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Blessing won’t change Catholic marriage: Singapore cardinal

The Vatican document distinguishes between the Church’s official blessing and a pastoral blessing
Cardinal William Goh of Singapore.

Cardinal William Goh of Singapore. (Photo: Singapore Archdiocese)

Published: December 20, 2023 10:52 AM GMT
Updated: December 20, 2023 11:09 AM GMT

The Vatican’s declaration to allow the blessing of same-sex couples aims to guide priests on the pastoral care of same-sex people and it does not change the Church’s teachings on marriage and family, says Cardinal William Goh of Singapore.

Goh said he wants to dispel the misconception that the Church has changed its stance on its traditional doctrine about marriage as reported by some media houses. 

“The focus of the Declaration is not on the blessing of the unions of same-sex couples" but rather it distinguishes "between the Church’s official blessings, and a pastoral blessing for all occasions outside the liturgical and sacramental setting," Goh said in a press statement on Dec. 19.

The official blessings provided in the Catholic Church setting require the use of approved prayers in addition to certain specific conditions to be met," he explained, adding that pastoral blessings are “prayers offered spontaneously for the person.”

The statement from the head of Singapore Archdiocese came after the Vatican's Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a formal declaration Fiducia Supplicans (Supplicating Trust), on Dec. 18.

The document approved by Pope Francis backs "the possibility of blessings for couples in irregular situations [including unmarried couples or divorcees] and for couples of the same sex,” AFP reported.

The document reiterated the long-held position of the Catholic Church that marriage is between only a man and a woman, to have children.

The Church should avoid "rites and prayers that could create confusion between same-sex union and what constitutes Catholic marriage which is exclusive, stable, and indissoluble union between a man and a woman," the document said.

The church wants “everyone, without exemption, to receive God’s blessings” Goh said quoting from the statement.

“We are not blessing the unions of same-sex couples. We are blessing couples who are in irregular situations,” he said.

Those who are divorced and remarried, individuals struggling to be faithful to God’s commandments, those who aborted their babies, the sick, the elderly, and those who request spiritual and temporal blessings are examples of people in irregular situations, Goh clarified.

Goh pointed out that the priests “do not bless the sins of the person, but rather, the individual who is always loved by God, even when he or she is a sinner.”

Goh thanked Pope Francis for approving the document so that Church ministers would not act in a way that gives others the wrong impression that the Church endorses same-sex unions.

Goh urged the faithful not to be misled by media headlines and articles that may sensationalize official documents released by the Church and urged them to refer to the “original source of the content, or one close to it, for accurate representation.”

He advised the faithful to read the original declaration to have a better understanding of the official position of the Catholic Church on the matter of same-sex blessings.

Last November, Singapore’s parliament approved the repeal of the section of the law that criminalized gay sex.

The parliament also amended the constitution to prevent possible court challenges to legalization of the same-sex marriage and to change the existing definition of marriage between a man and a woman.

Religious groups have also supported the government's decision to update the law for the promotion of inclusiveness in Singaporean society.

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