A “considerable number” of Austrian bishops are open to same-sex blessings, a theologian has said.
– “Church teaching is finding less and less resonance”
Though the Catechism still condemns same-sex acts and calls gay people to chastity, in recent years “there has been movement on the topic” in the Church, Linz liturgist Ewald Volgger told the diocesan newspaper.
As proof of that “movement”, Volgger cited the book on same-sex blessings he has just published with fellow theologian Florian Wegscheider, which was commissioned by the Austrian Bishops’ Conference’s committee on the liturgy, headed up by Archbishop of Salzburg Franz Lackner.
“Church teaching is finding less and less resonance in society and within the Church, [and] in particular moral theology is in favor of new approaches in the evaluation of homosexuality”, Volgger affirmed.
But not only is their support among theologians for those “new approaches”, but there is also “a considerable number of bishops” who are hoping for a “rethink” of the Church’s attitude to sexual morality and same-sex partnerships, the liturgist went on.
– “Just as a marriage between a man and a woman is an image of God’s creative love, so is a same-sex relationship an image of God’s care for human beings”
Liturgist Volgger admitted that any official introduction of same-sex blessings in the Church would be dependent on changes to the Catechism, since “an official liturgy of the Church must have its basis in the doctrine of the church”.
And while he admitted that he “didn’t know” a possible timetable for blessings for gay couples, he said his wish would be “as soon as possible”.
“In any case, from a scientific point of view, it was time to work”, Volgger said of his new book on the subject.
He added that theology had some catching-up to do with respect of those priests accompanying gay couples on the ground for years.
As for what a rite of blessing for gay couples could look like, Volgger was careful to point out that it wouldn’t be a sacrament and, specifically, “it is not on a par with the sacrament of marriage”.
Nonetheless, a blessing would be “an official act of benediction”, the theologian explained, since “just as a marriage between a man and a woman is an image of God’s creative love, so is a same-sex relationship an image of God’s care for human beings”.
Stressing the official nature of the same-sex blessing he and Wegscheider are proposing, which would encourage gay couples to faithfulness in their relationship, Volgger explained that if homosexuals “live the gift of mutual love in loyalty to one another and shape their lives with the spiritual gifts of God such as kindness, forbearance, patience, reconciliation, etc., their relationship is also a picture of the goodness and philanthropy of God”.
– German theologian hits out at use of the Bible to attack gays
Also on the topic of gays in the Church, a leading Protestant theologian in Bremen has come out swinging against Christians who use biblical quotes out of context to attack gay people.
Bernd Kuschnerus, who is also the secretary of the Bremen Evangelical Church, told Germany’s Evangelical Press Service that it makes him “angry” that Christians use the sacred texts to label homosexuals as criminals or deviants from the biblically-based order of creation, as pastor Olaf Latzel did in a “marriage seminar” in Bremen last year.
“You can’t use the Bible – and I say ‘use’ expressly – to pick out certain passages and use them against people”, Kuschernerus warned, alerting that Christians who use ‘clobber passages’ in that way are trying to “authorise through the Bible certain personal views or aversions against certain social groups, also to assert a claim to power”.
The theologian went on to decry also the danger of appealing to an alleged ‘order of creation”, “which is entirely subject to the zeitgeist in its interpretation”.
“Just think of slavery or the Nazi racial ideology”, Kuschernus cautioned, adding that the 75th anniversary of the fall of the Nazis, under whom homosexuals and other minority groups suffered so much, is yet another reason not to be “derogatory, contemptuous or hateful against gay people”.
Statements in the Bible should be seen in their textual, social, cultural and historical context, the theologian concluded.
“That would mean that today’s concepts of homosexuality cannot simply be transferred to antiquity – and vice versa”, he said, adding to the need for context in biblical interpretation the imperative of reading the sacred texts in the key of God’s grace.