Vatican overturns own decision on seminary dean

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

In a significant reversal, the Vatican approved the appointment of a new dean at a seminary in Northern Italy almost one year after first blocking the appointment over the candidate’s published views on sexual morality.

The Philosophical-Theological College in Bressanone (PTH Brixen) announced “with great joy” that Father Martin M. Lintner, OSM, has now been confirmed as dean and will take office on Sept. 1.

The appointment of Lintner, who teaches moral and spiritual theology at the seminary, faced opposition from the Vatican’s Dicastery for Culture and Education in mid-2023 over his published works on Catholic sexual morality, particularly his views on same-sex blessings. 

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.”

Rome’s position on Lintner’s appointment was reversed after the Vatican’s controversial declaration Fiducia Supplicans approved nonliturgical blessings for same-sex couples in December 2023. 

On the news of his appointment, Lintner told German media that the appointment of a new prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Victor Fernandez, had played a role. He also asserted that his case — the reversal of such an appointment — was setting a kind of “precedent.”

Lintner also expressed relief over his victory: “It is entirely in my interest to close this chapter, which has been stressful for everyone involved, and to concentrate on theological work again. I approach the new challenges as dean with joy and confidence,” reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

Bishop Ivo Muser of Bolzano-Bressanone welcomed the Vatican’s decision, saying he wished the new dean a blessed start.

“I would also like to thank those responsible in the Vatican’s Dicastery for Education for all the personal and telephone conversations and for the decision that has now been made.”

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

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