A German theologian has insisted that Church same-sex blessings are “entirely possible” even under current Catholic doctrine.

– Blessings for the “many blessings” already present in same-sex relationships

The Frankfurt Jesuit Ansgar Wucherpfennig made the argument in an interview in the March-April edition of the Bene magazine of the Essen diocese, in which he affirmed that “the Bible is not a sufficient source for the Catholic Church to comment” on questions around sexuality and affective identity.

Wucherpfennig – the rector of the Sankt Georgen Graduate School of Philosophy and Theology – explained that while Christian tradition is still “definitely important”, with regard to that tradition’s historical exclusion of gay people, especially, “knowledge of today’s human sciences must be taken into account and the often painful experiences of believers must be heard”.

“I can understand very well if homosexual people suffer from the fact that blessings can only take place in a secret chamber or behind the scenes”, the Jesuit continued.

By that comment, Wucherpfennig was referring to the fact that Church same-sex blessings do take place even without the approval of ecclesiastical authorities.

At any rate, it’s time to bring those Catholic same-sex blessings out into the open, Wucherpfennig argued.

Church blessings for same-sex couples would only recognise the “many blessings” already present in same-sex relationships, such as “loyalty, respect for mutual freedom, equality, reciprocity and commitment”, the Jesuit said.

– Gays can be “fertile” in other ways

As for the traditional Catholic argument that same-sex relationships can’t be recognised because they are, in the language of the Catechism, “close[d]… to the gift of life”, Wucherpfennig said he would expand this idea of “fertility” the doctrine relies on, “which means much more than just the generation of offspring”.

If a gay person “is openly committed to being Catholic, it is a belief that is lived out in everyday life” and hence life-giving and life-affirming, Wucherpfennig said.

This commitment to being Catholic on the part of gay people, he added, “is also a sign of fertility”.

“I know of homosexuals who live fertility by caring for the elderly or by being socially involved”, the Jesuit explained.

– Blessings for “all couples not approved by the Catholic Church for the sacrament of marriage”

At the same time as he argued for Church same-sex blessings, Wucherpfennig also opened the door to the official ecclesiastical recognition of other relationships apart from traditional marriage.

“[There] should be an offer to all couples who are not approved by the Catholic Church for the sacrament of marriage”, the theologian argued, pointing out that including other kinds of couples in new forms of Church blessings wouldn’t then single out same-sex couples for exceptional treatment.

“This offer could also be aimed at couples who are not yet ready to marry, but still want to have their relationship blessed.

“It cannot be that the sacrament of marriage sanctifies everything”, Wucherpfennig maintained.

On that point the Jesuit put forward the example of domestic violence, which just because it occurs in the context of a marriage doesn’t make it holy like that union.

“Sexual activity that excludes equality and reciprocity can be morally criticised, but marriage is not the only criterion” and standpoint for judging the value, or holiness, of relationships, Wucherpfennig argued.

– Alternatives to marriage “annulment”

On another dimension of human relationships, the rector of the Sankt Georgen Graduate School of Philosophy and Theology also argued that “the Catholic Church should also simply accept that marriage can fail and find solutions other than to annul the partnership”.

“For many people whose marriage has failed, ‘null’ is not the appropriate category”, the Jesuit explained.

“In retrospect, the relationship they had had something important and even enriching for them, even if they then had to admit that they could not continue on with it”, he added.

“The Church has found annulment the solution to such situations, because it can hold on to the indissolubility of marriage. It would make more sense to look for other solutions”, Wucherpfennig suggested.

– “Vast abyss” between Catholic morality “and lived relationships”

As to the reason to undertake these reforms to Catholic sexual morality, Wucherpfennig said it is urgent that the Church “tackle the vast abyss that
is opening up today between its right and its morality on the one hand and lived relationships on the other”.

If the Church can’t succeed in bridging that gap between doctrine and lived reality, “it becomes a kind of spaceship enterprise, detached from all earthly realities”, the Jesuit warned.

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