In a bizarre sequence of events, the German edition of Vatican Radio published a cover photo of two lesbians kissing, with the caption: “Church’s sexual morality is in motion,” only to be removed, then reposted, then removed again.
Veteran Vatican reporter Edward Pentin, who spotted the picture, tweeted that Vatican Radio had opted for a “remarkable choice of photo” in posting the two women kissing.
‘Church’s sexual morality is in motion’ – remarkable choice of photo (warning), uncritical article on Vatican Radio http://t.co/qRGCPHWNTV
— Edward Pentin (@EdwardPentin) July 3, 2015
The Canadian Voxcantoris site, a conservative Catholic blog that follows Church abuses, managed to capture a screen shot of the image before it was taken down, and noted that a year ago a German Bishop, Stephen Ackermann, made comments on Vatican Radio that were similarly accompanied by a photo of two homosexual men kissing in front of a rainbow flag.
The German edition of Vatican Radio is reputed to be among the more heterodox of the language editions, following the trends among the German episcopal hierarchy.
The article in fact, even without the accompanying photo, speaks of a Catholic sexual morality in flux, “with a shift away from a natural law-based ethics of moral acts” toward a more holistic understanding of sexual morality.
The proposal falls within a popular camp among progressive moral theologians, who deemphasize the morality of specific human acts in favor of a person’s general attitude, intentionality, or “fundamental moral option.”
This was a question addressed by Pope Paul VI in his 1968 encyclical letter, Humanae Vitae, in which he asked whether it could not be admitted “that procreative finality applies to the totality of married life rather than to each single act.” Paul concluded that this was not the case, asserting that “an act of mutual love which impairs the capacity to transmit life which God the Creator, through specific laws, has built into it, frustrates His design which constitutes the norm of marriage, and contradicts the will of the Author of life.”
This reflection led the Pope to judge that “any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation—whether as an end or as a means” is morally evil.
The Vatican Radio article cites German theologian Martin Lintner, Chairman of the European Society for Catholic Theology, who wrote on the topic of sexual morality for the current issue of the Christian weekly newspaper Die Furche.
According to the article, Lintner laments the current state of Catholic moral theology regarding homosexuality, “where the argument of the biological procreative function continues to stand apart from the criterion of personal judgment.”
Following recent discussions among the German bishops, the article says that the upcoming Vatican synod on marriage and the family Lintner calls for a “rethinking” of dealings with gay people.
After last year’s extraordinary synod on marriage, however, Pope Francis explicitly denied that there had been any talk of same-sex marriage among the discussions.
“Nobody mentioned homosexual marriage at the synod,” the Pope said in an interview. “It did not cross our minds.”
It has been rumored that a lack of editorial control over certain factions within Vatican Radio was among the factors moving Pope Francis to revamp the widely dispersed Vatican media operations, which came to a conclusion on June 27 with the creation of a new Vatican office, or secretariat, which will oversee all of the media efforts of the Holy See.
Time will tell whether the German edition of Vatican Radio will be the first to see a radical overhaul in its editorial board.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome