by Mike Andrew -
SGN Staff Writer
Pope Francis wants to distance himself from the Vatican paper - supposedly issued with his approval - barring Catholic priests from blessing same-sex couples.
According to America magazine, published by the powerful Jesuit order, the Pope's March 21 sermon was a critique of the Vatican position paper, although expressed in indirect language.
The Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the agency that oversees adherence to Catholic dogma, ruled on March 15 that priests may not bless same-sex couples because "God cannot bless sin."
While the Catholic Church has long held that priests my not marry same-sex couples, many priests have been willing to hold blessing ceremonies for same-sex couples. The Vatican position paper was intended to foreclose that possibility.
America magazine said that "three sources" told them that the Pope did not entirely agree with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and wished to register his dissent.
In a sermon on March 21, the Pope called on the Church to give witness to Jesus "not with theoretical condemnations but with gestures of love."
Francis explained that this "means sowing seeds of love, not with fleeting words but through concrete, simple, and courageous examples; not with theoretical condemnations but with gestures of love."
In an apparent reference to the Vatican document, the Pope added that "the Lord, with his grace, makes us bear fruit, even when the soil is dry due to misunderstandings, difficulty, or persecution or claims of legalism or clerical moralism."
According to America, its sources are "senior" Vatican figures who declined to be named because they were not authorized to speak on behalf of the Pope.
The magazine did not ask them why the Pope would have to resort to roundabout criticism of a paper said to have been issued with his approval.
According to the Inside The Vatican podcast, the document was drafted by a small group of Vatican officials, and "rushed past the Pope" without giving him time to edit it.
The Vatican's position paper was not met with universal approval, even within the conservative Roman Catholic hierarchy.
Immediately after the paper was published, a group of dissident German and Austrian priests calling themselves the Parish Priests Initiative said they would continue to bless any couple that came to them.
"We members of the Parish Priests Initiative are deeply appalled by the new Roman decree that seeks to prohibit the blessing of same-sex loving couples. This is a relapse into times that we had hoped to have overcome with Pope Francis," the group said in a statement.
"We will - in solidarity with so many - not reject any loving couple in the future who ask to celebrate God's blessing, which they experience every day, also in a worship service."
Meanwhile, more than 230 professors of Catholic theology in Germany and other countries where German is spoken have signed a statement protesting the Vatican's ruling.
The Vatican document "is marked by a paternalistic air of superiority and discriminates against homosexual people and their life plans," the theologians said in a March 22 statement.
"We distance ourselves firmly from this position," it added. "We believe that the life and love of same-sex couples are not worth less before God than the life and love of any other couple."
The Archbishop of Santa Fe also dissented publicly from the Vatican's ruling. Archbishop John C. Wester said in an interview that Catholicism accepts and honors Gay people.
"Human sexuality is a gift from God, and it's also something that's very complex and mysterious," Wester said. Morality is subjective, he added, and only God and the individual involved really know if an act is a sin.
Asked if he agreed with the Vatican's ruling, Wester said, "It's too complicated a point to respond to that, I'm afraid. The letter is multifaceted."