Two leaders of the German Bishops’ Conference have offered support for church blessings of same-gender couples.
Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising stated in an interview that same-gender couples could receive a church blessing, reported Katholisch.de:
“According to Cardinal Reinhard Marx, homosexual couples can receive a blessing ‘in the sense of pastoral care’ in the Catholic Church. But no marriage-like relationship is blessed with this, he said in an interview with Stern on Monday. Marriage is also not possible. ‘The sacrament of marriage is based on the faithful relationship between man and woman, which is open to children.’
“At the same time, Marx emphasized that homosexuals are welcome in the church. If people in same-sex relationships have been faithful for years and are there for one another, then the Church must not ‘bracket out negatively” about this life and say that it was worth nothing. ‘I get criticism for this from some sides,’ said the Archbishop of Munich. ‘Some say: It goes too far. Others: It doesn’t go far enough.'”
With this latest statement, Marx, who is a close advisor to Pope Francis and chair of the German Bishops’ Conference, has reversed his 2018 position against blessings for same-gender couple. At that time, Marx said the issue was not a priority for the German episcopate. But the topic has taken on new life as the German church begins its Synodal Way process to examine issues in church life, including sexual morality.
Elsewhere in Germany, Bishop Franz-Josef Bode of Osnabrück affirmed his support for church blessings a third time. Novena News reported:
“On the subject of pastoral care for gay couples, Bishop Bode was equally clear: the basic principle of love should be the moral-theological yardstick for all human relationships, including partnership and sexuality.
“We in the Church ‘should approach this area [sexuality] more positively, closer to people and closer to life’, insisted the bishop.
“Bode thereby hinted at the possibility of establishing official Church blessings for gay couples – in the line, at least, of recent suggestions of German Bishops’ President Cardinal Reinhard Marx.”
Bode, however, dampened expectations that the Synodal Way could lead to church blessings, warning that this issue and the question of women’s ordination are not an “all-or-nothing affair,” but rather reform would “only come step-by-step and in synchrony with the world Church and with Rome.” As vice-president of the German Bishops’ Conference and leading of the Synodal Way’s working group on women, Bode has a key role to play in that process overall.
Bode first issued his support for these blessings in 2018, calling on the church to consider positive elements in same-gender relationships beyond just writing them off as gravely sinful. In January 2019, he repeated this support saying he was “sure that the category of blessing will play a role” in the pastoral accompaniment of LGBTQ people. Bode added at that time, “We must not always treat homosexuality from the point of view of serious sin.”
The German-speaking church has been particularly progressive when it comes to the question of church recognition for same-gender relationships. Last year alone, in Germany, Bishop Dieter Geerlings, auxiliary bishop emeritus for the Diocese of Münster, reaffirmed his existing support for such blessings based on the “mutual responsibility” partners show for one another that is “valuable and praiseworthy, even if this bond is not in complete agreement with the church.” The Diocese of Limbrug began a process to discuss the possibility of blessings. That country’s lay-run Central Committee of German Catholics formally endorsed such blessings last year, but had informally done so regarding same-gender blessings back in 2015. In addition in 2019, Bishop Felix Gmür of Basel, Switzerland, said the church had to find a meaningful way to engage such couples. Later a diocesan spokesperson endorsed blessings as part of a larger affirmation of civil marriage equality. Franziska Driessen-Reding, who heads the Canton of Zurich’s Synodal Council, likewise affirmed the need to bless same-gender couples.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, January 3, 2020
Novena News, “Cardinal Marx backs ‘pastoral’ blessings for gay couples“