Lay Catholics in Germany formally endorsed church blessings for same-gender couples, while in nearby Switzerland, bishops have chosen to remain neutral on an upcoming LGB referendum.
German Laity Endorses Church Blessings for Same-Gender Couples
The Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK, the acronym for their German name, “Zentralkomitee der deutschen Katholiken”), the nation’s top lay association, passed a resolution last month urging their bishops to explore a “Church-mediated blessing of God” for same-gender couples to avoid “hardships” and “existential emergencies” for them. Novena News reported:
“That resolution formalised the position of the ZdK since at least 2015, when it first backed in principle the idea of blessings for gay couples.
“In the motion, the ZdK ‘encouraged’ the German bishops to further investigate possibilities for ceremonies for gay unions, but also for those other couples barred from Church weddings, such as divorced Catholics living in new relationships.
“In the resolution passed Saturday, the ZdK insisted that the current Church ban on blessing gay couples is outdated, and not worthy of the Catechism’s call to respect homosexuals ‘with respect, compassion, and sensitivity’.
“The ZdK also urged priests and bishops not to focus on the alleged deficiencies of gay Catholic couples, but instead celebrate the love and longing for God inherent in their desire to have the Church recognise their partnership.”
Earlier this year, two German church leaders, Osnabrück’s Bishop Franz-Josef Bode and Hamburg’s Archbishop Stefan Hesse, joined their voices to the call for greater pastoral welcome to LGBTQ people. Novena News reported that Hesse, an adviser to ZdK, echoed that call at the group’s assembly. It also reported that the archbishop “called for a deeper theological investigation into how the Church can better accompany gay couples, so that any future blessing rites are properly anchored in the Church’s theology.”
Swiss Bishops Neutral on LGBTQ Referendum
The Swiss Bishops’ Conference has decided it will not take a unified position on an upcoming February referendum about overturning the nation’s law that specifically criminalizes anti-LGB discrimination. In a statement released after an episcopal gathering this month, the Conference stated:
“The doctrine of the Catholic Church is pronounced without exception against any call to hatred and discrimination of persons or groups. However, it will be up to the citizens to judge whether this principle is already sufficiently anchored in existing legislation or if it needs to be expanded.”
However, Bishop Martin Eleganti, an auxiliary of Chur, did come out against the non-discrimination law, reported Tagblatt. He said the expanded version of the law that includes sexual orientation “risks criminalizing all opinions that differ from the LGBT lobby in matters of marriage, family or sexual morality.” Existing laws before the 2018 addition about sexual orientation were sufficient to protect lesbian and gay people, according to Eleganti, who said such people do not need special protection.
There is a telling contrast in these two stories about where the church stands today: the lay faithful are marching forward towards full inclusion, but the church leaders who join them remain anomalies in a system beholden to dated ideas. The answer, however, is not a neutral position like the Swiss bishops have taken. Church leaders need to stand for LGBTQ human rights unequivocally. And to get there, they need to begin supporting LGBTQ legal protections and exploring blessing same-gender couples.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, December 16, 2019