ROME — A Catholic parish in southern Italy has exhibited a Nativity scene featuring the Virgin Mary together with another woman in place of Saint Joseph.
Father Vitaliano Della Sala, the pastor of the parish of Saints Peter and Paul in the southern province of Avellino, said he created the provocative crèche scene to underscore the changing shape of families and the need for a more inclusive Church.
I placed “two mothers in the crèche,” Father Della Sala wrote on Facebook. “This year I see the light of Christmas also shining on these families affected by inhuman and anti-evangelical criticism and condemnation.”
There are “so many ways of being a family” because “nothing is impossible with God!” he said.
The decision to give Jesus two mothers drew sharp reactions from Catholics in Italy, including from Father Maurizio Patriciello, a pastor from the neighboring province of Naples, who called on Father Della Sala to apologize and put Saint Joseph back “in his place” to which he is entitled “by right.”
In Father Della Sala’s Facebook post, he lamented “the contempt for ‘rainbow families’ and their condemnation, even on the part of sectors of the Catholic Church, without a serious and honest discussion and confrontation.”
“Exclusion has traced a red trail of blood and pain throughout history,” he declared.
“The very logic of inclusiveness is the future of the Church,” he stated, “a Church that does not marginalize, does not use the heavy axe of judgment against anyone.”
Father Della Sala’s post came just a day after the Vatican authorized priests for the first time to bless gay couples under certain circumstances.
That decision, too, has drawn extensive criticism, even from the former head of the Vatican’s doctrinal office, Cardinal Gerhard Müller.
The choice to allow priests to bless gay couples constitutes “not a development but a doctrinal leap,” Cardinal Müller said, which is unsupported by any biblical texts or texts of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church.
“In fact, according to the criterion of this type of blessings, one could even bless an abortion clinic or a mafia group,” the cardinal wrote.
It seems that the innovative pastoral blessing “is created ad hoc to bless situations that are contrary to the law or spirit of the gospel,” he added.