LGBT Ireland highlight harm of Vatican's statement for older LGBTQ+ community

LGBT Ireland has raised concern for older LGBTQ+ people unable to come out due to the stigma fuelled by the Catholic Church now reinforced with their refusal to bless same-sex unions.

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Several Catholic and LGBT groups across Ireland and globally have aired their grievances with the Vatican’s decision to not bless same-sex unions.

The statement was made by the Vatican’s orthodoxy office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in response to a question about whether the Catholic clergy can bless same-sex unions and was approved by Pope Francis.

CEO of LGBT Ireland Paula Fagan said she found the Vatican’s 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.”

Highlighting the importance of the Church’s blessing for older LGBTQ+ people, 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.

Reacting to the statement, the co-founder of the Association of Catholic Priests, Fr Brendan Hoban, said while it was predictable, it is still 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 believes that many will be taken aback by the Church’s reluctance to perform blessings on same-sex unions as “priests bless animals, cars and, in the course of their ministry, give blessings in sundry situations.”

Meanwhile, a group of “rebel” priests have vowed to defy the Vatican’s decree and bless same-sex unions.

The announcement was made on Tuesday, March 16, by a group of dissident Roman Catholic priests leading a disobedience campaign, the Parish Priests Initiative.

“We members of the Parish Priests Initiative are deeply appalled by the new Roman decree that seeks to prohibit the blessing of same-sex loving couples. This is a relapse into times that we had hoped to have overcome with Pope Francis,” the Austrian-based group said in a statement.

“We will – in solidarity with so many – not reject any loving couple in the future who ask to celebrate God’s blessing, which they experience every day, also in a worship service.”

The group was founded in 2006 by nine priests and is currently led by Fr Helmut Schueller.

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