Austrian Catholics fly rainbow flag after same-sex blessing ban

This church in Vienna’s Breitenfeld neighbourhood is among those flying the rainbow flag

By Jastinder KHERA

The Catholic church of the parish of Hard is one of many in Austria which decided to fly the rainbow flag in solidarity with the LGBT community after the Vatican ruled last month that the Church couldn’t bless same-sex partnerships.

The powerful Vatican office responsible for defending church doctrine, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), handed down a ruling that same-sex unions could not be blessed despite their “positive elements”.

The office wrote that while God “never ceases to bless each of His pilgrim children in this world… he does not and cannot bless sin”.

Hard’s parish priest Erich Baldauf says he and the hundreds of other clergy who belong to the reform-oriented “Priests’ Initiative” movement decided to fly the flag to show “that we do not agree with this outdated position”, with many other churches also making the gesture.

Soon after the rainbow flag in Hard was put up, there was an attempt to damage it, and last Tuesday Baldauf was saddened to discover that it had been burnt.

“We were shocked… it pains us,” Baldauf said.

While the perpetrator has not been caught and there is no proven motive, Baldauf notes that other flags that have flown in the same place were never subject to attack.

In the following days, another rainbow flag outside a church, also in the far western state of Vorarlberg, was burnt, while a third was stolen.

In the following days, two other rainbow flags hanging outside churches, also in the far western state of Vorarlberg, were also burnt.

Contrary to the impression that these incidents may give, surveys show that Austrian public opinion is firmly on the side of equal treatment for same-sex couples.

Same-sex marriage has been legal in Austria since 2019 and a survey last week found that a full 64 percent of Austrians opposed the Vatican’s recent decision.

A mere 13 percent said they could understand the Vatican’s stance.

Austria is still a majority Catholic country, with the Church counting just under five million adherents in a country of 8.8 million.

But this represents a steep decline from the decades after the war, in which almost 90 percent of Austrians belonged to the Church.

Experts say differences between Austrian social attitudes and Church teaching on issues such as homosexuality and abortion contribute to tens of thousands choosing to leave the Church each year.

– ‘Hurts to the core’ –

It’s not just the explicitly reform-oriented Priests’ Initiative who have spoken out on the CDF ruling.

No less a figure than the Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, said he was “not happy” with the Vatican’s pronouncement.

“The message that went out via the media to the whole world was a simple ‘no’ and in fact a ‘no’ to blessing, which is something that hurts many people to their core,” he explained to the Catholic newspaper Der Sonntag.

Toni Faber, the priest of Vienna’s iconic St Stephen’s Cathedral, was even more forthright.

“If I had the job of causing the most damage possible to the Church with two pages of text, I would write exactly the sort of letter that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has written,” he told the Profil news magazine.

The CDF’s statement “totally misfired” in the aim of “upholding the sacrament of marriage”, Faber said, adding that none of the heterosexual couples he marries “feel diminished by the fact that I give blessings to same-sex couples”.

The unhappiness has found an echo among Germany’s Catholics, with priests using a hashtag calling for “disobedience” online.

While some prominent German bishops have supported the Vatican’s stance, others accused the CDF of seeking to stifle theological debates which have been active among German Catholics in recent years.

A German petition calling for the CDF’s ruling to be ignored has been signed by 2,600 priests and deacons, as well as 277 theologians.

The reaction in Germany and Austria speaks to broader global fault lines on social issues between socially conservative and liberal congregations.

However, according to Jesuit priest and former head of Vatican Radio’s German section Bernd Hagenkord, German-speaking countries also have “a very particular tradition of theology which acts very independently” and is less amenable to being overruled by Church hierarchy.

Back in Hard, the parish church decided to leave the remnants of the burnt flag in place for several days after the attack.

“It had the effect of a cross,” says Baldauf.

But in time for Good Friday, a new rainbow flag once again flew proudly outside the church, a sign of welcome for all parishioners at Easter.

Complete Article HERE!

Catholic priest interrupts Palm Sunday mass to protest Vatican ban on same-sex unions

Father Giulio Mignani refused to bless the palms on Palm Sunday in response to the Vatican’s ban on blessings for same-sex couples.

By Patrick Kelleher

A Catholic priest refused to bless the palms on Palm Sunday in protest against the Catholic Church’s ban on blessings for same-sex unions.

Father Giulio Mignani of Bonassola, near La Spezia in Italy, is an ardent supporter of same-sex marriage, according to local media reports.

The priest told his congregation on Palm Sunday that he would not be doing the routine blessing, which occurs on the Sunday before Easter, in protest after the Vatican forbade clergy from blessing same-sex couples because God “cannot bless sin”.

“If I can’t bless couples formed by persons of the same sex, then I won’t bless palms or olive branches either,” Father Mignani told the crowd that had gathered for mass on Sunday (28 March).

Catholic Church ban on same-sex blessings has ignited fury

Mignani’s intervention is just the latest in a string of furious responses from figures within the Catholic Church to the Vatican’s ruling.

There was widespread condemnation when the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith issued an explanatory note on 15 March telling priests that they must no longer bless same-sex couples.

The letter, which was approved by Pope Francis, said a blessing can only be conferred on a couple that lives according to “the designs of God inscribed in creation”.

While the note insisted that God loves all his children equally, it went on to say he “cannot bless sin”.

James Martin, a Jesuit priest known for his LGBT+ advocacy, said he hasn’t seen so many people ready to leave the church since the child-sexual abuse scandals hit.

“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 on Twitter.

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

Meanwhile, former Irish president Mary McAleese – a vocal Catholic who also has a gay son – hit out at the Vatican’s statement as “unbearably vicious”.

In a letter to Catholic archbishop Eamon Martin, McAleese said Pope Francis’ “chummy words to the press often quite reasonably realise hopes of church reform which hare subsequently almost invariably dashed by firm restatements of unchanged church teaching”.

She said the Vatican’s statement was “fired like a missile from the centre of governance of the church” and had caused “heartache and hurt” for many.

Complete Article HERE!

Irish priest says Catholic Church’s refusal to bless same-sex unions is “not Christianity”

By Rachael O’Connor

Fr Paddy Byrne, from Portlaoise, was responding to a recent report from the Vatican which ruled that the church cannot bless same-sex unions as ‘God doesn’t bless sin‘.

In the ruling, the CDF stated that while “God loves every person and the Church does the same”, and rejects all unjust discrimination, the church cannot bless a same-sex union as it does not follow the plan of the Creator.

The blessing of same-sex unions, the CDF said, is not “licit” and “there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family”.

The ruling insisted that this is not a “form of unjust discrimination” and that a gay person can be blessed individually, but the blessing of a same-sex union cannot take place as a “reminder of the truth… of the very nature of the sacramentals”.

Fr Byrne, who is a part of the Abbeyleix Parish, yesterday took to Twitter where he lamented over the ruling, citing his own experience in blessing “ceremonies of every description”.

Over the past 20 years, Fr Byrne has blessed “pets, cows, crops, rings, cars, tractors,” he said.

“Yet a same sex couple who request a simple blessing on their union must be turned away.

“This is not Christianity,” he said.

The ruling from the Vatican was a blow for Catholic members of the LGBT+ community, who were hoping for progression from their church, and Fr Byrne’s words have resonated with people across Ireland and beyond, garnering almost 5,000 ‘likes’ on Twitter.

“I feel so sad for the church,” one person wrote in response to Fr Byrne’s post. “What I’ve learned about Jesus in my 48 years of life is he preached love not hate, inclusion not exclusion.”

Earlier this month, former President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, criticised Pope Francis following the Vatican ruling, saying she was bitterly disappointed by what could be perceived as Pope Francis raising and subsequently dashing hopes that LGBT Catholics were close to being accepted by their religion.

As reported by The Irish Times, the former president criticised Pope Francis as a populist whose “chummy words to the press” makes people believe the church is becoming a more progressive and accepting place– before the Vatican dashes such hopes soon afterwards.

Pope Francis made headlines across the globe late last year when he appeared to voice his support for same-sex families and same-sex unions, as he spoke in a new documentary stating “homosexual people have a right to be in a family” .

“What we have to create is a civil union law,” he added. “That way they are legally covered.”

“[Gay people] are children of God and have a right to a family.”

“Nobody should be thrown out or made miserable over it.”

However, the Vatican later released a statement insisting the Pope’s comments were taken out of context and the Church’s stance on the LGBT community and gay marriage has not changed.

Complete Article HERE!

McAleese criticises pope as populist who raises then dashes hopes

Document on same-sex blessings shows that Pope Francis ‘toes the old hard line’

Mary McAleese spoke of the document’s ‘unbearably vicious language which can only have brought more heartache to our gay children and to us their families.

BY Patsy McGarry

Former president Mary McAleese has criticised Pope Francis as a populist who raises expectations only to dash them, following a Vatican document published on Monday which sustained a ban on same-sex blessings.

She described the document, approved by the pope, as “withering”.

About Francis himself, Ms McAleese said his “chummy words to the press often quite reasonably raise hopes of church reform which are subsequently almost invariably dashed by firm restatements of unchanged church teaching”.

While raising hopes, “he is the pope who toes the old hard line”, she said.

She has also written to Ireland’s Catholic bishops asking that they challenge language used about gay people in the document, published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). She asked “if there is even one among you willing to acknowledge publicly that the language used in this most recent document from CDF is gratuitously cruel in the extreme”.

‘Vicious language’

In the letter to Catholic Primate Archbishop Eamon Martin, she spoke of the document’s “unbearably vicious language which 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.”

She noted how the church “runs 90 per cent of our primary schools and 50 per cent of our second-level schools” and of “the right of our children not to be exposed to cruelly-worded teachings that conduce to homophobia”.

Referring to Catholic bishops elsewhere, some of whom have taken issue with the language in the CDF document, she asked: “Is there any vestige of such episcopal courage here?”

‘Breathtaking’

Meanwhile, the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) has said the CDF document is “unfortunate and unwise”, and described as “breathtaking” the certainty with which the CDF assumed “what God can and cannot do” .

The “judgemental and discriminatory statement” left ACP leaders “saddened and disappointed”, and feeling “it is increasingly difficult to remain hopeful of an inclusive church”, they said.

The CDF document said it was “not licit” for Catholic priests to give blessings to same-sex couples as it was “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”.

Complete Article HERE!

Rebel priests defy Vatican, vow to bless same-sex couples

Father Helmut Schueller

By

A dissident band of Roman Catholic priests leading a disobedience campaign against the Vatican said on Tuesday they would carry on blessing same-sex couples in defiance of Church orders.

The Vatican said on Monday that priests cannot bless same-sex unions and that such blessings are not valid, in a ruling that disappointed gay Catholics who had hoped their Church was becoming more welcoming under Pope Francis.

In some countries, parishes and ministers have begun blessing same-sex unions in lieu of marriage, and there have been calls for bishops to institutionalise de facto such blessings. Conservatives in the 1.3 billion-member Roman Catholic Church have expressed alarm over such practices.

“We members of the Parish Priests Initiative are deeply appalled by the new Roman decree that seeks to prohibit the blessing of same-sex loving couples. This is a relapse into times that we had hoped to have overcome with Pope Francis,” the Austrian-based group said in a statement.

“We will — in solidarity with so many — not reject any loving couple in the future who ask to celebrate God’s blessing, which they experience every day, also in a worship service.”

The Parish Priests Initiative led by Father Helmut Schueller has long been a thorn in the side of the Vatican. The group wants Church rules changed so that priests can marry and women can become priests.

It has said it will break Church rules by giving communion to Protestants and divorced Catholics who remarry.

Founded in 2006 by nine priests, the initiative says it now has around 350 members from the ranks of the official Church and more than 3,000 lay supporters.

The Vatican in 2012 cracked down on Schueller, stripping him of the right to use the title monsignor and saying he was also no longer a “Chaplain of His Holiness”.

Schueller, a former deputy to Vienna archbishop Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, had been given the honorary title in his capacity as head of the Austrian branch of the Catholic charity group Caritas.

Complete Article HERE!