A non-binary Catholic was among participants at the German church’s first assembly in its “Synodal Way” process. In addition, two bishops at the meeting called for change in the church’s teachings on homosexuality.
Mara Klein, age 23, was a lay representative at the assembly in Frankfurt. The German bishops’ news outlet, katholisch.de, recognized Klein as non-binary in its reporting and used their appropriate pronouns. Novena News reported:
“[Klein] caused a stir at the assembly by taking the floor and calling the German Bishops out on the clergy sex abuse and cover-up scandals that led to the episcopate deciding that the two-year reform process on possible changes to the Church exercise of authority, Catholic sexual morality, celibacy and the sidelining of women was necessary. . .
“Klein, one of the just of the 230 synodal assembly participants aged under 30, said that their speech at the assembly had been largely ‘improvised’ but that it was ‘important’ to say what they said.
“Among the many people who sought Klein out after their address to thank them for their ‘courage’ – or to say they felt ‘represented’, ‘encouraged’ or ‘touched’ by Klein’s words – Klein said even a few bishops ‘shook hands afterwards and thanked me for the contribution’.”
In addition to Klein’s participation, two bishops voiced their desire for a rethinking of the church’s teachings on homosexuality, a sentiment reflected in a working document on sexual morality prepared for the Synodal Way. Novena News reported:
“That synodal path working document on Catholic sexual morality acknowledges that “homosexual acts also realize positive meaningful values, insofar as they are an expression of friendship, reliability, loyalty and support in life”, all the while expressing its dissent from traditional Church teaching that homosexual acts are intrinsically evil.”
Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg, chair of the assembly’s preparatory commission, introduced that commission’s report by saying it sought to “bridge the gap” between people’s lived relationships and church teaching “by widening, opening and changing this teaching.” The bishop expressed concern that church teaching is “is perceived more as a series of prohibitions than as a guide to living.” Another bishop made similar comments, explained Novena News:
“[D]uring a speech at the event Archbishop of Hamburg Stefan Hesse ‘distanced himself from the current Church doctrine on homosexuality and called for new ways’.
“Hesse said that the language of the Catechism on homosexuality looks down on gay people, instead of meeting them at eye level, with its description of homosexual acts and inclinations as ‘intrinsically… [and] objectively disordered’ (CCC 2357-2358).
“The archbishop lamented the fact that the Catechism states that ‘homosexual persons are called to chastity’ (CCC 2359), when he said he knew from pastoral experience that there are many same-sex couples who live values such as respect and responsibility in their relationships.
“Hesse insisted that the Church should change its doctrine on homosexuality to do justice to gays: a call that katholisch.de said was met in the synodal assembly with resounding applause.”
Last year, Hesse joined Bishop Franz-Josef Bode of Osnabrück in co-authoring a book which affirmed church blessings for same-gender couples. The bishops said the church’s teachings and practices must engage people’s lived realities to better accompany LGBTQ people. For his part, Bishop Bätzing began a diocesan process in 2019 to examine the issue of such blessings.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, February 8, 2020