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to the reform-oriented “Priests’ Initiative” movement decided to fly the flag to show “that we do not agree with this outdated position”, with many other churches also making the gesture.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!

Gay priests: Breaking the silence

Father Greg Greiten is one of a very few openly gay priests in America.

by Sari Aviv and Anna Matranga

The setting, with its soaring cathedral ceiling and sacraments, is typical of any Catholic service, but the similarities stopped with this sermon: “Because if there’s anything that an LGBTQ person will know, it is that we’re going to face opposition,” said Father Greg Greiten.

Yes, Father Greiten said “we” members of the LGBTQ community. He is one of very few openly gay priests.

When asked how many there are, he said, “I’ve always heard the number thrown out, like, ten of us, that are really out there.”

There are roughly 38,000 priests in America.

Correspondent Seth Doane Asked, “What are you risking by being out?”

“Sometimes it feels like I have to walk on a tightrope,” he replied.

Father Greiten “came out” to his congregation in this Milwaukee suburb about three years ago, at age 51, when he announced, “I am a gay priest, and a celibate priest.” This moment came after a lifetime of struggle, serving a church that teaches that “acting on” homosexual feelings is a sin.

“I just want to break the silence,” he told Doane. “We’re here. And for me, Seth, that was part of the hypocrisy that I was watching happen.”

“Did you feel like a hypocrite when you were up here at the pulpit, and not out?”

“I personally did. It’s like wearing a mask. Every day I have to go up there and pretend I’m something I’m not.”

He pledged, as all priests do, to live a celibate life. For him, this was not about sexual activity, but identity. He found folks in his congregation were overwhelmingly supportive.

Doane asked Carol Webber, “Does it matter to you that the priest here is gay?”

“No, it’s a positive thing,” she replied.

Carol and Fred Webber’s son had come out to them years earlier. “We went into the closet for a while, until we were able to accept it,” she said. “Of course, we loved our son.” Later, they say having an openly-gay priest helped.

But the church itself has not been so pleased.

Father Greiten said, “The unwritten comment is, ‘Don’t talk about it. We know you’re there, but be silent.'”

“Father Frederick,” as we’ll call him, feared losing his salary, healthcare, church housing, pension, and the authority to minister. During his interview, “Sunday Morning” hid his identity. “I’m not courageous enough yet,” he said.

Doane asked, “What does it say that you need to do this interview in shadow?”

“It says that it’s not cool to be gay if you’re a priest. And if you are gay and a priest both at the same time, you’ve gotta hide one or the other.”

He likened that secrecy to the “double-life” of spies.

When asked if he has remained celibate as a priest,” Father Frederick replied, “No, I did not. I experimented. I struggled. There were liaisons, there were relationships. And there was love several times.”

Love and sexual intimacy with another man? “Yes.”

With other priests? “Once or twice.”

He said his seminary where he trained to be a priest was a “warehouse” of young men struggling with their sexuality. They were encouraged from the top, and the beginning, to keep quiet.

Doane asked, “What’s the effect of this culture of silence on the church?”

“It is a slow-moving cancer,” Father Frederick said.

While Pope Francis famously responded “Who am I to judge” when asked about gay priests during a papal press conference, he has also said that anyone with “deep seated” homosexual tendencies shouldn’t be a priest. “Their place is not in ministry or in consecrated life,” he said.

Father James Martin, a Jesuit priest and author, and the most high-profile advocate for LGBTQ Catholics, said, “I think that if you had suddenly all the gay priests in the United States come out, I think the Church would be forced to look at the question of homosexuality in a very different light.”

In 2019 Pope Francis requested a meeting with Father Martin: “The Vatican put our audience on the Pope’s official schedule. They sent out a picture. I met with him in the Apostolic Palace, which is where he meets with presidents and diplomats. It was a pretty strong sign of his support.”

“The tone is new; the teachings haven’t changed?” asked Doane.

“The teachings haven’t changed, but the tone is very important.”

And, Father Martin says, ultimately Catholic leaders need to shift their thinking: “It’s a life issue. We have high suicide rates among LGBT youth, and we also have places in the world where gay people can be arrested and executed for being gay.”

He calls Pope Francis (the first pope to use the word “gay” publicly) the most pro-LGBTQ pope ever, though acknowledging that’s “not a high bar.”

“One of the things I lament is, if there were a case of, say, bullying in a parish or in a school, it would be wonderful for the gay priest to get up and say, ‘Look, I was bullied as a boy,'” Father Martin said. “So, there are these life experiences that I think people are missing in the church.”

Doane asked. “How many gay priests do you think there are?”

“I’m guessing maybe 40 percent. Who knows?” he replied. “If it was 40%, I wouldn’t be surprised; if it was 80%, I wouldn’t be surprised.”

“It is a large, silent community, a vast silent majority,” said Frédéric Martel, a French author who spent four years researching his book, “In the Closet of the Vatican,” about the gay underworld there.

He said he interviewed hundreds of priests, even cardinals: “It’s ‘Fifty Shades of Gay.’ I mean, a lot of different kind of gay.”

He suggests the largest group of men in the Vatican may be gay, but do not practice, and can actually be the most homophobic – and in interviews discovered a real range of sexual identities. “Each of them, each of them is totally singular in his little closet,” Martel said.

Francesco Mangiacapra is a sex worker with a law degree who found one priest client led to another, and another. When Doane asked how many priests he had slept with, Mangiacapra replied, “I think about 100. We have in Italy many, many thousands of priests, so 100 is not so much.”

Over roughly five years, Mangiacapra compiled a 1,200-page “dossier” of personal profiles, graphic photos and text-message exchanges with roughly 50 of the priests who were his clients. He submitted it to his local archdiocese of Naples – he says – as a political act.

“This demonstrates that there’s a flaw in the system – a system which tolerates certain behavior but makes it so these behaviors are hidden,” he said.

Mangiacapra admitted the dossier had scared off some priest-clients, but not all, adding: “The libido is higher than the fear.”

It’s important to note: the priests “Sunday Morning” spoke with, as well as the Vatican itself, see no connection between homosexuality and the clerical sexual abuse crisis. A five-year study by New York’s John Jay College, commissioned by bishops, found “the data do not support a finding that homosexual identity is a risk factor for the sexual abuse of minors.”

Doane spoke with about two dozen priests, who told us they were gay, but few would share their stories publicly.

Father Frederick said, “I admire priests who are willing to stand up, come out of the closet. That’s courage.”

Most told Doane they felt forced into the closet. It’s a painful, confining place, particularly in a church community where they’re expected to be role models.

Father Greg Greiten, faithfully serving his parish in Wisconsin, said secrecy is a scourge in the church, so the first step for him is being open and honest.

Doane asked, “You signed up to work for an institution that thinks being gay, acting out on that, is a sin.”

“Correct. But the difference is, this is my spiritual home. This is where I was baptized. This is where I received my first communion. And so, this is my home. And I don’t believe that the home should be throwing out its children.”

Complete Article HERE!

In Pope’s homeland, ex-priest leaves church over gay unions

Former Catholic Priest Andres Gioeni, right, sits with his husband Luis Iarocci and their dog Boris after they got home from the bishopric where he started the process of apostasy in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Wednesday, March 17, 2021. Gioeni, who left the priesthood 20 years ago and married in 2014, said he has decided to formally leave the church after the Vatican decreed that the Catholic Church cannot bless same-sex unions since God ‘cannot bless sin.’

By DÉBORA REY

A former priest and LGBTQ activist who has blessed same-sex unions in Pope Francis’ home country, Argentina, is leaving the Roman Catholic Church after the Vatican issued a pronouncement this week that priests may not perform such blessings.

Andrés Gioeni delivered a letter disavowing his faith to the bishopric in a Buenos Aires suburb on Wednesday, the anniversary of his ordination as a priest in 2000 and two days after the declaration from the Holy See.

“I do not want to continue being an accomplice to this institution, because I realize the harm they are doing to people. I am not renouncing my faith in God but rather I am renouncing a role and a rite,” said Gioeni, 49.

He spoke in an interview with The Associated Press at the home he shares with his husband, 50-year-old Luis Iarocci, and their three dogs, a few blocks from the cathedral in San Isidro north of the capital.

Like other LGBTQ Catholics, Gioeni was shocked by Monday’s proclamation, which argued that clergy members cannot bless same-sex unions on the grounds that they are not part of the divine plan and God “cannot bless sin.”

The Vatican says LGBTQ people should be treated with dignity and respect, but that gay sex is “intrinsically disordered” and same-sex unions are sinful.

The declaration from the Holy See’s orthodoxy office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was authorized by Francis, who prior to assuming the papacy supported legal protection for gay people in civil unions in the country as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, archbishop of Buenos Aires.

“There is no mention in any book (of the Bible) of consensual love between two people of the same sex and God telling them no,” said Gioeni, who has blessed at least four such unions.

Born in Mendoza province some 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) west of Buenos Aires, Gioeni pursued a religious vocation as a young man despite being tormented by doubts about his sexuality. He even “outed” to his superiors three fellow seminarians who had confessed attraction to him.

“All throughout seminary I was terribly homophobic,” Gioeni said. “It was a defense.”

After ordination he rose quickly in the provincial church, while secretly exploring chatrooms for the local gay community. He had his first sexual encounter with another man, broke it off to continue the priesthood, but then saw the man again. Gioeni told the bishop he needed to leave.

The church did not offer him psychological help, just a room next to the organ of the Buenos Aires cathedral where he was to confront his supposed crisis of faith.

“That was my descent into hell. … There I realized that I was considered like the Hunchback of Notre Dame — a defective being who could not go out into the world because he would be criticized and singled out,” Gioeni recalled.

Gioeni’s superiors became aware of his sexual identity in 2003, when he appeared nude on the cover of a gay magazine, and barred him from exercising priestly ministry.

He studied acting and worked as a waiter in a disco, where he met Iarocci. Together for 17 years now, they wed after Argentina became the first Latin American nation to legalize same-sex marriage in 2010.

In recent years Gioeni has become an LGBTQ activist lobbying for a more open Catholic Church.

Severing formal ties with the institution doesn’t change his faith in God, he said.

“I continue believing in God and He will be my God. In that, my spirituality is unchanged,” Gioeni said. “I no longer have a label. ‘What religion are you?’ I believe in God.”

Complete Article HERE!