Views on sexual morality halt appointment of new dean at Italian seminary

Philosophical-Theological University of Bressanone Philosophical-Theological University of Bressanone in Italy. | Credit: Ladislav Luppa / Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

The Vatican vetoed the appointment of a new dean at a seminary in Northern Italy, citing concerns over the appointee’s views on sexual morality diverging from the Church’s teachings.

On June 26, the Philosophical-Theological College in Bressanone (PTH Brixen), announced that Father Martin M. Lintner, OSM, had been chosen to serve as dean for the term from Sept. 1, 2023, to Aug. 31, 2025. 

Lintner is professor of moral theology and spiritual theology at the seminary. 

According to CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner, the Vatican's Dicastery for Culture and Education, the department responsible for such appointments, communicated to Bishop Ivo Muser of Bolzano/Bozen that it will not be granting its approval for the appointment.

The PTH Brixen, located in the Northern Italian region of South Tyrol (Alto Adige), is a significant institution in the traditionally German-speaking region, offering courses in philosophy and theology. It serves as a hub for religious and philosophical discourse and is the academic training center of the Diocese of Bolzano-Bressanone for priests and deacons, pastoral assistants, teachers of religion, and other pastoral vocations.

The decision to veto the appointment is rooted in Lintner’s published works on Catholic sexual morality, which have stirred controversy within Church circles. Lintner’s writings include discussions on the spirituality of marriage, sexual ethics, and the ethics of relationships. 

In an article published in 2020 by New Ways Ministry titled “Theologian Suggests Papal Civil Union Support May Lead to Church Blessings,” Lintner is quoted as saying: “A homosexual relationship does not lose its dignity due to the lack of fertility.” 

Lintner also contributed a chapter offering “theological-ethical reflections on a blessing ceremony for same-sex couples” to a book titled “The Benediction of Same-Sex Partnerships.”

The statement published by the college on June 27 said that Muser, in concurrence with Lintner, had chosen not to contest the decision. As a result, the college is now tasked with the election of a new dean. Until such time as a new dean can assume office, Muser has affirmed that the incumbent dean, Professor Alexander Notdurfter, will retain his position.

Despite the decision, the priest’s ecclesiastical mandate to teach remains intact, the college’s statement concluded: “The Vatican’s decision is specific to his appointment as dean and does not influence his teaching duties or ecclesiastical authority.”

In 2021 the Vatican’s doctrinal office clarified that the Catholic Church does not have the power to give liturgical blessings of homosexual unions.

Answering the question “Does the Church have the power to give the blessing to unions of persons of the same sex?” the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith responded: “Negative.”

In an accompanying note, the doctrine office explained that blessings are sacramentals, and “consequently, in order to conform with the nature of sacramentals, when a blessing is invoked on particular human relationships, in addition to the right intention of those who participate, it is necessary that what is blessed be objectively and positively ordered to receive and express grace, according to the designs of God inscribed in creation and fully revealed by Christ the Lord.”

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