An international group of theologians and scholars released an academic statement on May 4 alleging inconsistencies in the Vatican's arguments against same-sex relationships, and urging the church to review its stance in light of modern research.
"When people suffer ... because of doctrines, laws and disciplines, about whose correctness there are now well-founded doubts, the competent Church authorities have a religious and Christian duty to carefully and empathetically revise them," wrote theologian Fr. Krzysztof Charamsa, a former official at the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in the foreword to the statement.
The authors argued that the Bible never condemns consensual, faithful same-sex relationships. They also said evidence that non-heterosexual orientations occur naturally and the fact that the church allows infertile straight couples to marry undermine the Vatican's natural law arguments against same-sex relationships.
The statement was published by the Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research and signed by 20 contributors and over 40 other theologians and academics representing more than a dozen countries worldwide including the United States, the Philippines, Germany, Australia, Malaysia and Brazil.
Most of the contributors and signatories are theologians and ethicists, some specializing in gender studies, while others are biblical scholars or biologists.
Signatories included Mercy Sr. Margaret Farley, a professor emerita of Christian ethics at Yale University Divinity School and author of Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics; Todd Salzman, a professor of Catholic theology at Creighton University and author of several books on sexual ethics; and Mary McAleese, former president of Ireland and current chancellor of Trinity College in Dublin.
"We need something new," Farley told NCR in a brief interview about the statement. "Because people are suffering and they're being harmed."
Salzman said it was "timely" that the Wijngaards Institute statement came out shortly after the Vatican's March 15 decree, released by the doctrinal congregation and approved by Pope Francis, that clergy are not permitted to bless same-sex unions because God "cannot bless sin."
"I think [the Vatican decree] was a final straw for a lot of people … it was incredibly irresponsible and hurtful for the CDF to issue that statement," Salzman told NCR.
The authors of the new statement wrote that non-heterosexual orientations are part of the natural diversity in human sexuality.