Northern Ireland

Pope’s new ruling on blessings for same-sex couples does not change Catholic teaching - bishop

Bishop of Raphoe Alan McGuckian SJ
Bishop of Raphoe, Alan McGuckian SJ said Pope Francis's new declaration on blessings for people in same-sex relationships does not change Catholic teaching.

Catholic bishop of Raphoe Alan McGuckian has rejected claims that Pope Francis’s declaration on blessing people in same-sex relationships is a change in church teaching on marriage and sexuality.

On Monday, Pope Francis published a document which set out the way in which a priest could impart a blessing to people in a same-sex relationship.

The pontiff stressed that such a blessing should not be confused with ritual or Catholic marriage, but said that in some circumstances individuals could be blessed.

The declaration re-affirmed that marriage was a lifelong sacrament between and man and a woman. However, some observers claimed the document marked a major change in Catholic teaching. The Pope’s document has also led to some Catholic bishops around the world issuing statements in opposition.

Bishop McGuckian, who like the Pope is a member of the Jesuit order, said the document was consistent with Pope Francis’s desire that the church reaches out “with mercy and love of Jesus” to everyone.

He said: “Some people are suggesting that this document heralds a change in the church’s teaching about marriage and sexuality. This is not the case.”

The Donegal church leader said Pope Francis’s document also sought to be consistent with the tradition which the Catholic church believed came from Jesus Christ. He pointed out that the Pope said no “liturgical blessing” could be given.

“What is envisaged here is an informal pastoral blessing, a prayer for divine grace to help people live their Christian lives ever more fully in line with the Gospel and to build on all that is good, true and beautiful in their lives. We are all sinners on the journey of conversion.”

Bishop McGuckian urged Catholics to read the document which, he said, contained “the tension between truth and mercy”.

“On the one hand it is a clear reaffirmation of the church’s teaching with an encouragement that nothing should be done that would lead to confusion about that. At the same time, it seeks to remind people who are living the Christian life in a less perfect way – that includes all of us – that God’s love never leaves us, while it always calls us to conversion,” Bishop McGuckian said.