A well-known priest has congratulated Olympic medalist Kellie Harrington and his wife Mandy Loughlin on their marriage and criticized the Catholic Church’s stance on same-sex blessings as “outdated”.
r Paddy Byrne, parish priest of Abbeyleix, Ballinakill, Raheen in County Laois, lamented the ‘sad’ fact that he could bless tractors and cars but not a loving same-sex couple.
Addressing the Irish Independent he said the boxer and health care worker “encompasses and personifies all that is Christianity.”
In a tweet, Father Byrne described Kelly Harrington as “a national treasure” and said he wished her and her partner health and happiness.
“I find it sad that as a church we can bless cars, tractors… I don’t suppose this couple wants such a ritual, but for many people who should,” he wrote.
He was praised by Labor TD Aodhán Ó Ríordáin for his comments.
Father Byrne told the Irish Independent the Church’s ban on homosexual blessings is “one of the reasons why the level of practice among those under 60 is currently in free fall”.
He added, “It’s not about diluting the truth of Christianity – it’s about embracing the consequences of the radical love of Jesus Christ.”
Referring to the sense of exclusion that many same-sex couples feel within Catholicism, he asked: “How can we continue to alienate these couples at such a happy time in their lives and not offer at least some form of recognition? – spiritual nourishment – and a ritual?
He said he didn’t know Kellie personally or anything about her religious background or tradition, but felt it was a ‘paradox’ that cars and tractors could be blessed when a committed couple could not.
“I wanted to highlight a happy time in her life, especially in the context of Holy Week, which is a story about inclusion, love and acceptance.
“These couples are not from the moon, they are from loving families, they are our brothers and sisters, they are our people, they are us – they are humanity.”
Emphasizing that he was “in no way a maverick,” he said people on the ground in the Church accepted the need to offer same-sex couples a ritual to mark their commitment.
“I speak on behalf of the vast majority of the members of the parishes I serve and in particular the younger members of these parishes. I also speak on behalf of the clergy. The majority of us find it not only disappointing but almost embarrassing that we cannot celebrate these occasions in our churches,” he said.