A high-ranking German government official has criticized the Vatican for banning same-gender blessings, remarks applauded by the priest behind that nation’s protests against the ban.
Jens Spahn, who is Germany’s Health Minister and a married gay Catholic, commented on the Vatican’s ban on same-gender blessings, according to the National Catholic Reporter:
“‘My belief is deeply anchored inside of me,’ dpa quoted Spahn as telling Germany’s Bunte magazine. He added that as a gay man he was aware of ‘the many mistakes the church has made in its long history.’
“‘There are priests who bless guinea pigs and motorcycles,’ Spahn said. ‘But two people who love each other and are believers wishing for a blessing for their promise to be there for each other all life long are being rejected by the church.’
“‘This bothers and annoys me,’ said the health minister, who has frequently appeared in German media since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. ‘But it does not lead to me turning away from my belief or the church.'”
In an interview with Katholisch.de, Fr. Bernd Mönkebüscher welcomed Spahn’s comments. Mönkebüscher, who organized the #liebegewinnt (“Love Wins”) campaign for Catholics to bless same-gender couples in May, was asked how the Health Minister’s words affected him as a gay man. The priest replied:
“It affects me with every person who asks for a blessing for their partnership and who is hurt that this blessing is officially denied them. It is bad enough that this is still a topic of discussion because it continues to discriminate against people in their love. In this respect, the statement by the Minister of Health affects me no more than it does with other people. This issue affects all queer people equally.”
Asked what impact Spahn’s criticism of the Vatican and support for queer love might make, Mönkebüscher said it is for the church, not the government to decide internal matters, but it is “certainly a plus” that the topic gains attention. He added, “I think it’s good when people speak in public about what is important to them. That is exactly what we actually want, that belief remains an issue in society and that discussions are kept alive as a result.”
Turning to the #liebegewinnt campaign, Mönkebüscher affirmed that it was about faith, not protest:
“. . .the public helps. It protects to a certain extent against individual people being attacked for their actions. Nevertheless, at the blessing services – there were over 110 in different places – it became clear that those responsible had done this out of their faith. It wasn’t about a protest or a show. We received a lot of feedback after the services. There was always one word in it: healing.”
Mönkebüscher also said there had been some real changes as a result of the campaign, commenting:
“I think a clear change is that the chairman of the bishops’ conference and other bishops had to comment on the blessing services. The large public presence has made it clear that they cannot ignore the topic and that clarification is required in the context of the Synodal Path. At the same time, the courage of the local pastors was strengthened, who say: We are concerned with the people, we want to be on the way with them and these blessings are part of it.”
In terms of blessings occurring for LGBTQ people in relationships, the priest said there are “working groups or pastoral care officers in thirteen or fourteen dioceses” addressing the question of blessings.
Overall, Mönkebüscher said the point as priests and pastoral ministers is that, “We want to open doors – that is our fundamental concern.”
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, August 26, 2021