An archbishop in Germany has promised to designate a pastoral minister to serve the LGBTQ community in his archdiocese.
Archbishop Heiner Koch of Berlin made his promise after a meeting with the Lesbian and Gay Association of Berlin-Brandenburg. According to the National Catholic Reporter:
“Koch said he regarded the double marginalization of Catholic gays — within the Catholic community as well as in the LGBTQ community — as ‘problematic and painful.’
“The reason behind the discussion, which the Lesbian and Gay Association had requested, was to look at the contradictions within the Catholic Church and the simultaneous solidarity shown toward LGBTQ people in the wake of the Vatican’s renewed rejection last March of any church blessing for homosexual couples, KNA [a German Catholic news outlet] reported. . .
“Koch asked for understanding that, as bishop, ‘for the sake of the unity of the church, I cannot disregard such a position from Rome.’ At the same time, he said he was committed ‘without reservation to award God’s blessing to the love and relationship of people.’ . . .
“But he said he regarded it as problematic ‘when church political pressure should be exerted by means of blessing services.’
“This remark was seen as a reference to an action last May dubbed ‘Love Wins,’ when blessing services were held in many Catholic churches around Germany for same-sex and divorced couples in a protest against the Vatican.”
“According to the press release, the Archdiocese of Berlin and the LSVD are linked by a ‘constructive and respectful dialogue’. Before the Pope’s visit in 2011, the then Archbishop, Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, invited representatives of the association for a discussion for the first time. In January 2016 Koch visited the ‘Center for Migrants: Women, Lesbians and Gays’ of the LSVD to find out about the living situation of queer refugees. In January 2019 he was also the first Archbishop of Berlin to take part in a memorial service for homosexuals persecuted under National Socialism. Koch confirmed that, as the next step, he had agreed to accept an invitation from the ecumenical working group Homosexuals and Churches (HuK) and to celebrate church services with the Berlin group.”
Koch’s backing of LGBTQ pastoral care could have implications outside his archdiocese, too. The archbishop has chaired the German Bishops’ Conference Commission for Marriage and Family since 2014, which last year issued a statement that homosexuality was “normal” and said the question of same-gender sexual acts was a “hot topic.” (It should be noted, however, that in that post Koch also condemned Germany’s legalization of marriage equality.) At the international level, Koch participated in the Synod on the Family where he joined bishops from his country in pushing for greater LGBTQ pastoral care.
In meeting with LGBTQ people, Archbishop Koch is disproving the false but persistent idea that bishops compose the ecclesia docens, or teaching church, and the faithful compose the ecclesia dicens, or learning church. The dialogue in Berlin proves that the faithful must teach as well to bishops who are also learners. From this dialectic, new ways of being church and providing for pastoral needs can be realized, as they are in Germany.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, August 12, 2021