very positive things about inclusiveness, people on the margin, but to listen to that statement was so disappointing, it was appalling.
“He’s trying to hold all the parts together, in parts of the world, including Ireland, there is a small group who are very anti-Pope Francis and anti the changes, the new breath of life that he’s bringing. I can understand where Mary McAleese is coming from. For a lot of people and families it’s very disappointing. Does he want to cause a schism in the church? I don’t think he does.”
When asked if he would bless a same sex couple’s union, Fr Hazlewood replied: “Just two days ago there was pieces of weed that grows in the ground and I blessed them. I blessed shamrock, now if two people stand in front of me and they love each other and they are committing to each other for the rest of their lives and I bless shamrock and wouldn’t bless them. I don’t think there’s a doubt or a question there.”
The church’s teaching on what marriage means has not changed, he said. “In Ireland we’re going to have a synod in the next five years and the bishops have said they want people on the margins to be part of that, would any gay person come near a church that says things like this?
“There’s an awful difference between somebody in Rome making a promulgation and what’s the lived experience of the church and I think a lot of priests would say ‘if Christ was here with us now, what would Christ do?’ He would do the caring, the loving thing. He was the one who challenged all of these rules himself. Pope Francis is asking us to talk about these things, this is the way forward. There’s going to be an awful lot more things like this in the church which is a good thing.”
On Pope Francis, Ms McAleese said his “chummy words to the press often quite reasonably raise hopes of church reform which are subsequently almost invariably dashed by firm restatements of unchanged church teaching”.
While raising hopes, “he is the Pope who toes the old hard line”, she said.
She has also written to Ireland’s Catholic bishops asking that they challenge language used about gay people in the document, published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). She asked “if there is even one among you willing to acknowledge publicly that the language used in this most recent document from CDF is gratuitously cruel in the extreme”.
In the letter to Catholic Primate Archbishop Eamon Martin, she spoke of the document’s “unbearably vicious language which can only have brought more heartache to our gay children and to us their families. Heartache and hurt fired like a missile from the centre of governance of the church.”
She noted how the church “runs 90 per cent of our primary schools and 50 per cent of our second-level schools” and of “the right of our children not to be exposed to cruelly-worded teachings that conduce to homophobia”.
Referring to Catholic bishops elsewhere, some of whom have taken issue with the language in the CDF document, she asked: “Is there any vestige of such episcopal courage here?”