Vatican ban on same-sex blessings ‘deeply disappointing’, says LGBT Ireland

Church ‘cannot have the power to bless unions’ – Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

Fr Brendan Hoban: ‘I suspect that priests will continue to use their own personal initiative in responding to the needs of LGBTQ Catholics at parish level.’ Photograph: Keith Heneghan/Phocus

Fr Brendan Hoban: ‘I suspect that priests will continue to use their own personal initiative in responding to the needs of LGBTQ Catholics at parish level.’ Photograph: Keith Heneghan/Phocus

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Catholic and LGBT groups in Ireland have expressed disappointment to the Vatican’s Monday statement sustaining a ban on blessing for same-sex relationships.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), with the approval of Pope Francis, said it was “not licit to impart a blessing on relationships, or partnerships, even stable, that involve sexual activity outside of marriage (ie, outside the indissoluble union of a man and a woman open in itself to the transmission of life), as is the case of the unions between persons of the same sex.”

It said “the Church does not have, and cannot have, the power to bless unions of persons of the same sex.”

Co-founder of the Association of Catholic Priests Fr Brendan Hoban found the statement disappointing. “The sense is that a door has been slammed rather than a growing sensitivity to the pastoral care of LGBTQ Catholics being encouraged or facilitated,” he said.

“Coming from the CDF the content and tone are not surprising. There’s no sense of a distinction between doctrine and pastoral practice. I suspect that priests will continue to use their own personal initiative in responding to the needs of LGBTQ Catholics at parish level,” he said.

Fr Hoban also felt people would be surprised by the Vatican statement as “priests bless animals, cars and, in the course of their ministry, give blessings in sundry situations.”

‘Really unhelpful’

Paula Fagan, chief executive LGBT Ireland, found the statement “deeply disappointing given the Pope’s more positive statements over recent times.” It was as if “a person’s sexual orientation is a choice,” she said. “ That’s really unhelpful as people’s sexual orientation is not a choice,” she said.

“We would have hoped the Church could be more inclusive and more understanding of gay and lesbian people as members of the Church,” she said.

A blessing was “important for the couples that want it. A lot of people in Ireland and elsewhere are Catholic and want that acceptance and blessing from the Church. Fundamentally, for them it’s huge, and also for their extended families. It would help with acceptance from the wider family.”

This would apply particularly for older LGBT people in Ireland many of whom “wouldn’t be out and fundamentally the reason for that is these deeply held beliefs that it is wrong, that it is somehow a sin.” she said.

Over recent years in Ireland there has been a growing practice of Catholic priests offering blessings to same sex couples in private. From conversations yesterday The Irish Times understands this is likely to continue regardless of Monday’s CDF statement.