Austria: Partnered gay man allowed to serve in a Catholic parish council
A gay man in registered domestic partnership has been allowed by an Austrian Cardinal to serve on a local parish council, in a decision that overrules an earlier ban on doing so.
Florian Stangl, a disabled 26-year old man, who is Catholic, openly gay, and living with his partner, was recently elected to the council, obtaining an overwhelming 96 out of 142 votes. However, Father Gerhard Swierzek, the parish priest in the archdiocese of Vienna, had refused to allow Herr Stangl to be appointed to his post.
This decision was originally backed by the archdiocese, releasing a statement that living in a domestic partnership precludes one from serving on a parish council.
Cardinal Christoph Schönborn said that he had initially intended to uphold the priest’s decision–but then, he said, “I ask myself in these situations: How did Jesus act? He first saw the human being.”
Calling his decision “a decision for human beings,” the cardinal recounted that he invited Stangl and his partner to lunch and understood “why the community had given him the most votes, because he is really impressive… This man is at the right place,” the cardinal said of Stangl.
Despite his close ties to his one-time professor, Pope Benedict XVI, Schönborn reportedly has an open mind in approaching such taboo issues as priestly celibacy. The official teaching of the Catholic Church is “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered,” but holds that gay people should be treated with dignity and respect.