Vatican ban on same-sex blessings leaves ‘sour imprint’, priest says

‘Our gay brothers and sisters will always be welcome,’ says Dublin parish priest

Fr Gerry O’Connor of the Association of Catholic Priests: ‘The beauty of a blessing is that it recognises no barriers and no distance.’ Photograph: iStock

Fr Gerry O’Connor of the Association of Catholic Priests: ‘The beauty of a blessing is that it recognises no barriers and no distance.’ Photograph: iStock

 

The Vatican statement last week sustaining a ban on same-sex blessings has drawn further criticism in Ireland, with Fr Gerry O’Connor of the Association of Catholic Priests saying it had left “a sour imprint”.

Dublin parish priest Fr Adrian Egan said that, regardless of what the Vatican said, “our gay brothers and sisters will always be welcome at Assumption Church” in Ballyfermot.

Meanwhile, the liberal We Are Church Ireland group described the Vatican statement as “an act of violence, spiritual abuse”.

Fr O’Connor said: “The beauty of a blessing is that it recognises no barriers and no distances . . . There is no judgment nor harsh perception directed towards you.” What the Vatican “had to say about people in loving same-sex unions, the attitude of the Vatican to blessings, leaves a sour imprint,” he said.

In a tweet Fr Egan said: “Let me be absolutely clear . . . our gay brothers and sisters will always be welcome at Assumption Church . . . their presence is ‘a blessing’ to our community . . . and like the banner outside our church says, ‘God’s house, your home’ . . . all are welcome in this place.”

We Are Church Ireland described the Vatican statement as “both theologically flawed and outdated as well as profoundly lacking pastorally. Many LGBTQ+ Catholic people experience it as an act of violence, spiritual abuse, an attack on their goodness and love. Many others are revulsed by its language.”

‘Dispiriting’

It was “unworthy” of a church and “dispiriting to see Pope Francis signing off on it”, it said. The group called on Irish priests and bishops to follow the example of bishops and priests in other countries who have repudiated the statement and pledged to continue blessing same-gender unions.

The Vatican statement “makes a mockery of any talk of synodality and inclusivity,” the group said.

Archbishop Dermot Farrell of Dublin has said that, when it came to same-sex blessings, it was best “deal with those situations individually and pastorally”. In his first interview last January, following the announcement of his appointment as Archbishop, he told this newspaper the difficulty with same-sex blessings “is that they are very often misconstrued as marriage. Priests have given these blessings in the past.”

He recalled the experience of a colleague: “He used to have this ceremony of the blessing of rings – I said to him, ‘I don’t have a difficulty with blessing rings if you’re doing that here in the house but if you go out into the public domain, in a church, and bless rings as you see it.’ They turned up with 200 people and they saw it as a marriage. Sometimes people use that phraseology. You’re into confusion there. It can be misconstrued as ‘yes, the priest married us’.”

On the Church’s use of words such as “objectively disordered” and “a tendency towards evil” in describing homosexuality, he said this was “a technical description. People misconstrue that then because it is technical theological language.”

However, he agreed that in popular culture such language presented “a difficulty which can translate into sometimes violence against people where they find there is a huge prejudice against them.”