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Rejected dean: Vatican veto questions synodality

Father Martin Lintner, OSM, teaches at the Philosophical-Theological College in Brixen (PTH Brixen). / Screenshot of Cultural Center Gustav Mahler & Guesthouse YouTube video

CNA Newsroom, Jul 3, 2023 / 09:27 am (CNA).

The professor of moral and spiritual theology who was rejected by the Vatican for the role of dean at a seminary in Italy publicly denounced the decision on Monday. 

Father Martin Lintner, OSM, who teaches at the Philosophical-Theological College in Brixen (PTH Brixen), issued a personal statement July 3, which was released by the college

He leveled several serious accusations against the Vatican, saying the decision not to make him dean “casts doubt on the success of synodality” and is part of a larger “institutional problem,” reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news agency partner.

The PTH Brixen, located in the northern Italian region of South Tyrol (Alto Adige), is an important institution in the traditionally German-speaking region and serves as the academic training center for the Diocese of Bolzano-Bressanone.

The veto by the Vatican’s Dicastery for Culture and Education last week was based on Lintner’s published writings on Catholic sexual morality, according to a statement released by the college on June 27.

The priest has explored topics such as the spirituality of marriage, sexual ethics, and the ethics of relationships.

In an article published by New Ways Ministry in 2020 titled “Theologian Suggests Papal Support of Civil Unions May Lead to Church Blessings,” Lintner is quoted as saying: “A homosexual relationship does not lose its dignity because of a lack of fertility.”

Lintner also contributed a chapter offering “theological-ethical reflections on a blessing ceremony for same-sex couples” to a book titled “The Benediction of Same-Sex Partnerships.”

The Vatican’s decision to veto Lintner’s appointment as dean was attacked by the German theological association KThF, which praised the 50-year-old Lintner’s contributions to sexual morality and his “scientific competence.” 

Calling for Lintner’s appointment as dean at the northern Italian seminary, the German association also criticized the Vatican’s process of approval, saying: “The nihil-obstat procedure contradicts the synodal spirit invoked by Pope Francis.” 

Similarly, in his statement released Monday, Lintner claimed: “The Vatican’s decision against me … casts doubt on the success of synodality.”

Lintner said criticism of the Vatican was “an expression of legitimate concern for the credibility of theology as a science in the context of universities as well as secular society.”

The professor also claimed that “anger and feelings of helplessness are breaking out among many colleagues who have been confronted with similar problems and obstacles in the course of their academic work.”

“It also pains me to see how a critical to negative attitude toward the Church is reinforced in other people,” the priest and moral theologian added. “Those who know me are aware of my sense of belonging to the Church and my constructively critical loyalty to the magisterium of the Church.”

He added: “These problems have been an open secret for decades and mean a burden for those affected, combined with a sense of humiliation, with emotional injuries to the point that professional careers have been permanently damaged.”

The moral theologian stressed this was “not just an individual case, but an institutional problem.” 

Despite the Vatican’s decision to veto his appointment as dean, Lintner’s mandate to teach remains intact, the college has confirmed. “The Vatican’s decision is specific to his appointment as dean and does not influence his teaching duties or ecclesiastical authority.”

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