For Catholics who welcomed the Vatican’s recent statement barring blessings of same-sex unions, the flurry of objections that followed has seemed eerily reminiscent of the outcry against the 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae.
Just as St. Paul VI’s letter articulating the Church’s stance against artificial contraception was met with vociferous opposition from those who had hoped for a change, so those who want the Church to alter its views on homosexuality and marriage expressed open dismay with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s March 15 statement. And in both instances, some of the resistance has emanated from theologians, religious and priests, and higher levels of the Church — even some bishops and cardinals.
Likely the best-known public dissent from Humanae Vitae was led by Father Charles Curran, then a professor of moral theology at The Catholic University of America, who helped draft a statement that urged couples to let their consciences direct them in the matter of artificial contraception. It was signed eventually by more than 600 other priests and theologians and publicized by The Washington Post.
Similarly, more than 200 theology professors in the German-speaking world have openly criticized the document on blessings of same-sex unions. In an opinion column published in a Belgian newspaper, Antwerp Bishop Johan Bonny said he felt “shame for my Church” and apologized to those for whom the Vatican’s response is “painful and incomprehensible.” The Belgian bishops’ conference has supported his concerns. And, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, archbishop of Vienna, has said he was unhappy with the congregation’s explanation and will continue to bless same-sex couples under certain circumstances.
Additionally, the Parish Priests Initiative, an Austrian-based group claiming to have 350 members and more than 3,000 lay supporters, has pledged to defy the Vatican decree, known as a responsum, and to continue blessing same-sex unions.
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