by Hilary White

VIENNA, February 20, 2006 ( – A German language Catholic news site reports that the rector of Vienna’s Catholic cathedral has instituted a ceremony to bless “couples, fiancés and people in love” including homosexual partners. The cathedral, 800 year-old St. Stephan’s, is the seat of Christoph Cardinal Schonborn, the archbishop of Vienna who is widely regarded as a conservative.

Schonborn is well known around the world as a major contributor to the Catechism of the Catholic Church and for his explanations in the New York Times of the Catholic Church’s understanding of evolution.

The announcement came on St. Valentine’s Day, from Fr. Anton Faber, the rector of St. Stephan’s. Faber expressed his regret that the Church offers “relatively little” to homosexuals. Speaking to the Austrian newspaper ‘Die Presse’ Fr. Faber said, “Today there is no possibility in the Church to bless a union of people with homosexual feelings.”

Faber admitted at the Cathedral announcement that he is involved in a personal campaign among his fellow priests for acceptance of the homosexual disorder and claimed that the Cardinal had approved his proposal. His actions, he said, “are based on solid Catholic ground and are in a 100% concordance with the directives of the Austrian Bishops’ Conference.”

Faber admitted that he had received some opposition to his decision from lay Catholics. An unidentified Catholic present at the Cathedral announcement reportedly pointed out that the Church does offer homosexuals something: confession and absolution for their sins.

During the interview, the priest explicitly welcomed “people with homosexual inclinations to receive a blessing for their longing for love.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church that Cardinal Schonborn was instrumental in developing, however, defines homosexuality as an “objectively disordered” condition of unknown origin and homosexual practices as “sins gravely contrary to chastity.”

A 2003 Vatican document called on faithful Catholics to work against the societal acceptance of homosexuality. The document, from the Church’s highest doctrinal authority, said Catholics should work at “unmasking the way in which such tolerance might be exploited or used in the service of ideology; stating clearly the immoral nature of these unions; …and, above all, to avoid exposing young people to erroneous ideas about sexuality and marriage.”

The first ceremony for “people in love” came later in the day and was attended by roughly 1000 persons according to Die Presse. No comment was forthcoming from the Cardinal’s office.