Two German bishops have called the Church to more “credibility” when dealing with the “life realities” of gay and lesbian people.
Driving the news
Bishop Franz-Josef Bode of Osnabrück and Archbishop Stefan Hesse of Hamburg made the call in a preface to a new book, Mit dem Segen der Kirche? Gleichgeschlechtliche Partnerschaft im Fokus der Pastoral (“With the Blessing of the Church? Same-Sex Partnership in the Focus of Pastoral Care”).
The book gathers together papers presented at a private 2018 conference on pastoral perspectives for the Catholic LGBTQ+ community and possible forms for future liturgical blessings of same-sex couples.
The volume, edited by gay theologians and Church employees heavily involved in pastoral outreach to LGBTQ+ Catholics, was presented Tuesday by the diocesan Catholic Academy of Hamburg.
In their preface, bishops Bode and Hesse recognise that the aim of the 2018 conference “was to give scope to the yearning of homosexual couples to receive a Church blessing and to review the current state of the theological research and teaching” on the question.
“There are many engaged Catholics, among them not least parents, who wish for a more open way of dealing with homosexuals than what they currently experience in the Church”, the prelates acknowledge, also noting that other faithful are opposed to such an opening.
Bode and Hesse admit they find themselves personally in the “middle” of the debate.
That said, the bishop recognise that “we as Church can only influence this society with credibility when we deal with the life realities of the people”, including the situations of LGBTQ+ faithful.
Proposing a way forward of mutual respect between the Church and LGBTQ+ people, Bode and Hesse acknowledge that “when homosexual men and lesbian women confess themselves to be believing Christians – in spite of the experiences of rejection – and ask for pastoral care on their path of life, then this is very impressive and challenges us to develop perspectives together”.
The bishops note that such “perspectives” include the “wish for a blessing for same-sex partnerships as an expression of a faithful trust that God’s love and fidelity toward us men is being effective” in those partnerships.
But the question of possible future blessings for LGBTQ+ faithful depends on a “process” that has to be undertaken by the Church, “on the way with the people”.
That’s a process the German Church has started on in the context of its so-called “binding synodal path”.
Among other things, this synodal way will undertake “a necessary further development of Catholic sexual morality”, bishops Bode and Hesse note, adding that although the current doctrine has led to “taboos” it also has the resources “for the clarification of the question about the blessing, not only for homosexual couples”.
The important thing in this “process” though, for the bishops, is that “we have to start in the community of the Church”, and that “beginning” has already been made.
Why it matters
More and more faithful in the German and global Church are calling for the Catholic hierarchy to rethink its traditional condemnation of LGBTQ+ people and consider the possibility of blessing their relationships.
Bishop Bode himself called in 2018 for the Church to be more “just” towards same-sex partnerships and acknowledge “so much positive and good and right” that these relationships contain.
Bishop of Essen Franz-Josef Overbeck also called earlier this year for a Church “de-pathologisation” of homosexuality that would lead to an “overdue liberation” for gays.
Parish priest Bernd Mönkebüscher cited Overbeck’s remarks as decisive for his publicly coming out of the closet.
The retired auxiliary bishop of Münster, Dieter Geerlings, also recently stated his “personal opinion” that the Church can bless same-sex couples.
“If the Magisterium only teaches and does not learn anymore, then something is wrong “, Geerlings said of the current Church ban.
For her part, laywoman and President of the Synodal Council of Zürich’s Catholic Church, Franziska Driessen-Reding, said that the Church “must find a liturgical form that can be used to give homosexual couples the blessing of God”.
“Any real love between two people is valuable, whether homosexual or heterosexual. To acknowledge and appreciate this should also be a matter of course in the life of the Church”, Driessen-Reding explained.