Divorce, gays, the sexuality of religious… pushes to revise Catholic sexual morality are gathering steam in Germany.

– Catholic rituals for “release” from a relationship

German Bishops’ news agency katholisch.de carried this week an article explaining how the Church in the country is accompanying divorced people, out of the conviction that although the indissolubility of marriage remains the ideal, the reality is that many marriages can and do fail.

When their partnerships do fall apart, some married couples, for example, “despite all the injuries they have suffered, wish to have a common ritual with which they symbolically want to release each other from their relationship”, katholisch.de explained.

That’s the reason why diocesan counselling centres in Germany attending to divorced and separated Catholics are beginning to offer more and more worship services with “certain rituals and symbols” to signify the end of and release from a marriage.

As examples of those rituals and symbols blessing the end of a relationship, katholisch.de reported on those already being practised of “a baking pan, shaped like a heart, filled with frozen water, which is passed around in the pews, the ice melting with each touch”, or of “a curtain at the church door, which is ripped up as the participants leave the Church, as a sign for what they left behind”.

Professor of pastoral theology in Chur (Switzerland) Manfred Belok explained the significance of these rituals for separated and divorced Catholic couples, at the same time that he argued “for a theology that recognizes the fragility of human relationships”.

“A theology that takes into account the changed life and relationship situations of a person without constantly imputing personal guilt to those affected”, Belok explained.

“No one enters a marriage with the reservation that it could be over in a few years. But a marriage among Christians today looks different than it did in the past, and that is legitimate”, the theologian insisted.

– A coming-out en masse of gay clerics in order to force revision of Catechism homophobia

With regard to the Church’s attention to homosexuals, katholisch.de also published another article this week calling on gay priests to come out of the closet en masse in order to force the reform of the anti-homosexuality inherent in the traditional Catholic sexual morality but also to avoid an “internalised homophobia”, in which a gay cleric’s rejection by others is turned inward.

In those situations of auto-homophobia in priests, “you hate that you hate yourself, and that is how hatred is conveyed to the outside world”, head of the German Bishops’ Conference’s department for the pastoral care of men, Andreas Heek, explained in an article for online theological journal feinschwarz.net.

Heek, who is also the spokesman for the working group of LGBTIQ ministers in the German dioceses, suggested that this internalised homophobia on the part of many gay clerics also explains the “often almost hysterical views of some Church representatives towards homosexuals, same-sex partnerships and gender discourses of all kinds”.

– Nun: “‘Fertility’ is more than biological fertility!”

In a third article this week also challenging traditional Catholic sexual morality, katholisch.de also gave voice to the idea that the “life-giving” criterion the Church uses to determine the morality or otherwise of certain sexual practices needs to be revised.

“Fertility is more than biological fertility!”, Sister Franziska Dieterle explained.

In our “sexualised society”, “sexuality” is always viewed as physical contact, the nun said.

Instead, she said that for her “sexuality is first of all a creative force that is built into us humans and in the broadest sense a culture of tenderness”.

“Fertility” or capacity to give life – the criterion the Catechism uses to condemn same-sex intimacy, for example – “is, of course, something biological”, Dieterle said.

“A seed rises, grows, ripens and bears fruit or a child is born”, the sister affirmed, but adding that for her, “this also means that I am fertile where I create life or where I serve life”.

In terms of “fertility”, “for me, the question is: does what I do serve life – or does it prevent life?”, Dieterle continued.

“Words like blooming, growing or unfolding give us in our language an indication of what is fertile in the non-biological sense – and what is not”, the religious explained.

Dieterle had already expressed her argument for the re-evaluation of Catholic sexual morality in the context of the first assembly late January of the German Church’s two-year ‘synodal path’, in which process the Church is considering reforms to compulsory clerical celibacy, the place of women in the Church, clericalism and hierarchical power and authority and traditional Catholic sexual morality.

Next on Novena:

“Lack of reforms”, “rigid structures” blamed for mass Church desertions in German diocese

German Bishops choose as new president reformer in favour of optional celibacy, more power for women

German theologian insists same-sex blessings “entirely possible” even under current Church doctrine

German bishop warns Church refusal to reform “a betrayal of the Gospel”

German ‘synodal path’: “The majority of the faithful will leave the Church if it fails”


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