Irish Bishop Calls Vatican’s Ban on Blessings “Cold and Distant…Hurtful and Offensive”

Bishop Paul Dempsey

A bishop in Ireland has become the latest church leader to voice opposition to the Vatican’s ban on blessing same-gender couples.

Bishop Paul Dempsey of Achonry issued a statement which said of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s responsum that “at best it is experienced as cold and distant, at worst hurtful and offensive.” The Irish Times reported further:

“Many people, Bishop Dempsey said, ‘have expressed their anger, disappointment and disillusionment with the Church. This has been experienced as another hurtful response from the Church to people with same sex orientation.’

“Ordained Bishop last August, he said language in the Vatican statement such as “that the Church ‘cannot bless sin’ is seen as targeting or treating same sex couples in a way that others are not targeted or treated in the Church. Many have found this deeply offensive. As a result some feel they are not welcome and have no place in the Catholic Church.’

“There was, he said ‘a great sadness in this as no one should feel that they are not welcome in the Church, which is the Body of Christ. Further to this, so many people in same sex relationships have enriched the life of the Church and continue to do so in parishes across the world.'”

Dempsey said the church must be more attentive to its language and how it “is heard and interpreted by people in today’s complex world.” The bishop, noting the responsum’s mention of positive elements in same-gender relationships, said, “This may seem insignificant, but to my knowledge, I do not recall the Church making such a statement before.”

The bishop referenced both Antwerp’s Bishop Johan Bonny, who said he was “ashamed” by the Vatican’s ban, and Pope Francis’ emphasis on mercy and pastoral ministry.

Dempsey is but the latest Catholic leader who in the past two weeks have resisted the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s ban. In Ireland, Fr. Paddy Byrne tweeted to his 18,000-plus followers, per The Irish Post:

“20 years in my priestly ministry I have been involved in blessing ceremonies of every description. Including blessings of pets, cows, crops, rings, cars, tractors……Yet a same sex couple who request a simple blessing on their union must be turned away. This is not Christianity.”

Previously, the country’s former president, Mary McAleese, called it “gratuitously cruel in the extreme,” while the Association of Catholic Priests Ireland said it was “unfortunate and unwise.” At least one priest, Fr. Tim Hazlewood, has committed to blessing same-gender couples.

Church leaders beyond Ireland have also objected. For instance, Vienna’s Cardinal Christoph Schönborn said LGBTQ should not be denied a blessing if they seek it. And the head of the German Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Georg Bätzing, said he was “not happy.” For Bondings 2.0’s entire coverage of responses to the Vatican ban, click here.

Earlier today, New Ways Ministry announced that more than 3,000 Catholics, including Mary McAleese have signed a pledge to bless same-gender couples. If you would like to add your name, you can do so here

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, March 30, 2021

Other Resources

For all the previous posts concerning the Vatican’s ban on blessing same-gender couples, click here.

For a listing of Catholic leaders who have spoken positively about same-gender relationships and unions, click here.

For information about a Catholic blessing for a same-gender couple, click here.

For more information on how to be welcoming to married same-gender couples, click here.

2 replies
  1. Richard Boyle
    Richard Boyle says:

    Prophetic voices from within the Church and from the clergy and/or hierarchy give me hope, and encourage me to “soldier on” in this struggle for the recognition of human dignity and the integrity of love.

  2. Jim O'Crowley
    Jim O'Crowley says:

    Unfortunately your headline is inaccurate and gives a wrong impression. Paul Dempsey was merely reporting on the general reaction to the Vatican statement. He neither agreed with or distanced himself from the document except to say that the Vatican should be “more attentive to its language ”
    Surely a case of sitting on the fence while giving the impression of being LGBTI friendly and protecting himself from the wrath of the Inquisition


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