A theologian has suggested that since Pope Francis has endorsed civil unions, the church can no longer deny blessings to same-gender couples.
Martin M. Lintner, a moral theologian in Austria, told Katholisch.de, the German bishops’ official media outlet, that “strictly speaking” the hierarchy could no longer not offer same-gender couples a blessing in the church:
“I expect an intense, albeit controversial, debate within the Church on this question. But the refusal to enter into a dialogue on the part of the magisterium about what has been reflected on in theological and moral theological terms, I now consider to be canceled. The unanimous condemnation of a homosexual relationship as sinful is clearly not the Church’s last word on this matter.”
Lintner derived this thought from the pope’s own thinking, which begins with “his focus on people” rather than church teaching:
“If he [Francis] feels appreciation for these people, it is also logical that he recognizes their desire for partnership – and does not see any reason in sexual orientation alone that they are not allowed to comply with this wish. . .
“When he now speaks of the legitimate desire of homosexuals for a family or a partnership, there is certainly also the encounter with people who have revealed their needs to him: that it is not possible for them to live in a partnership due to their sexual orientation, or that they have been socially ostracized for it. He recognizes the need of a homosexual person for a stable and lasting relationship as legitimate. That is why he says that we as a church should work to ensure that this is possible, and advocates the registered partnership at a civil law level. . .
“On the one hand, I see the fact that the Pope is taking up this due to his personal sensitivity. On the other hand, I also see it as a sign that a rethinking of this matter is taking place at the level of the church teaching office.”
Lintner suggested that, based on the pope’s words, church leaders in nations still defying moves towards legal recognition of same-gender couples should “give up [their] resistance.” The theologian also suggested that perhaps Francis’ comments are a further step away from sex-negative church teachings, specifically that every sexual act must be intended for procreation. He argued, “a homosexual relationship does not lose its dignity due to the lack of fertility.” Whether the church will now rethink its teachings, and potentially develop them, Lintner remains “very curious.”
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, November 6, 2020