A bishop and a theologian in Germany have joined the conversation on how the Church can bless same-gender couples, even while still denying them sacramental marriage equality.
According to the National Catholic Reporter, Bishop Dieter Geerlings, an auxiliary in Münster, called for the Church to bless same-gender couples who are civilly married:
“‘I’m not for “marriage for all,” but if two homosexuals enter a same-sex relationship, if they want to take responsibility for each other, then I can bless this mutual responsibility. . .This is valuable and praiseworthy, even if this bond is not in complete agreement with the church.”
Theologian Benedikt Kranemann of the University of Erfurt told the German bishops’ news agency:
“‘I think it’s a problem theologically if we make blessings dependent on a moral assessment of human behavior. . .When a car is blessed, the driver is also blessed, regardless of how he drives. . .The church was authorized to pass on God’s blessing as a promise. The person blessed is supposed to live according to what he was promised.”
The bishop’s and theologian’s statements do not come from a vacuum, but from standing conversations inside the Catholic Church and in Protestant churches, as well. NCR reported:
“‘I know the issue is out there, not only in Osnabrück or in the (episcopal conference’s) Pastoral Commission, but across Germany,’ said Holger Dörnemann, the new delegate for relations with gay people in the Cologne Archdiocese, the largest and richest in the country.
“‘The discussions in recent years have shown this. (Bode) has only expressed what is actually under discussion in every diocese,’ Dörnemann told the archdiocese’s radio station.”
For instance, earlier this month, Bishop Franz-Josef Bode of Osnabrück, deputy chair of the German Bishops Conference, said, “We have to ask ourselves how we should deal with people who tie this knot [of civil marriage]. Some of them are active in the church. So how are we going to accompany them with pastoral care and in the liturgy?” His suggestion was to allow for a blessing. Similarly, the Central Committee of German Catholics, a lay organization, endorsed such blessings in 2015. The reform group We Are Church has encouraged more “constructive conversations” among the faithful on this issue.
The question of blessings or some other former of ecclesial recognition offered to same-gender couples has a new importance now that Germany has civil marriage equality, passed last July. The nation’s bishops offered a rather subdued and nuanced response to legalization, yet a later dispute occurred when one bishop barred a priest from offering a blessing to such a couple before their civil marriage.
Bishop Geerlings is but the latest church leaders to offer support for same-gender relationships, civil unions, and/or marriage equality. You can find a full listing of such support dating back to 2011 by visiting New Ways Ministry’s website here.
To bless is to realize that which is being blessed is holy in God’s eyes and to call down God’s grace upon it. The issue of blessings for LGBT people and their relationships is solved through common sense, and can be done without requiring a shift in theology or church teaching. May these conversations on LGBT blessings continue in Germany and begin to take root in Catholic spaces around the world.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, January 25, 2018