A German bishop who has repeatedly vocalized his support for blessing same-gender couples in the church again spoke out, asking why such blessings are not possible, as the Vatican has said.
Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck of Essen made his comments following a meeting with Pope Francis in Rome. Overbeck was representing the Commission of Bishops’ Conference of the European Union, where he is vice president. The Times of Malta reported that, when he was asked about same-gender blessings and the German church’s strong reaction to the Vatican’s ban, Overbeck replied:
“‘If they (same-sex couples) ask for some blessings, why not’ . . .
“‘We are a pastoral church for all its members, also for homosexuals. . .The Pope is a pastoral pope, he told us that we must do what serves the people, so we do it.'”
Having met with the pope alongside Overbeck, Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich of Luxembourg also weighed in on the question of blessings, according to Crux:
“Among the questions posed to the prelates was the ongoing debate regarding the blessing of same-sex couples.
“‘But what does it mean to bless? A nuptial blessing? It’s not going to happen, because for us marriage is between a man and a woman. But when I am with young people, of course, there are also homosexuals who come to me and ask me what can they do,’ Hollerich said.
“‘The pastoral attitude is always to seek the best possible solution, not the best abstract option,’ he said. ‘Because the best abstract thing can defeat man, while the Church is here to help the person. We have to be careful not to discriminate, but the theory and teaching of the church and the pastoral attitude are both important.'”
While these comments are Hollerich’s first that express an openness to blessings, the cardinal has previously made quite positive comments about gay priests.
But for Overbeck endorsement of blessings has become routine. Indeed, even after the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued ts ban on same-gender blessings this March, the Diocese of Essen under the bishop’s leadership held a virtual symposium on the topic this April. Overbeck said personally that no priest who participated in Germany’s May 10 protests this year where same-gender couples were blessed in church would be sanctioned. Previously, he has expressed his support for blessings, and he has said the church needs to fundamentally reassess its approach to homosexuality. In 2019, Overbeck defied the Vatican’s ban on gay men in the priesthood. He allowed the story of a married gay church worker to appear in the diocesan magazine the following year, too.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s insistence that “God cannot bless sin” fails to adequately and credibly explain why same-gender blessings are not possible in the church. In his latest comments, Bishop Overbeck reveals that, in light of the Vatican’s logical failure, the bishop now shares the question asked by many Catholics: when it comes to blessing love in all its forms, why not?
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, June 14, 2021