The recent Vatican pronouncement by the church’s doctrinal monitoring body, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) – that Catholic priests may not bless same-sex relationships – has been experienced as hurtful and offensive by many, according to Ireland’s youngest bishop, the Bishop of Achonry, Paul Dempsey.
In a statement that begins by referencing Pope Francis’s encyclical ‘The Joy of Love‘ and ends by quoting the pope on the need to ‘facilitate rather than arbitrate’ grace, Bishop Dempsey draws a distinction between church teaching on marriage and the language used to express it. By implication he has distanced himself from ‘black and white’ language that ‘does not take into account the complexity of various situations’.
“The statement 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 is 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.”
Bishop Dempsey was ordained bishop of Achonry in January 2020. He is on the Irish bishops’ sub-committee preparing for a synodal assembly of the Irish Catholic Church within five years (i.e. by 2026). A Vatican synod of the world’s bishops centred on the theme of synodality will take place in Rome in October 2022.
According to Cardinal Mario Grech, General Secretary of the 2022 Rome Synod, the purpose of synodality is to put the church in a ‘permanent state of mission’.
To read Bishop Dempsey’s complete statement on this issue on the website of the Irish Bishops Conference, click here.