One of Europe’s top bishops and a leader in the synodal process has said the church must reassess its teaching on homosexuality. At the same time, he offered support for LGBTQ church workers.
Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich of Luxembourg made his comments in an interview with a German Catholic news outlet, reported Domradio.de. Asked what he thinks about the church’s teaching on homosexuality, he replied (via Google Translate):
“I think that’s wrong. But I also believe that we are thinking ahead here in [terms of] teaching. As the Pope has expressed in the past, this can lead to a change in doctrine. Because I believe that the sociological-scientific foundation of this teaching is no longer correct. What used to be condemned was sodomy. At the time, it was thought that the whole child was contained in the man’s sperm. And that was simply transferred to homosexual men. But there is no homosexuality in the New Testament at all. There is only talk of homosexual acts, which were partly pagan cult acts. Of course that was forbidden. I think it’s about time we did a fundamental revision of the doctrine here.”
Hollerich was also asked about the #OutInChurch initiative, in which 125 LGBTQ church workers in Germany came out publicly in a call for non-discrimination. He responded:
“Yes, that was noticed in the universal church. But the situation here in Luxembourg is not as dramatic as in Germany: I know that I have homosexuals among my priests. Some told me, others tell you it. I have homosexual women and men among the laity. And they know they have a home in the church. Nobody gets fired from us because they are homosexual, and nobody has ever been fired from us because of that. This is a German problem that does not otherwise exist in the Church. Divorced and remarried people are also active in our church – I can’t throw them out. They would be unemployed. How can something like that be Christian?”
The cardinal added that, having met with gay youth in Thailand while visiting there, he again reiterated he could not “disown” them for these youth “have the same value as other people.”
His latest comments build on two previous instances of Hollerich supporting LGBTQ initiatives. In 2021, following the Vatican’s ban on same-gender blessings, the cardinal expressed an openness to such rituals, warning against discrimination and saying “the pastoral attitude is always to seek the best possible option, not the best abstract option.” In 2019, during the Vatican’s summit on sexual abuse in the church, Hollerich defended gay priests, rejecting any scapegoating of them as a cause of abuse.
Declaring the need to reassess church teaching on homosexuality altogether is a much bigger step. And the cardinal’s impact could be very inflentialt given his prominent roles. Not only does he head the European bishops’ conference, but he was named by Pope Francis as Relator General for the Synod on Synodality. According to Crux, this role “is responsible for providing a comprehensive outline of the synod’s theme at the beginning of the meeting and for summarizing the speeches of synod members before work begins on concrete proposals for the pope.” In other words, Cardinal Hollerich will not only be a participant, but a driver of the global synodal process now underway. With this latest interview, that is very good news for LGBTQ people.
—Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, January 4, 2022
National Catholic Reporter, “Top EU cardinals calls for change in church teaching on gay relationships“