The Dutch organisation of Catholic bishops has endorsed a new Vatican rule which includes same-sex couples in the priest’s blessing but not their relationship.
The rule, which also includes people who are divorced but who are living a couple again, was announced in a papal declaration in December.
In a reaction, the Dutch bishops said the Catholic church is “a welcoming church” which will ‘not deny anyone the support and succour of God”. Nevertheless, the bishops emphasise that marriage is still only possible between man and women and that “irregular relationships of whatever nature are intrinsically morally wrong”.
The blessing is meant for two separate individuals who are in a relationship, not their relationship itself, Vatican expert Stijn Fens told broadcaster NOS.
“Things are not suddenly going to change but it is a cautious step towards a more inclusive church,” he said.
Fens said the move is unlikely to induce gay couples to return to the church. “This comes too late for many. They have left already or joined a more progressive church,” he said.
Church historian Peter Nissen said the rule may convince gay people who are still involved in the church to stay and stop feeling excluded.
The more inclusive blessing has not been welcomed by all Catholic bishops. Conservative bishops in some countries have already said they will not allow priests to bless homosexual couples.
In a later clarification, the Vatican said bishops who don’t approve should not consider the rule as a Vatican attempt to “approve nor justify” relationships considered sinful. They should also understand that it does not undercut church teaching against same-sex marriage, because informal blessings are not formal rites, the New York Times writes.
The pope has also exempted countries where homosexuality is against the law and and a blessing may out them.
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