Archbishop of Vienna Cardinal Christoph Schönborn has spoken out on the CDF “no” to same-sex blessings, after five Austrian diocesan bishops, including the Austrian conference president Archbishop Franz Lackner of Salzburg, publicly expressed their dismay and disappointment.
He is the latest senior cleric to speak out after the decision by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to say “no” to blessings of same-sex couples.
In an interview with Kathpress and in the Vienna church paper Der Sonntag, he said he could understand that many people felt deeply hurt by the Vatican’s “No”, because a blessing was an “appeal for protection, for help from above” and not a reward for good behaviour.
“I was not happy with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s declaration for one simple reason: In the public eye, the message that came across was only the ‘No’ – ‘No’ to a blessing. And that is something that hurts people deep down in their heart of hearts. It’s as if they were pleading, ‘Mother, have you no blessing for me? I, too, am your child.’”
That there was also a positive reason for the CDF declaration – namely the concern for sacramental marriage – “went under completely”, Schönborn pointed out.
The question as to whether the Church could bless same sex marriages belonged to the same category as to whether it could bless remarried divorcees or unmarried couples, he recalled.
The answer was relatively simple. “If the request for a blessing is not a show – if it is honest and really is a plea for God’s blessing of a way of life that two people want to embark on together, then such a blessing will not be refused.”
|“The statement seems designed to forestall any further development in the Church’s understanding of same-sex relationships. In fact, it may well have accelerated it.” Read The Tablet leader on same-sex blessings and the CDF.|
As a priest or bishop he would tell the couple that although they hadn’t as yet “wholly fulfilled the ideal”, it was important that they “continue to lead virtuous lives, without which successful partnerships are not possible. And that deserves a blessing. One must think long and hard” as to whether or not that was the correct wording for a Catholic blessing ceremony, the cardinal underlined.
The CDF’s legitimate concern was to avoid giving the impression that a blessing ceremony was a prelude to sacramental marriage. “Sacramental marriage, which has almost become a rarity in today’s world, is something great and holy. The covenant between a man and a woman is something of immense importance and is sacred. It is a covenant for life, a covenant that is open to children who are seen as gifts of God”.
This “yes” to the family did not, however, mean saying “no” to all other forms of partnership, the cardinal said. The Church had long since become accustomed to the fact that it was no longer the only relevant voice regarding partnerships. The civil understanding of what a marriage is differed substantially from the sacramental understanding, he recalled.