Berlin Cardinal Re-Affirms His Support for Lesbian and Gay Relationships

Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki

Cardinal Rainer Woelki of Berlin has re-affirmed his support for same-sex relationships which he made at a German conference of Catholic lay people back in May.

London’s Tablet magazine, an international Catholic periodical, reports:

“The Church must rethink its approach to remarried divorcees and gay relationships, the world’s youngest cardinal has said.

“Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, 55, made his comments in an interview with the German weekly Die Zeit and said that while the Orthodox Church considers only the first marriage sacramentally valid, divorce and a second marriage is tolerated. Asked whether this could be a model for the Catholic Church, he replied that the Church should talk about it.

Commenting on gay men in relationships he said he tried not to see them as just violating natural law but as people trying to take responsibility for each other in lasting partnerships. ‘We must find a way of allowing people to live without going against church teaching,’ he said.”

Mark deVries, a Dutchman who blogs at In  Caelo et in Terra (In Heaven and on Earth), has translated the relevant passage into English:

“ ‘Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided,’ the Catechism says about people with homosexual tendencies. If I take that seriously, I can’t merely see homosexual relationships as a ‘violation of natural law,’ as the Catechism puts it. I should also try to perceive it as people permanently taking  responsibility for one another, being loyal and willing to take care of each other, even if I can’t agree with such a lifestyle. The lifestyle that we, as the Catholic Church, stand for, is the sacramental marriage between one man and one woman, open to the transmission of life. I have also said this at the Catholic Day in Mannheim, immediately before the passage you quoted.”

deVries disagrees that this statement is an endorsement of lesbian and gay relationships.  He states:

“Reading this, I think it is unfair to see Cardinal Woelki’s earlier statement as an acceptance or even endorsement of homosexual relationships. He says clearly that he is unable to agree with this lifestyle. But, and this is the key, he does emphasise an important element of our dealings with people or situations that we don’t agree with. This element is love, as the catechism quote also hints at. Through love, we can see the good in situations which are “intrinsically disordered”, meaning that in their nature they are contrary to natural law. But, as Jesus has shown us, love trumps all, so even in these situations, love can shine through. Does that mean that homosexual acts and relations cease to be disordered? No, they don’t. But, as the Catechism and the cardinal indicate, we must acknowledge the fact that love, loyalty, responsibility and care can be present in this lifestyle.”

I think that deVries’ argument actually makes the point that Woelki does endorse same-gender relationships.  By noting that the love relationship matters more than sexual activity, deVries is pointing out that Woelki’s thinking is more in line with theologians, like the recently censured Sr. Margaret Farley, who argue that the quality of a relationship and the presence of love in a relationship should be our standards for moral judgement.

As we stated previously, Cardinal Woelki’s comments are a breath of fresh air and part of a growing trend to give some positive acknowledgment of  same-gender relationships from some high-ranking clerics in the church.  May the discussion continue in this vein.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways  Ministry

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