So far I’ve only seen one news report in English about this item, but there are several in German that are floating around the web. It is too good not to report, even though the information is rather sparse.
Berlin’s Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki told a major Catholic conference in Germany that relationships of same-gender couples should be treated equally with heterosexual couples. An article in The Local, an English news source in Germany reports:
“He told a crowd on Thursday that the church should view long-term, faithful homosexual relationships as they do heterosexual ones.
” ‘When two homosexuals take responsibility for one another, if they deal with each other in a faithful and long-term way, then you have to see it in the same way as heterosexual relationships,’ Woelki told an astonished crowd, according to a story in the Tagesspiegel newspaper.
“Woekli acknowledged that the church saw the relationship between a man and a woman as the basis for creation, but added that it was time to think further about the church’s attitude toward same sex relationships.”
Speaking at the 98th Katholikentag (Catholic), a conference of 60,000 Catholics in Mannheim, Woelki joins a growing chorus of episcopal voices who are calling for change in the hierarchy’s traditionally absolutist refusal to acknowledge the moral goodness of lesbian and gay relationships.
Last December, London’s Archbishop Vincent Nichols made headlines by supporting civil partnerships for lesbian and gay couples in the U.K. That same month, Fr. Frank Brennan, a Jesuit legal scholar in Australia, also called for similar recognition of same-sex relationships. In January, Bishop Paolo Urso of Ragusa, Italy, also called for recognition of civil partnerships in his country.
March of 2012 saw an explosion of questioning from prelates of the hierarchy’s ban on marriage equality. At New Ways Ministry’s Seventh National Symposium,Bishop Geoffrey Robinson of Australia called for a total re-examination of Catholic sexual ethics to allow for, among other things, moral approval of same-sex relationships. The Diocese of Manchester, New Hampshire, supported a bill that would legalize civil unions (albeit as a stopgap measure to prevent marriage equality). Bishop Richard Malone of Portland, Maine, announced that the diocese would not take an active role in opposing the state’s upcoming referendum on marriage equality, as it had in 2009. In Italy, Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini of Milan stated in his book, Credere e Cognoscere (Faith and Understanding), that “I do not agree with the positions of those in the Church who takes issue with civil unions.” You can read excerpts, in Italian, from the book here. An English translation of a different set of excerpts, thanks to the Queering the Church blog, can be found here.
While opposition to marriage equality from the hierarchy, especially in the United States, is still massive and strong, it is significant that these recent statements are all developing a similar theme of at least some recognition of the intrinsic value of lesbian and gay relationships, as well as the need for civil protection of them. May this trend continue and grow.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry