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Local experts react to Vatican declaration on same-sex unions

The Vatican is saying "no" to blessing same-sex unions, calling it a "sin." Pope Francis approved the note.
Posted at 6:23 PM, Mar 17, 2021

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Jay Irwin from the University of Nebraska Omaha fears the Vatican's statement could negatively impact the LGBTQ community.

"We worry about mental health outcomes, we worry about negative messaging and what internalized that could mean for LGBTQ communities in terms of increased rates of depression and anxiety and suicidalities," Irwin said.

Irwin specializes in LGBTQ mental health. He calls the sin-based language "hurtful" and "surprising."

"Religion sometimes is in a difficult position if society is in a different place than what a biblical text might have written many many many many years ago," Irwin said.

Creighton University professor Todd Salzman said nothing has changed in terms of Church teaching. The Vatican's statement came out as a response to the German Conference of Bishops, who are proposing the possibility of same-sex civil unions.

"The German bishops are trying to be more proactive in terms of welcoming LGBTQ people but the statement seems to put a barrier up against that welcoming and hospitable perspective," Salzman said.

A Pew research study from 2019 reports that support for same-sex marriage has increased: 61 percent of Catholics say they support it.

Salzman says that historically the church has evolved on different social issues.

"Historically theologians have led the way in terms of the church changing on issues such as slavery, usery or interest taking, torture, religious freedom, etc. so the church has evolved and changed," Salzman said.

Ultimately, Salzman believes society needs to distinguish between the church's institution and the church's people of God.

"I think LGBTQ people should feel welcome and follow their consciences in living out their faith and loving relationship," Salzman said.

3 News Now reached out to the Archdiocese of Omaha for a statement:

"There is nothing new or radical in the declaration of the Vatican’s doctrinal office that the Church cannot bless same-sex unions. In approving this statement, Pope Francis is simply affirming once again what the Church has always taught: that marriage is the indissoluble union of a man and a woman."