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German Catholic clergy insurgent in opposition to Vatican over same-sex unions

The verdict “is characterized by a paternalistic gesture of superiority and discriminates against homosexual people and their lifestyle,” said a statement by the Catholic theological faculty of the University of Münster, which was published on Tuesday.

“We distance ourselves decisively from this position,” it said.

The declaration signed by 266 theologians states that the judgment lacks “theological depth, hermeneutical understanding and argumentative rigor”.

While some of them support the position of the Vatican, other prominent Catholic clergy in Germany have spoken out against the judgment approved by Pope Francis and published on March 15.

The Diocese of Limburg posted this profile picture on March 17th on Facebook.“A document that so obviously excludes advances in theological and human-scientific knowledge in its argumentation will lead pastoral practice to ignore it,” said Georg Bätzing, Bishop of Limburg, in a statement published on Facebook on Wednesday.

“We need a reassessment of same-sex partnerships and a further development of the sexual morality of the church.”

The Diocese of Bätzing has also updated its Facebook profile photo to include a picture of Limburg Cathedral surrounded by a rainbow, a symbol of the LGBT community, and the phrase “#LoveIsNoSin”.

Bätzing is head of the German Bishops’ Conference, the government authority of the Catholic Church in Germany.

The conference declined to comment when contacted by CNN.

Christoph Lentz, Rector of the Pallottine Congregation in Friedberg, Bavaria, also criticized the Vatican’s judgment and said it was “inexpressible, unbearable and incomprehensible to the people”.

The Vatican says it will not bless same-sex unions and is calling them one “We are here to bless, no matter how and no matter who,” Lentz said in a statement. “We want to be an open church in which everyone feels at home.”

As of Friday afternoon, the church has hoisted a rainbow flag with a sentence from Genesis 12: 2 that reads, “You shall be a blessing.”

The Vatican’s ruling is a setback for Catholics who hoped the institution would modernize its approach to homosexuality.

Dozens of countries, including many in Western Europe, have legalized same-sex marriages, and the Church’s reluctance to accept LGBTQ people has long had the potential to alienate them from younger followers.

While Pope Francis has been widely praised for his welcoming tone to LGBTQ people inside and outside the Church, he endorsed the March 15 statement.

“The blessing of homosexual unions cannot be considered legal,” wrote the Vatican’s chief magisterium, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

According to the Vatican, the Pope's comments on same-sex civil unions have been taken out of context

“It is not allowed to bless relationships or partnerships, even stable ones, that involve sexual activity outside of marriage, as is the case with unions between people of the same sex,” the statement said.

The blessing of same-sex unions, according to the Vatican, would send a sign that the Catholic Church “approves and encourages a choice and a way of life that cannot be recognized as objectively ordered according to God’s revealed plans”.

The statement says that “God himself never ceases to bless each of his pilgrim children in this world … but he does not and cannot bless sin.”

The German Catholic clergy who support the position of the Vatican include the bishops of Regensburg, Passau, Görlitz and Eichstätt.

Same-sex unions are the latest issue on which the German Catholic Church has clashed with the Vatican in recent years.

In 2019, plans were revealed for a two-year process of reckoning and reform to restore public confidence after a shocking report of child sexual abuse in the Church.

These plans, which included the debate on priestly celibacy and the question of whether women should be allowed to play a greater role in church life, met with criticism in the Vatican.

CNN’s Rob Picheta and Delia Gallagher contributed to this report.