Blessings for same-gender couple may be permissible, said a leading German bishop and advisor to Pope Francis.
Cardinal Reinhard Marx of the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising made his remarks in an interview over the weekend, reported Crux. The cardinal said that pastoral care which accompanies people in their concrete circumstances is the “fundamental orientation,” one promoted by Pope Francis. Marx said such care must include lesbian and gay people. Asked whether he could imagine blessing a same-gender couple, Marx replied:
“Yes, however there are no general solutions. That would not be right, I think. It’s about pastoral care for individual cases, and that applies in other areas as well, which we can not regulate, where we have no sets of rules. That does not mean that nothing happens.
“But I really have to leave that to the pastor on the ground, and the individual under pastoral care. There you can discuss things, as is currently being debated, and consider: How can a pastoral worker deal with it? However I really would emphatically leave that to the particular, individual case at hand, and not demand any sets of rules again – there are things that can not be regulated.”
Marx, who is part of Pope Francis’ Council of Cardinal Advisors and serves as head of the German Bishops’ Conference, said the Church needed to “meet the challenges posed by new circumstances,” and do so in a way that considers the individual with their “life history. . .biography. . .disruptions. . .hopes. . .relationships.” Pastoral ministers, the cardinal added, need to try harder to do ministry in this way:
“And this is true as well for the cases you mention; it also applies to homosexuals: We must be pastorally close to those who are in need of pastoral care and also want it. And one must also encourage priests and pastoral workers to give people in concrete situations encouragement. I do not really see any problems there. An entirely different question is how this is to be done publicly and liturgically. These are things you have to be careful about, and reflect on them in a good way.”
Marx’s affirmation of such blessings is a shift in his position. In 2015, Marx rebuked the lay group Central Committee of German Catholics when it called for the Church to bless both same-gender couples and re-married divorcees. At the time, the cardinal called that demand “theologically unacceptable [if enacted] unreservedly,” though he affirmed the need for debate and dialogue on controversial topics. Marx was joined by six other bishops in criticizing the Committee’s position paper.
More generally, on the issue of homosexuality, Marx has reiterated the need for consciences to be respected, saying, “there there must be respect for the decision that one freely takes.” He rejected suggestions that such respect is relativism, adding that there is an “interplay of freedom and responsibility” when it comes to conscience. He said previously that the Church should focus on its failure to protect lesbian and gay people from discrimination rather then focusing on opposing marriage equality. He suggested the Church apologize to lesbian and gay people for the harm they have experienced.
Cardinal Marx is now the latest German bishop to raise the possibility of blessings for same-gender couples. Last month, Bishop Dieter Geerlings, an auxiliary in Münster, said he would bless such couples who entered into a civil marriage. Bishop Franz-Josef Bode of Osnabrück, deputy chair of the German Bishops Conference, also said a blessing would allow for better pastoral accompaniment for those who are civilly married and remain in the Church.
Bishops in Germany seem to be taking the next step in enacting Pope Francis’ vision for the Church, namely the movement from abstract conversations about inclusion and accompaniment to concrete acts that help realize those ideals in the Church’s life. If pastoral ministers now take the further step of actually celebrating such a blessing for a same-gender couple, what was unimaginable five years ago could very soon become a reality.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, February 6, 2018