by Christa Pongratz-Lippitt in THE TABLET, 20 April 2021

The head of the German bishops’ conference has said that the Church must “face” gay couples’ wishes for a church blessing.

“The partners in homosexual partnerships want the Church’s blessing and they don’t want to receive it clandestinely. They want the Church to consider their lives worthy of receiving God’s blessing and not for the Church to deprive them of the blessing”, Bishop Georg Bätzing, told Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland (German editorial network) on 16 April.

“We must face this wish and in order to do so, we need to discuss the subject intensively. We can’t just reply to this question with Yes or No. That is no longer possible. I think we need to assess homosexuality and lived partnerships outside of marriage differently. We can no longer proceed from natural law alone but must think more in categories of care and personal responsibility for one another,” Bätzing said. He would like to see the Catholic theology of sexuality developed further, he emphasised.

He could understand the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s “No” to blessing homosexual couples. The CDF was reiterating church teaching, he said. “But that won’t help, as pastoral practice has long since developed further and has overtaken church teaching – and that means change is pending”.

“A document which quite so blatantly shuts itself off to theological and scientific progress of any kind will lead to it being ignored in pastoral practice”, Bätzing said of the CDF document forbidding gay blessings published in mid-March. An “apodictic no” to blessing homosexual partnerships was not a justified response to such a complex issue, he pointed out. Many people would feel hurt by the Church. “There are many people who live in responsible, faithful and caring partnerships but do not have a Christian understanding of marriage,” he said.

On the Vatican’s “well-established pattern of argumentation” that the Church did not have the authority to change church teaching, Batzing said: “That is self-immunisation against changing canon law – which can be and has been changed numerous times.” 

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