SALZBURG, Austria (ChurchMilitant.com) - The Austrian archdiocese of Salzburg has commissioned and published a book laying the groundwork for a so-called official blessing of same-sex couples.
Published this month, The Benediction of Same-Sex Partnerships was co-authored by Fr. Ewald Volgger at the behest of Salzburg Abp. Franz Lackner. An Austrian diocesan paper questioned Volgger on the reason for his book, which normalizes homosexual pairing.
"Because the Austrian liturgical commission, chaired by Archbishop Lackner of Salzburg, asked us to deal with this question," responded Volgger.
Volgger, director of the Institute for Liturgical Studies and Sacramental Theology at the Catholic Private University of Linz, said he wants gay couples to start receiving formal liturgical blessings "as soon as possible."
The archbishop of Vienna, Cdl. Christoph Schönborn, has been an advocate of same-sex couples for years. In 2015, Cdl. Schönborn defended "stable unions" of homosexuals, saying, "They share their joys and sufferings, they help one another. It must be recognized that this person took an important step for his own good and the good of others ... ."
In another instance, Schönborn greenlighted homosexual activist Gery Keszler's pro-LGBT concert "Believe Together" held at St. Stephen Cathedral in Vienna. In 2018, Kesler claimed the cardinal privately invoked a blessing upon Keszler's relationship with his same-sex partner.
The Salzburg diocesan paper referred to a documentary on St. Stephen's Cathedral in which a homosexual couple expressly thanked a priest from the cathedral for blessing their gay partnership. The paper asked Volgger if this was the type of blessing he had been promoting in his book.
Volgger dismissed such blessings as not being formal enough:
No, because this is probably the blessing of same-sex couples for Valentine's Day. These are widely used in practice. A benediction, as proposed from the liturgical theological point of view, would also have an official character, through which the church expresses the obligation to be faithful and exclusive in the relationship.
Volgger admitted the Catechism of the Catholics Church declares that homosexual acts are in no way to be approved and that it teaches all homosexual people are called to chastity. He was then asked if the Church's condemnation of homosexual acts was a major roadblock for those seeking to liturgically bless homosexual couples.
"Of course, because an official liturgy of the Church must be based on the doctrine of the Church," Volgger responded. "There is no other way."
His solution, however, isn't to conform liturgy to Church teaching, but rather, to change Church teaching on homosexuality. He says this can be done now that so many bishops believe homosexual acts are permissible.
"However, the teaching about homosexuality has been so widely discussed across Europe that opening up is not only debatable, but also demanding," asserted Volgger. "There are also a significant number of bishops who wish to rethink sexual morality to evaluate same-sex partnerships."
In neighboring Germany, prelates are advocating for the blessing of same-sex marriages.
A German cardinal is saying gay couples may receive a blessing from the Church. In December 2019, Cdl. Reinhard Marx, then-president of the German Bishops’ Conference, claimed that blessing same-sex unions would be part of the Church's so-called pastoral care of gay couples.
The current head of the German Bishops' Conference, Bp. Georg Bätzing of the diocese of Limburg is also on board with blessing same-sex unions. As Germany's synodal assembly began to unfold, Bätzing signed a working document calling for the Church to approve homosexual behavior, contraception and masturbation.
Volgger dedicated the first half of his book to examining the state of same-sex marriages in Austria, supposedly from an ethical and biblical point of view. In the second half, he described the mechanics of Benediction ceremonies for gay couples.