Austrian theologian pushes for sacramental blessings for same-sex couples

Austrian priest theologian pushes for sacramental blessings for same-sex couples

An Austrian priest theologian is pushing for sacramental blessings for same-sex couples, saying that God brings them together.

– Same-sex relationships “symbolically express God’s love for man”

Ewald Volgger, a professor of liturgy and sacramental theology at the Catholic Private University (KU) in Linz, is one of the editors of a new volume commissioned by the Austrian Bishops on the possibility of the Church allowing blessings for gay couples.

In an interview with katholisch.de published June 5, Volgger outlined his and his fellow theologians’ vision of a new liturgical rite for gay Catholics, and explained that “homosexuals as individuals can always be blessed – and at every liturgical celebration they receive the blessing like everyone else”.

However, the liturgist said that the “decisive question” the new volume seeks to answer is: “Can two same-sex-attracted people pursue their baptismal calling to a life in common and receive the blessing from the Church for that?”

“An official blessing ceremony by the Church would make this partnership binding”, Volgger continued, adding that blessings would also show the Church’s “appreciation” for same-sex relationships, “which symbolically express[] God’s love for man”.

– Blessings would reduce “disappointment and suffering” and reduce “discrimination”

Not only would official blessings for gay couples reflect the Church’s esteem for their relationships, but they would also ward off the “disappointment and suffering” of gay Catholics and reduce “discrimination” against them, Volgger highlighted.

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The theologian affirmed that a rite of blessing would make it clear to same-sex couples “that they can present themselves in public as people blessed by the Church”, and with a record of their relationship, moreover, kept in parish records.

As to why he and his colleagues recommended to the Austrian Bishops gay blessings but not gay marriage, Volgger explained that the experts were advising a “certain restraint” at present in order to achieve “gradual progress” in the long run.

“The name is not the primary goal: what is essential is the recognition of the common way of life of two same-sex partners whom God brings together”, Volgger insisted.

The liturgist also defended the new proposal of gay blessings against the charge that it was complicating the matter by insisting that those blessings have a sacramental element to them when non-sacramental blessings could in theory be possible without the need to change Church teaching on homosexuality.

“It is up to Church authorities to have an open discussion and to allow the question of why this celebration should not be possible”, Volgger stressed, adding that not only do “experts from various theological and humanistic disciplines… give reasons why this way of life can be recognised by the Church”, but bishops, too, “have also called for these questions to be asked”.

“It is therefore also the duty of the Magisterium to reflect on the consequences to be drawn” from that questioning, the theologian urged.

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– Hope for “honest progress”

Though Volgger admitted that his proposal for same-sex blessings seems diametrically opposed to current Church teaching that homosexual acts are – as the Catechism puts it – “intrinsically disordered”, he said he still finds reason to hope for a revision of that doctrine in the fact that “there are still a considerable number of bishops who say to those affected and to committed pastoral workers: ‘We must make honest progress in this direction'”.

Citing German Bishops’ president Georg Bätzing’s recent positive reassessment of gay blessings, Volgger said that even if the Catechism still condemns same-sex love, “this does not mean that [that] cannot be revised”.

“With Amoris laetitia the Pope has given impulses” to a revision of the theology of sexuality, the theologian recalled, also reinforcing his argument with an appeal to “new insights in biblical science, moral theology and ethics”.

And as for the charge that the Church would provoke a schism by approving of same-sex relationships, Volgger recalled: “A schism has already been threatened in many questions” in Church life without that eventuality coming to pass.

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“Whoever wants to prevent discussions with such knockout-punch arguments also wants to prevent an objective debate”, he lamented.

More on Novena on the movement for LGBT+ rights in the Church:

German Bishops’ head wants world synod on ordination of women, blessings for same-sex couples

Cardinal Zuppi, on gays in the Church: “Every difference is embraced by the love of God, who does not discriminate”

Swiss lesbian Catholic theologian: “I love my Church too much to leave it in the hands of those who would rather see me gone”

Theologian says “considerable number” of Austrian bishops open to same-sex blessings

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Cameron Doody

Director and editor at Novena
PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. Lecturer in ethics at Loyola University Maryland, Alcalá de Henares (Spain) campus. Religion journalist with 4 years experience.