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Cardinal Farrell: Blessings are for marriage, but Church’s pastoral life is for all

By Hannah Brockhaus for CNA

U.S. Cardinal Kevin J. Farrell, prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life, talks with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, after Pope Francis' pre-Christmas meeting with top officials of the Roman Curia at the Vatican in this Dec. 21, 2018, file photo. During a March 18 Vatican news conference on the "Amoris Laetitia Family Year," Cardinal Farrell said that although the church cannot bless nonsacramental unions, the pastoral care of the church is always open to all people. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Vatican City, Mar 18, 2021 / 07:30 am (CNA).- The Church’s pastoral life is open to all people, but blessings are reserved for couples who are married according to Catholic teaching, Cardinal Kevin Farrell said Thursday.

“It is essential and very important that we always open our arms to receive and to accompany all people in their different stages of life and in their different life situations,” he said at the end of an online press conference March 18.

The prefect of the Vatican’s Laity, Family, and Life dicastery answered a question about the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s March 15 document stating that same-sex unions cannot be given blessings in the Catholic Church.

In his response, Farrell underlined that the Church’s pastoral life is for everyone, but he said the distinction between sacramental marriage and other kinds of unions or partnerships is important.

“When the Church speaks about marriage, it speaks about sacramental marriage. It doesn’t speak about civil unions,” he said. “Blessing is something that is a sacramental, that is related to the sacrament of marriage.”

“That does not mean that those who are only married in the Church receive the benefits of the pastoral care of the Church,” he added.

The Irish-American cardinal and former bishop of Dallas said that sometimes there are situations in which people are not able to participate fully in the life of the Church, but that does not mean they cannot be accompanied by priests and lay people in parishes.

He mentioned that there are ecclesial movements and groups in the Church which serve people with same-sex attraction, just like there are pastoral opportunities for people who are divorced and remarried, and whom the Church accompanies “with the hope that one day they will live in accord with the Church’s teaching.”

Farrell emphasized that no one should be excluded from the “pastoral care and love of the Church.”

The CDF’s ruling about blessings of same-sex unions by the Catholic Church explained that “it is not licit to impart a blessing on relationships, or partnerships, even stable, that involve sexual activity outside of marriage (i.e., outside the indissoluble union of a man and a woman open in itself to the transmission of life), as is the case of the unions between persons of the same sex.”

Cardinal Farrell’s comment on the document occurred during an online press conference for the launch of the “Amoris Laetitia Family” Year, being organized by his dicastery.

He noted that when Pope Francis’ 2016 apostolic exhortation Amoris laetitia speaks about marriage, it also means a sacramental marriage according to Church teaching.

Pope Francis announced late last year that the fifth anniversary of the signing of Amoris Laetitia on March 19, would open a year dedicated to the document and to families.

“It should be noted that the apostolic exhortation Amoris laetitia opens with these words: ‘The Christian announcement concerning the family is truly good news,’” Farrell said in remarks during the press conference.

“It is therefore very opportune to dedicate an entire pastoral year to the Christian family, because presenting God’s plan for the family to the world is a source of joy and hope; that’s really good news!” he said.

Farrell added that the “Amoris Laetitia Family” year is “a precious opportunity” to mature the fruits of the apostolic exhortation and the 2014 and 2015 synods on the family — “not only in the various ecclesial contexts, but in the families themselves.”

“We know well that Pope Francis exhorts us to a pastoral renewal,” he said. “And this also applies to the pastoral care of the family.”

The year will include various pastoral initiatives, starting with an online meeting March 19 titled “Our Daily Love.”

Friday’s meeting will also include a video message from Pope Francis.


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13 Comments

  1. Accompaniment is ensuring that nobody walking the road to perdition lacks human fraternity on their journey into eternal punishment.

  2. Anyone, homosexual or not can be blessed. A blessing can never be conferred to a person or persons that affirms an immoral preference or lifestyle. Cardinal Farrell correctly emphasizes the distinction between blessing of sacramental marriage and pastoral care to be given all persons regardless of sexual preference. The Cardinal whose Dicastery will supervise Amoris Laetitia Family Year refers to civil unions as outside the scope of matrimonial blessings, although he doesn’t clarify whether same sex unions will come under the program’s purview. And if so in what form, whether affirmative, or whether transforming and redemptive. Cardinal Farrrell, considered an advocate for homosexuals had previously refused Mary McAleese, former president of Ireland, and Ssenfuka Juanita Warry, who runs a non-profit advocating for LGBT Catholics in Uganda [CWR 2018] attendance at a Vatican hosted Women’s event and is capable of being direct in affirmation of the faith, a must during this year’s celebration of Amoris Laetitia. Some question whether Pope Francis’ sanction of CDF Cardinal Ladaria’s negative response to the German bishops intent to bless same sex unions will prevail having been disappointed on similar in the past. Nonetheless, there is hope.

    • In response to those who have reason to believe the Pope’s approbation of Ladaria’s blessing prohibition will not prevail, that reason was aptly isolated in a Catholic editorial commentary, “Will Francis do the same thing he did with intercommunion, leaving same-sex unions to the local ordinary? Likely. Although perhaps not explicitly. He could hide behind a provision of canon law when he did the intercommunion gambit; this latest gayness will be couched, no doubt, under a pastoral provision, perhaps even in reference to Amoris Laetitia and its infamous footnote” (Skojec 1P5). Although I agree, “Likely” leaves room for an otherwise positive. Too often we write off any positive coming from the Vatican. Hope remains that theological virtue that should inspire us to do otherwise, the premise being that grace is always at work. Our mission is to cooperate with God’s benevolence not dismiss it.

  3. Thus speaketh the one who lived with Mr mccarrick and never spoke a word..
    (bless his heart, or perhaps that doesn’t qualify for a “blessing”)

  4. Why is it so hard to just call sin “sin,” and proclaim a simple message of “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”?
    Why is it so necessary to constantly make excuses, to soften the blow, to sugar-coat the truth?
    Many will say “Lord, Lord,” but will be cast into hell. Should we not be zealous about saving someone from hell? Isn’t that true love? Isn’t that the true pastoral role of the Church?

    “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God?” (St. Paul, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, RSVCE)

  5. “with the hope that one day they will live in accord with the Church’s teaching.”If the Cardinal did say this then I’m happy. I’d be happy if Fr. Martin ended his building a bridge with that statement. Accompanying someone on their journey to conversion would be a positive.

  6. Ed Peters has an article, “If you want to think clearly about marriage, speak clearly about marriage”. It’s linked to in the Commentary section of The Catholic Thing. I think Peters both thinks and speaks clearly.

  7. What exactly is Cardinal Farrell saying? Is this another case of the doctrine hasn’t changed but we have to be pastoral (wink, wink)?

  8. Pope Francis and his aides ceaselessly emphasize the necessity of “pastoral accompaniment”, but as far as I know, they have never explained what they mean by that.
    I would be very grateful for a clear explanation.

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