In response to the Vatican’s responsum on blessing same-gender unions this week, nearly 1,000 pastoral ministers in Germany, as well as other Catholics, have signed a letter in support of such blessings. Elsewhere in the country, bishops and priests are raising objections to the ban at an increasing pace.
Fr. Burkhard Hose, a university chaplain, and Fr. Bernd Mönkebüscher, an openly gay priest, began collecting signatures earlier this week from ministers supportive of LGBTQ couples. The appeal states simply:
“We will continue to accompany people who enter into a binding partnership in the future and bless their relationship. We do not refuse a celebration of blessings.”
Katholisch.de reported that more than 1,000 people have added their names as of mid-week (via Google Translate):
“The signatories included priests, deacons, parish and pastoral officers, religion teachers and professors, the vast majority directly from pastoral work. ‘There are religious superiors, as well as spirituals from seminaries, employees from parishes and vicariates general,’ the pastor of St. Agnes in the Westphalian town of Hamm [Mönkebüscher] lists. ‘Basically, of course, that’s nice,’ he says. But he also asks what that means for the church: ‘That shows how unworldly the decision from Rome is. The practice is completely different.'”
BR24 reported that signatures will be collected through Palm Sunday, at which point the two priests will submit them to Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg, chair of the German Bishops’ Conference, and Birgit Mock of the Central Committee of German Catholics, co-chair of the Synodal Way’s forum on sexuality and relationships. The two priests hope for a conversation with Bätzing.
While Hose has yet to bless a same-gender couple, fearful of the repercussion, he commented, “What have I already blessed as a priest? I have blessed houses and sugar beet harvesters – why not also people who love each other?”
Mönkebüscher added elsewhere, “If we were to take our own sexual morals seriously, then we would have to force every heterosexual couple to confess before the wedding. But we don’t.”
In a related note, Mock released a statement with the co-chair of the aforementioned forum, Bishop Helmut Dieser of Aachen, regarding the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s ban. Katholisch.de reported:
“[Their statement] promises to ‘discuss the Roman interjection in detail’. With a lot of optimism about purpose, they perceive ‘predominantly dynamic concepts’ in the document from Rome, which give hope for ‘a possible further development of the teaching of the Church’.”
Elswhere in Germany, Bishop Peter Kohlgraf of Mainz said the Vatican’s ban had not changed his comments made in February about blessings. At the time, the bishop made clear his approval of a book developed with the help of diocesan staff that collected examples of blessings for same-gender couples. In his most recent statement, Kohlgraf commented:
“I notice how many believing people are disappointed and hurt by this, by no means only those directly affected. I take this very seriously. I’m also worried about the topic. At the same time, I take this as a mandate and an incentive that we in the Diocese of Mainz increasingly develop pastoral offers and concepts for and in particular: together with homosexual people. And I am grateful to all those concerned who care to keep in touch with our church.”
Kohlgraf also addressed the topic of what happens when a priest has blessed a same-gender couple, asking “How do I deal with this as a bishop?” Acknowledging such blessings contradict church practices, the bishop continued:
“As a bishop, can I undo a blessing? Do I want to break so much delicate porcelain from believing people? This does not make much sense to me. The blessing celebrations emerged from the pastoral care of the people affected. Most of them are neither forms that are modeled on church weddings, nor do they want to develop a uniform liturgy. Pastors have accompanied people and spoken blessings about the good in their lives. No, I’m not advocating a form of blessing which is similar to a wedding ceremony. But I advocate accompaniment – instead of judging. And I advocate talking to the ‘not a few’ (catechism!) [lesbian, bisexual, and gay people] affected – and not about them – and staying with them’.”
The Diocese of Mainz’s Vicar General, Fr. Andreas Sturm, said he would continue blessing people, commenting, “I have blessed apartments, cars, elevators, countless rosaries, etc. and shouldn’t be able to bless two people who love each other? That can’t be God’s will.”
Other bishops who have challenged the Vatican’s ban includes Bishop Heinrich Timmerevers of Dresden, who described the Vatican’s responsum as “disappointing.” Bishop Franz Josef Bode of Osnabrück, who affirmed such blessings at least three times in the past (2018, 2019, and 2020), has said now that the discussion was not ended by “such simple answers.”
Finally, Fr. Tobias Schäfer, provost of the Worms cathedral, posted his protests against the Vatican ban on Facebook, per Deutsche Welle:
“‘If the church has no authority to bless wherever people long for blessings: has it not given up on its own task? Blessing is not an instrument for moral judgment! It is the promise that God is there, that he goes with us. In good and difficult hours. . .I cannot and will not refuse to anyone.'”
Schäfer added in an interview with Deutsche Welle, “My opinion is: don’t take Rome seriously and continue with pastoral care. There are more important things than such stupid papers!”
For Bondings 2.0’s ongoing coverage of responses to and original commentary about the Vatican’s ban on blessing same-gender unions, click here.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, March 18, 2021
For a listing of Catholic leaders who have spoken positively about same-gender relationships and unions, click here.
For information about a Catholic blessing for a same-gender couple, click here.
For more information on how to be welcoming to married same-gender couples, click here.