More than 200 German theologians published a statement in opposition to the Vatican’s responsum released last week that banned blessings for same-gender couples, adding to intensifying criticism from many sectors of the German-speaking church.
The statement, organized by a working group at the University of Münster, said the responsum and its explanatory note “lack theological depth, hermeneutical sensibility, and discursive rigor.” It continued in the English translation:
“If scholarly insights are disregarded rather than adopted, as is the case in these documents, the magisterium undermines its own authority.
“The text displays a paternalistic attitude of superiority and discriminates against homosexual people and their visions for their lives. We categorically reject this. Instead, we depart from the position that the life and love of same-sex couples is worth no less before God than the life and love of any other couple.
“In many parishes, priests, deacons, and lay ministers recognize homosexual people, which may include the offering of blessing ceremonies for same-sex couples and also reflecting on the appropriate liturgical forms of such celebrations. We expressly welcome these dignifying practices.”
The signatories of the Münster statement include a number of notable theologians, reported Der Spiegel:
“Current signatories include the dogmatist Georg Essen from the Humboldt University in Berlin, the 92-year-old Peter Hünermann, Julia Knop and Gregor Maria Hoff, chairmen of the Working Group for Dogmatics and Fundamental Theology, and the liturgical theologian Benedikt Kranemann from Erfurt.
“Other well-known representatives of their subject are the chairwoman of the Catholic Faculty Conference, Johanna Rahner from Freiburg, the Munich fundamental theologian Thomas Schärtl-Trendel, the Münster dogmatist Michael Seewald, the New Testament scholar Michael Theobald from Tübingen and the Münster church historian Hubert Wolf. Several representatives of church universities have also signed, including Jesuits from St. Georgen and teachers from the Catholic universities in Eichstätt and Linz.”
In addition to the theological statement, other Catholic leaders and institutions in Germany have also issued critical of the CDF decision. The Courier reported:
“‘We criticize that people who love the same sex continue to be discriminated against despite statements to the contrary,’ said a report from the diocesan commission in the Archdiocese of Paderborn. Theological laymen are on the committee. Understandably, many people turn away from the Church. The Vatican newspaper is ‘in clear contradiction to the reality of life and the life-centered message of Jesus.'”
In addition, The Courier reported:
“The diocesan councils of Aachen and Cologne – the representatives of the laity, the common faithful – also condemned the decision of Rome. ‘God loves and blesses all people,’ the Aachen diocesan council wrote in a statement. ‘If people want to place their partnership, which is based on love and responsibility, under God’s blessing, the church cannot refuse the blessing.’ That is why the Diocesan Council opposes the ban on the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. ‘We encourage all pastors in the Diocese of Aachen to publicly support their practice of blessing. For this they have the full support of a large majority of Catholics. ‘”
Katholisch.de reported on further comments from the co-chairs of the sexuality and relationships forum for Germany’s Synodal Way:
“‘With our forum we want to give an impulse to further develop the church’s teaching on sex,’ said Aachen Bishop Helmut Dieser at an online event on Friday evening. . .The co-chair Birgit Mock also said at the event: ‘The majority of us in the forum have a lot of tailwind for changes.’
“Mock, who is also the managing director of the Hildegardis Association, spoke of an ‘update of sexual morality’. This includes a reassessment of sexuality, at the end of which could also be a celebration of blessings for homosexual partnerships. . .
“However, the blessing of homosexuals is a fact in many places in Germany, argued Mock. She also said that she knew that pastors would give the blessing. ‘It’s all somehow in a gray area.'”
The report also noted that Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck of Essen commented at an event that “a serious and deeply appreciative reassessment of homosexuality” was needed to avoid “fundamentalist temptations.”
In related news from Katholisch.de, the Lesbian Organization of Switzerland has asked the country’s Federal Council to withdraw Swiss Guard troops from the Vatican over the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s ban:
“An ‘exemplary response’ to the ‘discriminatory’ policy of the Papal States is needed, said the co-director of the umbrella organization for lesbian, bisexual and queer women, Muriel Waeger, over the weekend, according to media reports. . .
“‘The church must be aware of the very serious consequences of its statements for homosexual believers: They can lead to conversion therapies, rejection by families and suicides,’ Waeger said.”
Waeger claimed the the move was out of concern that supporting the Vatican when it discriminates violates the Swiss consitution, but that he was also concerned that the gay members of the Swiss Guard, who protect the Vatican, should not be made “to suffer discrimination in the country to which they are sent for service.”
Thousands of Catholics are calling on Pope Francis to rescind the Vatican ban through a sign-on statement initiative by New Ways Ministry, which is also a commitment by the faithful to bless same-gender couples. If you have not already added your name, you can do so here.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, March 23, 2021
For all the previous posts concerning the Vatican’s ban on blessing same-gender couples, click here.
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.