Largest Swiss Diocese Endorses Civil Marriage Equality, Blessings for Same-Gender Couples

Hansruedi Huber

A diocese in Switzerland has endorsed civil marriage equality and religious blessings for same-gender couples, the latest step in the German-speaking church’s ongoing progress towards LGBTQ equality.

A spokesperson for the Diocese of Basel, Hansruedi Huber, affirmed work by Swiss civil legislators to legalize marriage equality. Luzerner Zeitung quoted Huber as saying:

” ‘We welcome the proposed regulations that give homosexual partnerships a stable and reliable legal cover. It is important to us that children who grow up in same-sex partnerships receive a legal framework that serves the best interests of the child.’ “

Huber endorsed church blessings for such couples as long as they “differ in content and form from the church wedding.” In April, the diocese’s bishop, Felix Gmür, also suggested that while sacramental and civil marriages should remain separate, the church had to find meaningful ways to engage same-gender couples. The Diocese of Basel is Switzerland’s largest.

With the prospect of marriage equality passing, Swiss Catholics have been outspoken supporters. Recently, Franziska Driessen-Reding who heads the Canton of Zurich’s Synodal Council said that local church did not oppose equal civil marriage rights. She added her supporter for blessing same-gender couples in the church, too. The Swiss Catholic Women’s Federation reiterated its support for marriage equality earlier this year, a position the women’s group has held since 2001.

Across the border, German Catholics are advancing with a process that is reconsidering, among other topics, the church’s sexual morality. Catholic San Francisco , the city’s archdiocesan newspaper, reported, via a leaked draft document, that the bishops have affirmed the Synodal Way, as the process is known:

“The Synodal Assembly would be given the authority to pass resolutions in the name of the Church in Germany. The assembly will have up to 200 members, with the largest block, 70, coming from the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK).

“German priests, religious, deacons, pastoral workers and other lay groups will also be represented. The 69 bishops who form the German bishops’ conference will be a minority of the membership. Each member – whether a bishop, a priest, or a layperson – will possess a single vote.

“Article 3 of the draft statutes provides that:

” ‘The synodal assembly is the superior body and has deliberative power. Members of the synodal assembly have an equal right to vote in decision-making matters.’ “

One of the main working groups for this Synodal Way will address sexual morality. A chair for that group, theologian Stephan Goertz, told, the German church’s official news outlet, that these teachings must change. In an interview, Goertz said the church placed itself in an “intellectual and cultural ghetto” by ignoring modern science and knowledge. He added:

“For Goertz, the central question to the Church’s Magisterium is ‘whether two people can not love each other beyond marriage in a humanly authentic, free and respectful way, so that their sexuality, as the expression and form of that love, is a moral reality shared to respected by the church.'”

That question of how the institutional church can find ways to respect same-gender relationships is an increasingly pressing reality with more people coming out globally and marriage equality spreading. The old answers are insufficient for the questions Goertz and many other Catholics pose. More theological reflection, as well as simply pastoral courage to follow through on the consequences of that reflection, is needed. But there are options available now, too. The Diocese of Basel’s leaders, and many other church leaders, have shown the church has every reason to and must support civil marriage equality as what is best for LGBTQ families. If you would like to read about more church leaders who have affirmed same-gender love, civil unions, and/or marriage equality, and the reasons why they have given such support, click here.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, September 9, 2019

3 replies
  1. Paula Ruddy
    Paula Ruddy says:

    This is surely good news. But if same-gender sex can be “blessed” by the Church, I don’t see why the civilly married couple isn’t also sacramentally married. Does that make sense to anyone? It is consistent to say that neither civil nor sacramental marriage is available for same-sex couples, and it is consistent to say that civil marriage can be available for the state’s reasons while sacramental marriage is not for the Church’s reasons. But how is a Church “blessing” consistent with the disallowance of sacramental marriage? Another one of those partial measure to satisfy everyone that satisfies no one?

  2. Thomas Ellison
    Thomas Ellison says:

    I keep reading that Catholics in many European countries have stopped attending in significant numbers. Maybe Swiss, German and other bishops realize that they cannot take too diametric a stand in opposition. Otherwise they’ll be preaching to themelves and maybe one old lady.


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