European priests plan to bless same-sex unions in defiance of Vatican decree

Pope Francis leaves after delivering a speech at the Atomic Bomb Hypocenter Park on November 24, 2019, in Nagasaki, Japan.
Pope Francis leaves after delivering a speech at the Atomic Bomb Hypocenter Park on November 24, 2019, in Nagasaki, Japan. | Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images

Some European Catholic priests have announced their intentions to continue blessing same-sex unions despite a Vatican statement this week saying that Catholic churches can’t bless sinful relationships. 

The Austrian Priests' Initiative, which has supported the practice of blessing same-sex unions, released a statement this week expressing their intention to disobey Monday’s decree from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The group of priests stated that they were “deeply appalled by the new Roman decree that wants to prohibit the blessing of same-sex loving couples."

“This is a relapse into times that we had hoped to be overcome with Pope Francis,” the group’s statements reads, as reported by CBS News.

“In solidarity with so many, we will not reject any loving couple in the future who wants to celebrate God's blessing, which they experience every day, in a church-service.”

The initiative, founded in 2006, has about 350 members who mostly reside in Austria. The group argued that same-sex couples can be as loving as heterosexual couples.

“Reality has long since shown that same-sex couples connected in love can very well celebrate God's blessing in church. A state-of-the-art theology establishes this responsible practice,” the group added.

In a statement authored by Spanish Jesuit Cardinal Luis Ladaria, Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith declared that it is “not licit to impart a blessing on relationships, or partnerships, even stable, that involve sexual activity outside of marriage.”

“As is the case of the unions between persons of the same sex. The presence in such relationships of positive elements, which are in themselves to be valued and appreciated, cannot justify these relationships and render them legitimate objects of an ecclesial blessing, since the positive elements exist within the context of a union not ordered to the Creator’s plan,” the Vatican’s statement reads. 

Supporters of the decree, among them Kevin Miller, professor of moral theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, have argued that it fits longstanding Church teaching.

In an emailed statement, Miller stated that "[t]his teaching is so grounded in Scripture and Tradition that it cannot be otherwise.”

“'Intrinsically' means that, as the response says, no matter what positive elements (like friendship and the care for another that goes with it) there might also happen to be in a particular same-sex relationship, the relationship as a whole, insofar as it includes same-sex acts, is 'not ordered to the Creator’s plan,’” said Miller.

“To bless something that is intrinsically at odds with God’s plan would be a kind of contradiction in terms, an abuse of what a blessing, by its nature, is. It is not so much forbidden as impossible.”

Critics of the Vatican statement, including Jamie Manson, president of the progressive group Catholics for Choice, argued that the Vatican’s stance was “an act of profound cruelty to invalidate LGBTQ families in any form.”

“The Vatican’s needless attack on same-sex marriages seems to reflect an intention to put up walls that separate people and divide families instead of building bridges between all people,” stated Manson. “By insisting that genital complementarity is an absolute requirement for marriage, the hierarchy places limits on God’s power to work within all of the relationships of all God’s beloved children.”

Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, which claims to be the United States’ largest Catholic civil rights organization, told The Christian Post that the Vatican’s statement clarifies Pope Francis’ position on the matter. 

Last year, Pope Francis reportedly called for the legalization of same-sex civil unions in the civil sphere. But a Vatican official later clarified that the pontiff’s remarks did not change Catholic Church teaching. 

“The Church will never bless cohabitation,” Donohue said. “This is not just with homosexuals. There are guys and gals who live together outside of marriage, and the Church does not recognize that. This is not strictly about homosexuals, although they are the ones who are pushing for it, obviously. But it would apply to any union that is outside of [licit marriage].”

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