A German bishop is hoping for change in what he regards as “discriminatory” Catholic sexual morality.

– Church must learn “”that sexuality is not a thing alongside being human, but a part of it”

“The crux of the matter is that many people perceive the Catholic conception of sexuality as discriminatory in many places”, Bishop of Aachen Helmut Dieser told the KNA news agency September 4.

The Church must learn “that sexuality is not a thing alongside being human, but a part of it”, Dieser continued.

The bishop explained that he was calling not for an adaptation of Church teaching to the spirit of the age but instead for a dialogue between faith, people’s lived experiences and the conclusions of modern sexology.

– Members of ‘synodal path’ forum on sexuality “honour… different sexual orientations and gender identities”

Bishop Dieser was speaking in Dortmund on the sidelines of a regional conference for the German Church’s ‘synodal path’.

That’s the grassroots reform process in which German bishops, priests and laity – along with experts from outside the Church – are debating possible changes to Catholic doctrine and practice in forums on compulsory clerical celibacy, the exercise of power in the Church, the roles of women in the institution and Church sexual morality.

Dieser is one of the two co-chairs of the last of those forums – officially entitled “Life in succeeding relationships – Living love in sexuality and partnership” – which last Friday presented a working document to participants in the wider synodal path.

Among other things, that working document states that “we honour people’s different sexual orientations and gender identities as well as their long-term, faithful and exclusive couple relationships”.

The text also affirms “a social and personal dimension” to “the concept of fertility” beyond a mere “openness to new life”, such that “[e]ven same-sex couples and other couples who cannot give birth to a new life have the potential for a fertile life”.

Both of those assertions stand in some contrast to traditional Catholic teaching as affirmed in the Catechism (2357-58), which sees the homosexual “inclination” as “objectively disordered” and homosexual acts as “contrary to the natural law” and as relations that “close the sexual act to the gift of life”.

– Sexual identity not interchangeable and not a choice

According to KNA, Dieser stressed that there is a greater variety of sexual identities and orientations that are not interchangeable and that people do not choose.

The bishop expressed his hope that the final document of the forum on possible changes to Catholic sexual morality will be passed by the required two-thirds majority of the German Bishops, to show that in Germany “there is a clear intention to continue” on the path of reforms.

Such a result would send a clear signal to the universal Church, Dieser emphasised.

The synodal path regional conferences that took place on September 4 and that were held in Dortmund, Berlin, Ludwigshafen, Frankfurt and Munich replaced the second synodal path general assembly that has now been pushed back to February 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

No decisions were taken Friday on any of the synodal path discussion topics, with the five regional conferences serving instead as platforms for discussion and debate.

More news on Novena on the German Church’s ‘synodal path’ reform process:

‘We Are Church’ Germany pleads for ‘synodal path’ reforms to continue despite COVID-19, “extremely irritating” Vatican parish instruction

Severe lack of lay theologians, public perception of division give German Church more reasons to push on with ‘synodal path’ reforms

German bishop comes out swinging against Vatican parish instruction, doubles-down on ‘synodal path’ as “answer to Roman challenge”

German bishop Dieser warns ‘synodal path’ reform process must succeed or else Church “will become a sect”


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PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.