A group of priests who have distanced themselves from the Catholic Church are criticizing thethat the Catholic Church cannot bless same-sex marriages. The Austrian Priests' Initiative, a group of priests leading a campaign of disobedience against the Vatican, said this week they will continue to bless same-sex couples.
The initiative (also as Pfarrer-Initiative) said in a statement that its members "are deeply appalled by the new Roman decree that wants to prohibit the blessing of same-sex loving couples."
"This is a relapse into times that we had hoped to be overcome with Pope Francis," the group's statement continues. "In solidarity with so many, we will not reject any loving couple in the future who wants to celebrate God's blessing, which they experience every day, in a church-service."
"Reality has long since shown that same-sex couples connected in love can very well celebrate God's blessing in church. A state-of-the-art theology establishes this responsible practice," the statement reads.
The Austrian Priests' Initiative was founded in 2006 by nine priests and now has around 350 members from the ranks of the Roman Catholic church. The majority of its members are from Austria, but the initiative has expanded to other countries. More than 3,000 people support the reform movement, led by Father Helmut Schüller.
The group's call to disobedience aims to reform the Catholic church. In part, they would like to create a new image of a priest, so that a man or woman, married or unmarried, can serve as a priest.
"The Austrian Priest's Initiative is an Austria-wide movement of Roman Catholic priests and deacons who follow their conscience and campaign for new paths in the church," the group said in its statement. "Its goals are: lively congregations, contemporary synodal church structures and, above all, a credible and open-minded world church that focuses on sincere service to people."
The group also said it "vehemently" protests against the assumption that same-sex couples are not part of God's divine plan. "We deeply regret that this decree, which seeks to revive the spirit of bygone times, widens the gap between Roman bureaucracy and the local Church," the group said. "This decree offends many Christians and obscures and discredits the liberating message of Jesus."
The Vatican's decree states the Church cannot bless same-sex unions since God "cannot bless sin," the Associated Press.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which is the Vatican's orthodoxy office, issued a two-page explanation published in seven languages and approved by Pope Francis.
The Vatican upholds that gay people must be treated with respect and dignity, however, gay sex is considered "intrinsically disordered." In Catholicism, marriage is a lifelong union between a man and woman, is intended for the sake of creating new life, and is part of God's plan, the AP reports.