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Church doctrine enforced Priest backs down over same-sex blessing

Wendelin Bucheli has promised to follow church doctrine and turn away parishioners who are looking to be blessed but who happen to be gay

(Keystone)

A Swiss priest who took a stand over the Catholic church’s treatment of gay couples has backed down from his stance on the issue and will keep his job. A controversy erupted after the priest gave a blessing to a lesbian couple. A leading gay rights group criticised the church's "homophobic attitude".

In a joint statement the priest, Wendelin Bucheli, and the vicar general of Chur, Martin Grichting, wrote that Bucheli regretted that “many people had been hurt” because of the blessing. He also regretted causing the Bishop of Chur Vitus Huonder “inconvenience” during his work in a community in canton Uri, central Switzerland.

Grichting had been appointed to find a solution to the issue.

Bucheli stressed that he was loyal to the church and his bishop and abided by the church’s doctrine. He added that in future he would not bless same-sex couples, whether in private or in public.

Due to the statement, Huonder withdrew his previous request for Bucheli to be dismissed. Bucheli had been due to leave his church by the summer and be re-assigned. However, he will now stay in the same community where he has worked for ten years.

Bucheli was said to be pleased with the outcome.

The disagreement, which ran over a number of months since the blessing took place in October 2014, was being closely followed in church circles both in Switzerland and abroad.

‘Homophobic’

Gay rights group Pink Cross said the decision was “unfortunately to be expected” and criticised the “discriminatory attitude” of the church which, it said, was unable to “get with the times”.

“Ultimately it’s about the love between two people,” Pink Cross director Bastian Baumann told swissinfo.ch. “A church which can refuse and prevent a blessing of couples who want one destroys my image of the loving and caring church that the institution itself likes to project.”

Reading Bucheli’s regrets that “many people had been hurt” because of the blessing, Baumann wondered how many gays and lesbians had been hurt “because of the church’s appalling homophobic attitude”. 

swissinfo.ch and agencies


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