More than 200 German-speaking theology professors criticize Vatican ‘no’ to same-sex blessings

Mons Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer at briefing on new Motu proprio on the reform for marriage annulment at the Vatican Press Office 1 on Sept 8 2015 Credit Daniel Ibanez CNA 9 8 15 Then-Archbishop Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, now prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, speaks at the Holy See press office, Sept. 8, 2015. | Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

More than 200 professors of theology in the German-speaking world have signed a statement criticizing the Vatican’s rejection of blessings for same-sex couples.

The statement, drafted at the University of Münster, described the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) clarification as lacking “theological depth, hermeneutical understanding, and explanatory rigor.”

“If scientific findings are ignored and not received, as is the case in the document, the Magisterium undermines its own authority,” the professors said, according to CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

“The text is characterized by a paternalistic gesture of superiority and discriminates against homosexual people and their life plans.”

The CDF issued a “Responsum ad dubium” March 15 replying to the question, “does the Church have the power to give the blessing to unions of persons of the same sex?” The doctrinal congregation answered, “Negative,” explaining its reasoning in an “explanatory note” and accompanying commentary.

The ruling was approved for publication by Pope Francis and signed by CDF prefect Cardinal Luis Ladaria and secretary Archbishop Giacomo Morandi.

The document has provoked strong reactions in German-speaking countries, where a number of bishops have publicly voiced support for the blessing of same-sex unions. They include Bishop Georg Bätzing, the president of the German bishops’ conference.

Bätzing said March 15 that the CDF’s response reflected “the state of Church teaching as expressed in several Roman documents.”

He commented: “In Germany and in other parts of the worldwide Church, there have been discussions for some time about the way in which this teaching and doctrinal development in general can be advanced with viable arguments -- on the basis of fundamental truths of faith and morals, progressive theological reflection, and also in openness to more recent results of the human sciences and the life situations of people today. There are no easy answers to questions of this kind.”

Some Catholic priests said on social media that they would continue to bless homosexual unions, while several Catholic churches have displayed rainblow flags, including the cathedral of the Diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart.

But other German bishops have welcomed the Vatican clarification, including Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer of Regensburg and Bishop Stefan Oster of Passau.

In their statement, the professors “firmly” distanced themselves from the CDF’s intervention.

“In contrast, we assume that the life and love of same-sex couples are not less valuable before God than the life and love of any other couple,” they said.

“In many congregations, priests, deacons, and other pastoral ministers recognize gay people, including by offering celebrations of blessing for same-sex couples and reflecting on appropriate liturgical forms for such celebrations. We strongly welcome these affirming practices.”

In its explanatory note, the CDF said: “The Christian community and its Pastors are called to welcome with respect and sensitivity persons with homosexual inclinations, and will know how to find the most appropriate ways, consistent with Church teaching, to proclaim to them the Gospel in its fullness.”

“At the same time, they should recognize the genuine nearness of the Church -- which prays for them, accompanies them and shares their journey of Christian faith -- and receive the teachings with sincere openness.”

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