Sunday, May 12, 2024

Vatican Reverses Its Decision, Will Allow Pro-LGBTQ+ Theologian to Be University Dean

The Vatican has reversed its decision that once barred an LGBTQ-supportive theologian from becoming a university dean. 

The Vatican will now, a year later, allow him to accept the office.

In November 2022, the faculty of the Philosophical-Theological University of Brixen/Bressanone, Italy, elected Fr. Martin M. Lintner to be dean of the school. 

His two-year term was supposed to start the following year, but the Vatican’s Dicastery for Culture and Education intervened and vetoed Lintner’s appointment.

This decision was not communicated to Lintner until he and Bishop Ivo Muser of Bolzano-Bressanone inquired about the veto several months later. The theologian’s support for same-gender unions and affirmation of transgender identities were cited vaguely as reasons for the Vatican’s negative intervention.

Now, Lintner has received from the Vatican the necessary “Nihil obstat (“nothing prevents”), an ecclesiastical declaration needed to teach theology. His term as dean will begin September 1, 2024.

Lintner stated that he does not know why the Vatican finally gave its assent, but he believes the reason is partially due to the support of Bishop Muser, as well as to changes in the Vatican’s process of granting the designation. reported (via Google Translate):

“‘The official justification for withdrawing the refusal and re-examining my case was that there were questions that needed to be clarified that affected several dicasteries,’ the moral theologian continued. This suggests that not everyone in the Vatican agreed with the negative decision. Lintner also said that a well-informed source told him that his case had been on Pope Francis’ desk. But he doesn’t know whether the church leader noticed him.”

After Lintner’s rejection in 2023, the Catholic Theological Faculty Association (KThF) of Germany urged the Vatican to revise the “Nihil obstat” process. Bishop Muser also began facilitating discussions with Vatican authorities to support Lintner’s candidacy, although the theologian declined to ever file a formal appeal. According to (via Google Translate):

“The current statement [announcing Lintner as dean] goes on to say that Muser has discussed and clarified the open questions with those responsible at the Vatican over the past few months. The education dicastery has now confirmed Lintner as dean. ‘The news that reached me from the education dicastery is good news for our diocese and for our university,” the bishop is quoted as saying.”

“Lintner himself was relieved. He is happy that the reservations against him, including with regard to his publications, have been dispelled. He could not judge whether the now revised decision of the education dicastery is related to the revision of the ‘Nihil obstat’ procedure, which has been ongoing for more than a year.”

Still, the theologian views his case as a “precedentand “a sign of a new style in the [Vatican’s] educational dicastery of working objectively and in a solution-oriented manner.” He hopes that the Vatican’s turnaround inspires theological research and “can help to dispel fears that publications will jeopardize church careers from the outset.” He stated:

“‘It is entirely in my interest to close this chapter, which is stressful for everyone involved, and to concentrate again on theological work. I approach the new challenges as dean of our university with joy and confidence.'”