Refusal by the Vatican had provoked protests last year

"Nihil obstat" granted after all: Lintner may become university dean

Brixen - The refusal of the "Nihil obstat" for the election of Martin Lintner as Dean of the University of Bressanone caused much displeasure last year. Now he is allowed to take up the post after all: The Vatican has given its approval after clarifying talks.

Published  on 03.04.2024 at 13:49  – 

The South Tyrolean moral theologian Martin M. Lintner can now become Dean of the Philosophical-Theological University of Bressanone after all. As announced by the diocese of Bolzano-Bressanone on Wednesday, Bishop Ivo Muser has received the necessary approval from the Holy See, the so-called "nihil obstat". Lintner will take up office on 1 September.

The university college elected Lintner as Dean in November 2022; the two-year term of office was originally due to begin on 1 September 2023. Last summer, however, the university announced that the Vatican Dicastery for Education had not granted Lintner the "nihil obstat", the ecclesiastical declaration of no objection. Lintner's positions on sexual morality were cited as the reason for this. There were protests against the Vatican's decision and expressions of solidarity with Lintner from academic theology in German-speaking countries. The main criticism was that the decision-making processes were not transparent. Shortly afterwards, Bishop Muser reported on talks behind the scenes and held out the prospect of an agreement.

The latest press release also states that Muser has discussed and clarified the outstanding issues with the Vatican officials in recent months. The education dicastery has now confirmed Lintner as dean. "The news that has reached me from the education dicastery is good news for our diocese and for our university," the bishop is quoted as saying.

Lintner: Reservations dispelled

Lintner himself was relieved. He is glad that the reservations against him, also in relation to his publications, have been dispelled. He could not say whether the revised decision of the education dicastery was related to the revision of the"nihil obstat" procedure, which has been ongoing for more than a year. "It is entirely in my interest to close this chapter, which has been stressful for everyone involved, and to concentrate on theological work again. I am approaching the new challenges as Dean of our university with joy and confidence," said the theologian.

As part of the debate about his case, Lintner had already hinted at changes to the Vatican's "nihil obstat" procedure last year. In an interview with "America Magazine", he said: "I have been informed that the Vatican is seriously considering renewing the procedures for granting nihil obstat and giving more weight to the local bishop."

Church university law stipulates that theology professors require a declaration of no objection from the Holy See, the "Nihil obstat", to take up office. The competent authority in Rome is the Dicastery for Culture and Education, which has been headed by Cardinal José Tolentino Calaça de Mendonça as Prefect since 2022. In addition to the "Nihil obstat" for professors, the Dicastery is also responsible for appointing or confirming the rectors of ecclesiastical universities, the presidents of independent ecclesiastical faculties and the deans of ecclesiastical faculties. (mal)