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Pastor who officiated same-sex marriage slapped with reprimand from Helsinki diocese

The Helsinki diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church on Wednesday severely reprimanded a pastor who defied the church's official decision to not marry same-sex couples in church ceremonies. The church said the pastor breached his clerical oath by officiating the marriage of two men in March.

Kai Sadinmaa
Kaj Sadinmaa, the former pastor of the Kallio parish in Helsinki, received a severe reprimand from the Helsinki diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church for officiating a same sex wedding. File photo. Image: Mikko Koski / Yle

The Helsinki diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church handed a severe reprimand to pastor Kaj Sadinmaa on Wednesday for having officiated the weddings of same-sex couples against the church's official decision on the issue.

Sadinmaa averted receiving a warning from the church, but was severely reprimanded on Wednesday, by a vote of 5 to 2.

Before Wednesday's ruling, diocese solicitor Ritva Saario said there were five options on the table: to not punish Sadinmaa, to give him a spoken reprimand or written warning, or a temporary or permanent suspension of his right to work as a Lutheran pastor in Finland. 

Sadinmaa, the former pastor of the Kallio parish near the Helsinki city centre, was the first Lutheran pastor in Helsinki to officiate over a church wedding for a same-sex couple. The marriage took place on 1 March 2017, the same day a new Finnish law giving gay unions equal status with heterosexual unions came into force. 

Immediately following that ceremony, a complaint was issued about Sadinmaa's behaviour, accusing him of being in breach of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland's Catechism and his vows as a pastor.

Protesting pastor restrained himself in stocks

In a sign of protest, Sadinmaa sat through the proceedings on Wednesday with his feet restrained in stocks. The two men that he wed last year, who were also at the hearing on Wednesday, did the same.

Sadinmaa denied the accusations against him, but admitted that as a representative of a national institution, he must obey the country's laws. He intends to appeal the council's sentence, as at the time of the ceremony he was no longer an active pastor in a parish.

The council deciding on the matter was composed of seven members and was chaired by Helsinki bishop Irja Askola.

Sadinmaa said that nearly 30 pastors from eight different dioceses have officiated over same-sex unions in Finland since the law passed. The Lapua diocese in western Finland is set to hear a similar case against Seinäjoki pastor Henna Salo next week.

Finland's official church does not approve

Back in November 2014, a majority of MPs in the Finnish Parliament voted to rewrite marriage laws to legalise same-sex marriage.

According to Statistics Finland, at the end of 2016, there were 1,052 male couples in registered partnerships and 1,632 female registered partnerships.

While some clerics in the church said they would gladly marry same-sex couples, the official position of the majority Lutheran Church in Finland is that its pastors should not officiate at gay weddings.

The church's Synod of Bishops issued an 11-page proclamation on late August of last year that said the parties to a church wedding should be a man and a woman.

After this declaration, some bishops on the synod warned that priests who opposed the decree would face consequences.

Finland was the last of the five Nordic countries to allow same-sex marriage, with Sweden and Norway leading the way in 2009.

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