A German bishop is backing blessings for gay couples, asking: “How can I refuse?”
– Church “must reposition itself” with regard to homosexuality
“I believe the Catholic Church must reposition itself: How are we dealing with same-sex people in our pastoral work, and how do we assess that?”, Bishop of Dresden-Meissen Heinrich Timmerevers asked September 28 in an interview with the German KNA Catholic news agency.
The German bishop said he “can understand” the desire of gay couples to receive a Catholic blessing on their partnership. When reminded that the Church does not permit that possibility, he pointed out nonetheless that “the question is: What do I bless?”
“I bless people”, Timmerevers explained. “And if a person stands before me and asks for a blessing – how can I refuse this blessing?”
“A blessing is the encouragement of God. A distinction must be made between this and the fact that with such a blessing I do not ‘bless’ everything that these people do, and find it good. You have to look at this in a very differentiated way”, the German bishop insisted.
Pressed again on the subject of whether he would welcome the Church allowing blessings for homosexual couples, Timmerevers replied: “Yes. Of course you have to think about the form. But basically I would welcome such an opening”.
– “It is important to me that we further develop and strengthen acceptance and tolerance”
In his Dresden-Meissen diocese, Timmerevers has recently appointed a priest and a pastoral worker specifically for the outreach to and care of the local LGBTIQ+ community. The bishop told KNA that those appointments were borne out of a special concern for LGBTIQ+ Catholics.
“I have met the group of gay-lesbian-transsexual Christians in various places in the diocese, and they have told me their life and faith stories. This moved me very deeply because I noticed what a struggle there is for many. They want to be Christians and live their faith in the Church. And I don’t want to leave these people alone in this struggle”, the bishop stressed
Timmerevers said his first-hand insight into the ostracism experienced by LGBTIQ+ Catholics has been complemented by a study of Amoris laetitia, Pope Francis’ 2016 post-synodal apostolic exhortation on love in the family, and particularly by that text’s insight that as a Church “we have carried out very exclusionary pastoral work in some fields”.
“If someone does not conform to our norms, then they have hardly any chance of living in the midst of the Church”, the bishop lamented. He added that “we have to fight against this exclusion, we have to work on it”.
“It is important to me that we further develop and strengthen acceptance and tolerance for homosexuals in our communities as well as in the whole Church. In this respect, the two pastoral workers I have now appointed should be a signal: We are here for this group”, Timmerevers stressed.
In his interview with KNA, the German bishop also referred to those Catholics who are sceptical of the Church improving its outreach to and care of the LGBTIQ+ community. In that respect, he said that “I am well aware that the integration of homosexuals and my current efforts to achieve this in our Church are not supported by everyone”.
But Timmerevers pointed out that “many bishops and priests” might find his concern for LGBTIQ+ people “strange” simply because they have had “no points of contact” with the LGBTIQ+ collective.
The bishop expressed his hope that his concerted LGBTIQ+ pastoral program in the Dresden-Meissen diocese might initiative a “process of reflection… at all levels” in the Church. Not only in parishes “but also in the Bishops’ Conference” and in the global Catholic institution, he highlighted.