Another bishop in Germany has endorsed church blessings for same-gender couples, while a group of young theologians calls for an end to discrimination in the church.
Bishop Heinrich Timmerevers of Dresden-Meissen was interviewed by KNA earlier this week about his efforts to better include LGBTQ people in the church. The interviewer asked the bishop about church blessings, to which Timmerevers answered (via Google Translate):
“Timmervers: The question is: What do I bless? I bless people. And when a person stands in front of me and asks for a blessing – how can I refuse this blessing? A blessing is God’s promise. It has to be differentiated from the fact that I do not ‘approve’ everything with such a blessing and I like what these people do. You have to take a very differentiated look.
“Question: Does that mean you would like the Catholic Church to allow homosexual couples to be blessed?
“Timmerevers: Yes. Of course you have to think about the form. But in principle I would welcome such an opening.”
KNA’s report also noted that Timmerevers had recently appointed two church officials specifically to provide pastoral care for LGBTQ people. Asked why he is engaging in LGBTQ outreach, the bishop replied:
“Timmervers: I met the group of gay-lesbian-transgender Christians in various places in the diocese, and they told me their life and faith stories. That moved me very deeply because I noticed what a struggle there is for many. They want to be Christians and also to live their faith in the church. And I don’t want to leave these people alone in this struggle.
“Question: What does that mean in concrete terms?
“Timmerevers: One of the findings of my engagement with the letter ‘Amoris laetitia’ from Pope Francis is that in some areas, we were conducting a very exclusive [unwelcoming] pastoral care. If someone did not conform to our norms, they had little chance to be part of the Church. We have to fight against this exclusion, we have to work on it. It is important to me that we further develop and strengthen acceptance and tolerance for homosexuals in our communities and in the whole church. In this respect, the two pastors I have now commissioned should be a signal: We are there for this group.”
When asked if his efforts could be construed as criticism, Timmerevers added that what was needed was a “process of reflection,” commenting, “in my opinion, the Catholic Church has to reposition itself: How do we deal with same-sex people in our pastoral work, and how do we assess it?”
In related news, three graduate students in theology, Luisa Bauer, Lisa Baumeister and Claudia Danzer, have launched a website opposing discrimination in the Catholic Church. Titled MeinGottdiskriminiertnicht.de (“My God does not discriminate'”), the initiative includes a desire for greater LGBTQ inclusion. Novena News reported:
“‘Only if the Church abolishes its discriminatory structures can it again speak credibly of a loving and just God’, explained Danzer, who pointed to the ‘standstill of the reforms’ promised by the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s as the culprit of the Church’s continuing marginalisation of certain groups, including women and LGBTIQ+ people.
“‘In the Church, people have daily hurtful experiences of discrimination, which affect them at the deepest core of their identity’, denounced Bauer, adding that the founders of the ‘My God does not discriminate’ initiative feel that that discrimination ‘does not fit in with Jesus’ advocacy for the disadvantaged and marginalised’.
“‘We cannot and do not want to believe in a God who excludes women and queer people from the priesthood’, insisted Danzer.”
Again, we have German Catholics leading the way for LGBTQ equality in the church. Bishop Timmerevers is but the latest prelate in that country to acknowledge the need for same-gender couples to receive church blessings. Both the bishop and the theologians recognize the need for reform, joining with other church leaders’ statements and the larger lay movement of German Catholics in this assessment. Taken together, all these developments are hopeful signs that the German Church’s Synodal Way process will take prophetic steps when it comes to sexual morality, women’s leadership, and other needed reforms.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, October 1, 2020