German Catholics took their next steps in the Synodal Way with a second assembly last weekend that included approval of a text speaking positively about LGBTQ people and calling for the church to bless their relationships.
Some 230 delegates for the Synodal Way gathered in Frankfurt last week to debate texts on key issues in the church and, for the most part, approve first readings for 13 of 16 proposed texts. Among those approved was a text on sexual morality that included support for LGBTQ couples. The Wall Street Journal reported:
“. . .German church leaders voted 168 to 28, with five abstentions, to adopt a draft statement on sexuality that includes a resolution saying that ‘same-sex partnerships who want to take the risk of an unbreakable common life…should be able to see themselves placed under the blessing of God.’
“The Rev. Burkhard Hose, who has campaigned against the Vatican ban, said the decision was ‘a milestone in the journey toward a church without discrimination, a church full of respect for the diversity of love and partnerships.’
“‘It’s not possible for the bishops to ignore this voting of the majority without losing their authority,’ he said.”
Bondings 2.0 reported last year that this text from the forum on sexual morality, spoke quite positively about LGBTQ people at several points. It included the following text, “We appreciate the different sexual orientations and gender identities of the people as well as the long-term, loyalty and exclusivity of these people,” and spoke of sexual relationships having value for more than procreative ends.
But the inclusion of blessings in the text is perhaps its farthest point, and one that directly contradicts the Vatican’s ban on such blessings. Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg, who chairs the German Bishops’ Conference, commented on the dissonance between some of what was happening in Germany and the Vatican’s desires. Specific to this question of blessings, WSJ explained:
“[Bätzing] lamented ‘warning words or clarifications from the Roman Curia on questions that have long been answered in our enlightened and freedom-loving society.’ The bishop said that the Vatican’s ban on blessings of gay couples particularly had caused ‘indignation and head-shaking among many people,’ provoked incomprehension among many theologians and exemplified ‘the inner discord of the Catholic Church.’
“Friday’s statement on sexuality, which calls generally for a more liberal approach in church teaching, including more tolerance for contraception and masturbation, is cast as an appeal to the pope, acknowledging that many of its proposals ‘essentially fall within the teaching competence of the Bishop of Rome and can therefore not be undertaken by the Church in Germany.'”
The other texts, which address such issues as clergy sexual abuse, women’s leadership, and clericalism, all passed with between 76% and 92% approval. The meeting ended early after delegates failed to meet quorum due to early departures. WSJ explained how the synodal process, which is extended due to Covid through 2023, will go forward: “. . . the church leaders’ statement is subject to revision at synod meetings next year, and approval of the final version will require a supermajority of two-thirds of the 69 bishops participating, 65 of whom are taking part at this week’s meeting.”
One noteworthy speech happened during discussion over the sexual morality text. Katholisch.de reported:
“During the discussion. . .Henrik Johannemann, advisory member of the forum, came out as gay in the synodal assembly. When he was twelve he felt that he was attracted to men. ‘It was clear to me straight away that it wouldn’t work. God can’t accept me like that.’ In all his youth he had prayed not to be like that, the sexual morality of the Church had such a far-reaching effect. ‘I’m so happy today that I know that God loves me.’ He pleaded for the basic text of the Synodal Forum to be read and accepted – which happened.”
The process in Germany is well-underway, even while the outcomes are far from certain. Yet, when an official ecclesial assembly, including dozens of bishops, has explicitly sought blessings for same-gender couples, it means we have broken new ground. The texts are not final, but the numbers for passing the sexual morality document at this stage suggest it would be approved in future, more definitive readings. Even while process questions are being raised about the Synodal Way, the last assembly was a victory which LGBTQ Catholics and allies can celebrate unequivocally.
Looking to learn more about synodality?
New Ways Ministry will be holding a webinar, “From the Margins to the Center: LGBTQ Catholics and Synodality,” on Sunday, October 24, 2021 at 3:00 – 4:30 pm Eastern U.S. Time. This 75-minute webinar featuring Dr. Robert Choiniere will look at how all Catholics, especially LGBTQ people and allies, can help make sure that every voice is heard and recorded during the Synod on Synodality these next two years. For more information or to register, click here.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, October 7, 2021