Another leading German bishop has endorsed church blessings for same-gender couples, suggesting that the church needs to work to change people’s understanding that it only speaks in a condemning way when it comes to sexuality.
Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg made his comments in a recent interview with , a leading German daily newspaper. (Novena News reported about the interview in an English language news story.) Asked about the church’s future, Bätzing said it was problematic that many people “regard the Church’s moral teachings as a prohibitive morality,” and especially on questions of sexuality. “I’d like to change that,” said the bishop, “without developing a completely new teaching.”
More specifically, Bätzing, who was recently elected head of the German Bishops’ Conference, identified church blessings for same-gender couples and married priests as two areas where such changes could take place:
“On the first question – that of the Church’s concern for homosexuals – ‘for a long time in moral theology we’ve said that, if it’s true love that lives commitment and faithfulness, we must recognise it,’ the bishop explained, stressing that ‘if people decide for themselves how they live, can’t we tell them that their relationship is blessed by God?’.”
Last year, the Diocese of Limburg under the bishop’s leadership began a process to discuss such blessings. Bätzing has repeatedly encouraged the church to “bridge the gap” between church teaching and people’s lived realities. At a session of the German church’s Synodal Way process earlier this year, the bishop suggested that bridging this gap could include “widening, opening, and changing this teaching” in conversation with science. Bätzing’s words carry additional weight given he heads the Synodal Way’s working group on sexual morality.
A number of German church leaders have spoken favorably about church blessings for same-gender couples, including the previous head of the country’s episcopal conference, Cardinal Reinhard Marx who earlier this year reversed his 2018 position against such blessings. Bishop Franz-Josef Bode of Osnabrück has affirmed such blessings at least three times, once in 2018, once in 2019, and once last year. Also offering an endorsement last year was Bishop Dieter Geerlings, auxiliary bishop emeritus for the Diocese of Münster, who reaffirmed his existing support. 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.
The Catholic Church in Germany continues to be the leader in finding ways to affirm LGBTQ people and relationships.
For a listing of other church leaders who have made statements supportive of same-gender relationships, click here.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, April 17, 2020