A priest tasked with diocesan ministry to lesbian and gay people has said he would happily bless same-gender couples if he was asked, adding that the Catechism’s statements on homosexuality are “embarrassing.”
Fr. Christoph Behrens spoke to Katholisch.de, the German bishops’ media outlet, about his ministry with lesbian and gay people, specifically about the question of church blessings for same-gender couples. He said that not only would he do so, but would do so publicly, and recommend others to follow suit. Here’s part of the exchange (via Google Translate):
“Behrens: I would not let myself be forbidden from blessing a homosexual couple. I see it as my mission to bring people into contact with God and not to close the doors, but to open them.
“Question: So you have not yet received a specific request from a homosexual couple to bless them?
“Behrens: No. I’m actually waiting for it (laughs).
“Question: What exactly could such a blessing look like?
“Behrens: I am a creative person and would think of something that suits the people, is beautiful and expresses a message. The most important thing is that the focus is on the couple who want this blessing. A little liturgy could be developed from their life story. I’ve often seen this work in pastoral care, whether with children or now in hospital pastoral care with the dying. It has to be beautiful, humane and inviting for everyone involved. To put it piously, it must be about the kingdom of God. But I would hardly use a template for this, but develop it from the respective situation. . .
“Question: So you wouldn’t shy away from giving such a blessing in a church either?
“Behrens: I would even recommend it. I wouldn’t want to hide such a blessing. And I wouldn’t ask that much – not even the bishop. He gave me a free hand and commissioned me. So I’m very relaxed about that.”
In June, the priest was directed to be a contact for lesbian/gay people by Bishop Heinrich Timmerevers of Dresden-Meissen, who endorsed such blessings for same-gender couples this year. Behrens said he feels supported by not only the bishop, but fellow priests, too. That said, there have been difficulties making contact with LGBTQ people because, in the priest’s words, “We have done a great job as a church to ensure that homosexual people never even think of contacting a pastor.”
Part of the problem with how the church treats lesbian and gay people can be found in the Catechism, about which Behrens commented:
“From my pastoral and theological point of view, such statements are just plain embarrassing. One can only hope that not too many people read this nonsense. What psychologists and other scientists have found out in the meantime does not seem to matter at all and there is no will to be cleared up. It’s just embarrassing.”
Beyond church blessings, Behrens was clear that his ministry to lesbian and gay people is about a broader listening and accompaniment, not only with Christians, but with non-Christians, too. His goal: ” If the people in this community in the Dresden-Meißen diocese knew that they could go to the Catholic Church with their worries and concerns, then we would have achieved a lot.”
Finally, the interviewer asked Behrens if he feared consequences of this ministry. The priest offered a remarkably strong reply:
“No. That wouldn’t bother me, because I’m more of a fighter type. When I am convinced of something and have realized that it is right and important, I am not afraid of the consequences. If we believe in God’s creation and that he did everything well, then I must also make sure that the thought of God can live in the world. And although we are a very small diocese, we have not received any hostility for our work so far – even though we feared it. That also encourages us to say: We are on the right track.”
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, October 21, 2020