Archdiocese of Salzburg Publishes New Book on Church Blessings for Same-Gender Couples

Ewald Volgger

Austria’s Archdiocese of Salzburg has published a new book which explores the blessings of same-gender unions, an important step towards formal recognition of LGBTQ+ relationships in a country where marriage equality was instituted in 2019. 

Entitled The Benediction of Same Sex Partnerships, the book was reviewed in The Tablet, and includes quotes from an interview that liturgist Ewald Volgger held with KirchenZeitung Diozese Linz, the diocesan newspaper of Linz. Volgger shared that he was commissioned by Archbishop Franz Lackner to explore the “the question of an official Benediction” for lesbian and gay couples. While stopping short of defining these relationships as  marriage, the text finds strong grounding for providing them with a formal blessing. The current area being explored, a Benediction, is described in The Tablet as “not a sacrament and therefore not at the same level as the Sacrament of Marriage…but an official act of blessing.”

This book’s publication comes, Volgger noted, as increasing numbers of Catholics are embracing LGBTQ inclusion in the church. For the benediction outlined in the text to be declared an official liturgy, it would require an amendment to the Catechism’s discussion of homosexuality, which still contains language of ‘intrinsic disorder.’ Says Volgger, “an official liturgy must be based on church doctrine.” The text, co-authored with theologian Florian Wegscheider, also discusses the ethical and scriptural perspectives on same-gender marriage, as well as an examination of how marriage equality developed in Austria.

While Volgger is not certain of a timeline for when such a benediction could be instituted, he wished that it could occur ‘as soon as possible.’ Novena News reported that Volgger observed that theology has been behind the times in regards to the pastoral accompaniment that priests have been providing to same-gender couples for years.  

Volgger also shared with KirchenZeitung Diozese Linz that Archbishop Lackner is not alone in his desire for a more inclusive church. He says that a “significant number of bishops want to see a change in thinking concerning the evaluation of same-sex partnerships in church teaching on sexual morality.” The German-speaking church has been particularly outspoken. In 2020, the new head of the German bishops’ conference, Bishop Georg Bätzing said the church must find a way to recognize sam-gender couples. Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, a close advisor to Pope Francis, has made similar comments. Last year, in Germany, Bishop Dieter Geerlings, auxiliary bishop emeritus for the Diocese of Münster, reaffirmed his existing support for such blessings based on the “mutual responsibility” partners show for one another that is “valuable and praiseworthy, even if this bond is not in complete agreement with the church.” Bishop Felix Gmür of Basel, Switzerland, said the church had to find a meaningful way to engage such couples.

In Austria, the public tide has been turning significantly in favor of blessing same-gender unions, and Volgger says that “a new approach is not only open to discussion but can be demanded.” This development shows the great impact that public opinion and the influence of lay people can have on shaping the church. We hope that the call for an official Benediction continues and that this soon paves the way for sacramental marriage equality to follow.

Catherine Buck, New Ways Ministry, May 25, 2020

Related Article

Novena News, “Austrian priest theologian pushes for sacramental blessings for same-sex couples

5 replies
  1. Terence Weldon
    Terence Weldon says:

    Really impressive how far the church has come. It was just about ten years ago that Vienna’s Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn hit the headlines for simply suggesting, in what were intended as private remarks, that it was time for the Church to stop obsessing about genital acts, and instead start considering the quality of the relationships. All the usual suspects reacted with fury, expecting a swift reprimand from Pope Benedict XVI – but that did not come. A stream of other bishops soon followed with similar remarks.

    Then came the battles over same-sex marriage. While some bishops and right-wing commentators railed against the possibility of marriage equality or anything like it, others (again including Cardinal Scbonborn began to argue in favour of civil unions – at least in secular law. One of those bishops arguing (privately)
    in support was Archbishop Giorgio Bergoglio – now Pope Francis.

    Meanwhile, full marriage and family equality has been enshrined in civil law in many countries across the world, on all continents, and enjoys increasing public support in many others. As it has done so, a range of Protestant denominations in many jurisdictions have found it possible to reconcile LGBT inclusion with the demands of scripture, and have devised liturgies for either full church marriages, or rites of same-sex blessings. Formally, Catholic teaching has not changed – but practice undoubtedly has. In private, it is now increasingly easy to find Catholic priests willing to conduct ceremonies of one kind or another for same-sex unions – sometimes even with the knowledge and support of local bishops (as long as these are conducted without publicity, and are not presented as “marriage”.

    All of this within just ten years. We have the momentum: sooner or later, we will surely see formal provision for same-sex unions in church – and before it, the necessary changes in church teaching to make it possible.

    Reply
  2. Don Siegal
    Don Siegal says:

    The introduction of such an official Benediction would mean amending the present wording of the Catholic Catechism according to which homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered, “as an official liturgy must be based on the church doctrine.”

    Has anyone proposed a rewrite? Of course, the current section only deals with the lesbian and gay prong of sexual orientation and it says absolutely nothing about gender orientation. First off, the current title of this section would need to be revised to be inclusive of all sexual and gender orientations.

    If one were charged with rewriting the section on homosexuality in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, how would one approach that task? I would propose that one should start with the second part of #2358. “[These persons] must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. [They] are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter….”

    Reply

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] Published this month, The Benediction of Same-Sex Partnerships was co-authored by Fr. Ewald Volgger at the behest of Salzburg Abp. Franz Lackner. An Austrian diocesan paper questioned Volgger on the reason for his book, which normalizes homosexual pairing. […]

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