A top German cardinal apologized to LGBTQ people for the way they have been treated by the church.
Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising issued his apology at a liturgy celebrating the 20th anniversary of a monthly LGBTQ Mass held in the archdiocese. Süeddeutsche Zeitung reported:
“[Marx] was standing in front of the steps of the altar of St. Paul like an itinerant preacher with a microphone in his hand and apologized for the discrimination against homosexuals by his, the Catholic Church: ‘How many injuries we’ve caused have in the life stories of many people, that touches me.’ As bishop, he wants to ensure that ‘step by step we become an inclusive church’. Applause from the fully occupied wooden pews in the towering neo-Gothic church on Theresienwiese. The archbishop of Munich and Freising spoke for the first time in the queer service in Munich.
“‘When I came to Munich,’ says Marx after the service at the anniversary celebration in the small parish hall across the street, ‘I noticed that there was something and that’s good, but we don’t want to say it really loudly.’ Under the condition that the scene remains as invisible as possible, the archdiocese tolerated the monthly queer services. ‘That,’ promises Marx, who has since taken off his purple cassock and is appearing in a black suit, ‘is over, we are entering a new stage that we in the Archdiocese are beginning now, we will get a new boost, including pastoral care to advance.’ . . .
“All relationships that follow the ‘primacy of love,’ according to Marx in his subsequent sermon, could be accepted by God. He himself could not have imagined ‘being here with you’ 15 years ago. He didn’t know any better. It is now all the more important to break new ground – ‘with the openness to also include those who find it difficult’.”
At a gathering after the Mass, Marx expanded, suggesting the “overwhelming majority” of German bishops agreed changes were needed on LGBTQ issues, that it was a “huge issue” for the global church, and is ultimately about “a paradigm shift.”
RND reported that some LGBTQ advocates welcomed Marx’s presence at the liturgy and apology. Christian Weisner, a spokesperson for reform group We Are Church, said it was a sign of a “new, more open attitude towards homosexuality and LGBTIQ.”
Thomas Pöschl, a spokesperson for the Homosexuals and the Church Working Group (HuK), noted that while some bishops have previously met with LGBTQ Catholic groups it was often behind closed doors. But, he said, “Cardinal Marx is now very public for the first time.”
But Michael Brinkschröder, a gay theologian, said that while grateful for the cardinal’s apology, “the reconciliation project can only be successful if the church recognizes the right to sexual and gender self-determination, takes a self-critical look at its previous attitude and is willing to take responsibility for their mistakes.” In other words, more than just Marx’s words are needed, he observed.
According to a press release about the event from the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising, this anniversary celebration follows four years of more intentional efforts by the local church to address LGBTQ pastoral care. In 2018, a working group was formed that included church officials and representatives of the LGBTQ community to establish the theological foundation and practices needed for such work.
The apology now from Cardinal Marx, who is a top advisor to Pope Francis, comes six years after he first raised the possibility that the church should seek forgiveness from lesbian and gay people. At that time in 2016, Marx said it was only until “very recently” the church and society had been “very negative about gay people,” which was, in his words, “a scandal and terrible.” In that address, he also called for civil laws to provide “equal. . .or nearly equal” rights to LGBTQ people and their partnerships.
But there is a difference between suggesting the need for an apology and actually making it. Seeking forgiveness for wrongs done can greatly advance reconciliation efforts. Cardinal Marx, not only as a top German official, but as a global Catholic leader has modeled a way forward that many other church leaders will hopefully follow.
—Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, March 15, 2022