Catholic Church facing biggest mass walkout since child sex abuse scandal, priest claims

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A leading Jesuit priest has said he hasn’t seen so many people ready to leave the Catholic Church since the child-sexual abuse scandal hit.

James Martin, a priest who advocates for LGBT+ inclusion within the Catholic Church, made his comments after the Vatican released an explanatory note insisting that clergy must not bless same-sex unions because God “cannot bless sin”.

“Not since the anger over sex abuse in 2002 and 2018 have I seen so many people so demoralised, and ready to leave the church, as I have this week,” Martin wrote.

He added: “And not simply LGBT+ people, but their families and friends, a large part of the church.”

There was widespread disappointment among LGBT+ Catholics when the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith released a statement banning blessings for same-sex couples on Monday (15 March).

The note, signed by Jesuit Luis Ladaria Ferrer and archbishop Giacomo Morandi, argued that same-sex unions are “not ordered to the Creator’s plan”.

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While the Vatican insisted that God loves all of his children regardless of the sins they commit, they also said God “does not and cannot bless sin”, falling back on its traditional view that same-gender relationships must not be accepted by the church.

Catholic Church same-sex blessings ban branded ‘unbearably vicious’

Pope Francis has faced stinging criticism for approving the explanatory note. Mary McAleese, former president of Ireland and an outspoken Catholic campaigner, lambasted the Vatican’s statement as “unbearably vicious”.

McAleese, who has a gay son, wrote in her letter to Catholic archbishop Eamon Martin that Pope Francis’ “chummy words to the press often quite reasonably realise hopes of church reform which are subsequently almost invariably dashed by firm restatements of unchanged church teaching”.

She said Francis is “the pope who toes the old hard line” and said the language used “can only have brought more heartache to our gay children and to us their families.

“Heartache and hurt fired like a missile from the centre of governance of the church,” McAleese wrote.

New Ways Ministry, a Catholic LGBT+ group, slammed the Vatican’s “disappointing” statement.

Executive director Francis DeBernardo said the Vatican’s ruling is “an impotent one because it won’t stop the movement to bless such couples”.

DeBernardo said the Church’s ban on blessings will “actually encourage Catholics in the pews and the many Catholic leaders who are eager for such blessings to happen to work harder in their support – and blessing – of same-sex couples”.

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