German Catholic leaders support blessings for same-sex couples, challenge Pope Francis

German Catholic bishops and secular leaders on Friday called on their churches to bless same-sex relationships, challenging the Vatican’s ban on the practice.

The move increased pressure on Pope Francis to respond to the progressive push by the Germans, which conservatives say could divide the world church.

At a meeting in Frankfurt, German religious leaders voted 168 to 28, with five abstentions, to adopt a draft declaration on sexuality that includes a resolution saying that “same-sex partnerships that want to take the risk of unbreakable common life… should be able to see themselves placed under the blessing of God.

Reverend Burkhard Hose, who campaigned against the Vatican ban, said the decision was “an important step in the journey towards a church without discrimination, a church full of respect for the diversity of love and partnerships “.

“It is not possible for the bishops to ignore this majority vote without losing their authority,” he said.

The Conservatives greeted the vote with dismay but no surprise.

“This shows that the church in Germany is guided by secular values ​​and worldly ideologies,” said Annette Florczak of Maria 1.0, an organization dedicated to the defense of traditional Catholic doctrine. “Apparently, members of the Path of Synod see the church as a democracy where teachings and truth change with a majority vote. It is more than presumptuous and more than depressing.

The Vatican did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.

The church leaders’ statement is subject to review at synod meetings next year, and approval of the final version will require a qualified two-thirds majority of the 69 participating bishops, 65 of whom are attending this meeting. week. Friday’s count did not split the vote between bishops and other members.

The German synod, which opened in January 2020 and is scheduled to end in October 2022, was convened in response to a 2018 report on the crisis of clerical sexual abuse in Germany. Synod leaders say facing the crisis of abuse requires considering major changes in Catholic life in areas such as the role of the laity in church governance, the requirement of celibacy for priests and the ordination of women as members of the clergy.

Pope Francis reaffirmed the Church’s doctrine that the sacrament of marriage is exclusively the union of a man and a woman.


Andrew Medichini / Associated press

Conservatives in Germany and elsewhere have warned that innovations in these areas could lead to a permanent schism or split in the church. Pope Francis has encouraged meetings of bishops and laity in Germany and other countries to discuss these once taboo topics, but he and Vatican officials have urged the German synod not to stray from the rest of the world. Catholic world.

On Monday, Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg, president of the German Bishops’ Conference, lamented “words of warning or clarification from the Roman Curia on questions that have long found an answer in our enlightened and loving society. freedom”. The bishop said that the Vatican’s ban on blessing same-sex couples in particular caused “outrage and nods of the head in many people”, misunderstood many theologians and illustrated “inner discord. of the Catholic Church ”.

Friday’s statement on sexuality, which generally calls for a more liberal approach to church teaching, including more tolerance for contraception and masturbation, is issued as a call to the Pope, acknowledging that many of his proposals “fall primarily within the educational competence of the Bishop of Rome and therefore cannot be undertaken by the Church in Germany.

In March, the Vatican Doctrinal Office released a statement, personally approved by the Pope, prohibiting the blessing of same-sex couples since God “cannot bless sin.”

But such blessings by Catholic priests have become common in Germany and other parts of northern Europe over the past decade. In May, priests and lay ministers protesting the Vatican declaration publicly blessed same-sex couples in more than 100 churches across Germany.

Pope Francis reaffirmed the Church’s doctrine that the sacrament of marriage is exclusively the union of a man and a woman, but he adopted a line of conciliation towards homosexual Catholics and supported civil unions. for same-sex couples. The Pope has not publicly commented on the issue of blessing such couples.

During the debate leading up to Friday’s vote, several lay members of the assembly said the blessings for same-sex couples did not go far enough and that partners in such relationships should be eligible for the sacrament of marriage.

Write to Francis X. Rocca at [email protected]

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