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

Cardinal Kevin Farrell Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life. | Lucia Ballester/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 in reference to 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 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 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 the 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 5th 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.”

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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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