Catholic women’s groups protest Vatican’s gay union stance

BERLIN (AP) — Five Catholic women’s organizations in German-speaking areas have released an open letter calling for the Vatican to reverse its position that priests cannot bless same-sex unions.

The letter to the Vatican’s orthodoxy office, dated Wednesday and released Thursday, was signed by the heads of two groups in Germany and one each in Austria, Switzerland and northern Italy’s largely German-speaking South Tyrol region. The groups say they have about a million members in total.

“The church’s mission to be effective as a sign of salvation in the world means countering homophobia and standing up for gender equality, also on the basis of human sciences,” they wrote.

The organizations called for “a renewal of sexual and relationship ethics” in the Catholic Church and said there needs to be a “recognition of the everyday reality of people in same-sex relationships.”

The open letter is the latest sign of pushback from the German-speaking world against a document released last month by the Vatican’s orthodoxy office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which said Catholic clergy cannot bless same-sex unions because God “cannot bless sin.”

The congregation’s note distinguished between blessing same-sex unions and the Catholic Church’s welcoming and blessing of gay people, which it upheld. The document argued that such unions are not part of God’s plan and that any sacramental recognition of them could be confused with marriage.

It pleased conservatives and disheartened advocates for LGBT Catholics. The German church has been at the forefront of opening discussion on hot-button issues such the church’s teaching on homosexuality.

More than 230 professors of Catholic theology in Germany and other countries where German is spoken previously signed a statement protesting the Vatican’s pronouncement, which they said “is marked by a paternalistic air of superiority and discriminates against homosexual people and their life plans.”

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