A top church leader in Austria has said in an interview that same-gender couples should not be denied a blessing by the church if the request for the blessing is “honest.”
Speaking to Der Sonntag, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna expressed that he was “not happy” with the Vatican’s recent ban on blessing same-gender couples. He explained (via Google Translate):
“The question of whether one can bless same-sex couples belongs in the same category as the question of whether this is possible for remarried or unmarried partnerships. And here my answer is relatively simple:
“If the request for the blessing is not a show, so not just a kind of coronation of an external ritual, if the request for the blessing is honest, it is really the request for the blessing of God for a life path, the two people, in whatever situation, try to make a go, then this blessing will not be denied to them.
“Even if, as a priest or bishop, I have to say: ‘You have not realized the whole ideal. But it is important that you live your way on the basis of human virtues, without which there is no successful partnership. ‘And that deserves a blessing. Whether the right form of expression for this is a church blessing ceremony – you have to think about it carefully.”
Schönborn, who until last year chaired the Austrian Bishops’ Conference, was responding to a letter received by the archdiocesan magazine from the parent of a married gay child disappointed by the ban. He explained his reasoning around blessings by using the traditional formulation of the church as a mother and a teacher, saying further the church is first a mother. Mothers, the cardinal said, bless their children, including his own mother who still blesses him, and would not refuse a blessing to a child who is same-sex oriented. He explained then:
“I was not happy with this statement from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. For the simple reason: The message that got across the media all over the world was just a ‘no’. A ‘no’ to the blessing; and that’s something that hurts a lot of people inside, like sensing and saying, ‘Mother, don’t you have a blessing for me? I’m your child too.’ . . .
“And many people living and feeling homosexual are particularly sensitive to this question: ‘Is the Church a mother to us?’ And they remain children of God. And they also want to see the Church as a mother and that is why this declaration hit many so particularly painful, because they have the feeling that they are being rejected by the Church.”
The cardinal blames the Vatican document for overemphasizing the “no” on blessings. He believes the document’s “no” obscured a point about separating such blessings from sacramental marriage. Schönborn felt this latter point was valid, but was lost because of media coverage that simply covered the ban.
La Croix International reported that the number of bishops in German-speaking areas who object to the CDF statement is growing, some of whom Bondings 2.0 has previously reported on:
“Those who have joined him in raising objections include Bishops Hermann Glettler of Innsbruck, Manfred Scheuer of Linz, Benno Elbbs of Feldkirch, Wilhelm Krautwaschl of Graz and Josef Marketz of Gurk, as well as Salzburg’s Archbishop Franz Lackner who is also president of the Austrian Bishops’ Conference.”
Two of these bishops, Glettler and Marketz, seemed likely to offer such blessings themselves. America quoted the latter as saying, “For me, homosexuals are not second-class Christians, and of course I will always give them a blessing.”
Cardinal Schönborn has been a prominent supporter of LGBTQ people in recent years. In 2020, he attended an HIV/AIDS fundraiser and responded to conservative critics by quoting the gospel of Matthew, noting that Jesus “does not ask about sexual orientation, but: I was hungry, and you gave me food.” In the past, the cardinal invited HIV/AIDS fundraisers to take place in the historic St. Stephen’s Cathedral, and has pointedly spoken out in favor of LGBTQ families and community rights, described personal gay friends as ‘saintly,’ and expressed an openness to transgender people.
Thousands of Catholics worldwide are pledging to bless same-gender couples. If you have not already added your name to New Ways Ministry’s pledge, you can do so here.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, March 27, 2021
For all the previous posts concerning the Vatican’s ban on blessing same-gender couples, click here.
For a listing of Catholic leaders who have spoken positively about same-gender relationships and unions, click here.
For information about a Catholic blessing for a same-gender couple, click here.
For more information on how to be welcoming to married same-gender couples, click here.