Top Cardinal Retracts Previous Call for Revision of Church Teaching on Homosexuality

Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich

A top cardinal has seemingly walked back comments made earlier this year which indicated he supported a re-assessment of church teaching on homosexuality.

Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich of Luxembourg made his remarks during a Vatican press conference last week concerning the next stage of the Synod on Synodality. The cardinal was asked by a right-wing outlet about an interview in which Hollerich called for a “fundamental revision” of such teachings. In the recent press conference, he clarified:

“I fully believe in the tradition of the Church. And what is important in this process is not a change of doctrine. But what is important is to listen to everybody, to listen also to the suffering of people. I think of parents, for instance, of people concerned. And to have a change not of doctrine, but a change of attitude, that we are a church where everybody can feel at home. So I am not in favor of changing any doctrine.

“I am in favor for a Church where really everybody can feel welcome. And this welcome does not mean that there cannot be discussions. This welcome does not mean that there cannot be different positions. But if we close the door on people, we push some people into despair – and that is something we do not want.”

This statement contrasts with Hollerich’s comments in the February interview, in which he said, in part:

“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. . .I think it’s about time we did a fundamental revision of the doctrine here.”

Hollerich, who importantly is the Relator General for the Synod and heads the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union, is on record as largely pro-LGBTQ+. He has supported church workers in Germany’s #OutInChurch initiative, offered an openness to same-gender church blessings, condemned anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination, and defended gay priests scapegoated for the church’s sexual abuse scandal.

This positive record makes the cardinal’s reversal now all the more disappointing. Cardinal Hollerich was correct the first time that the church’s teaching on homosexuality is outdated and needs a “fundamental revision” in view of contemporary scientific and social scientific insights.

But at the same time, perhaps something else was at play. Hollerich seemed more focused at the press conference on something beyond this specific question of doctrinal development. He was insistent that the church be truly listening to one another in this synodal process, and then grow from the insights gained.

If church leaders are likewise serious about proceeding this way, synod reports worldwide are making clear the inclusion of LGBTQ+ people, including changes in church teaching, are an urgent priority for many Catholics. Wherever Cardinal Hollerich finds himself personally on the question of doctrinal change, he will hopefully reflect this already changed attitude among the faithful in the Synod’s working document set to be released this fall.

Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, September 2, 2022

Related Articles

National Catholic Reporter, “Top synod cardinal: Church should change attitude, not teaching, on gay relationships

8 replies
  1. Thomas Ellison
    Thomas Ellison says:

    There is likely more involved in Hollerich’s statement than is apparent at the surface. It is discouraging. Headline : Cardinal makes bold statements about Church teaching.
    This is folllowed by :What I meant to say…………
    Consider the framework here- a Synod on Synodality. Does any of that matter to the people in the pews who just want their church to stop denigrating them?

  2. Barry Blackburn
    Barry Blackburn says:

    Cardinal Hollerich got it right the first time:
    ” …Because I believe that the sociological-scientific foundation of this teaching is no longer correct. . .I think it’s about time we did a fundamental revision of the doctrine here.”

    A flawed doctrine based on an incomplete and flawed science ceases to be doctrine ie in this case sexual orientation and the catechism prohibitions.

    He is correct that dialogue and pastoral sensitivity must continue.

  3. Loretta
    Loretta says:

    I think the Cardinal’s most recent response about dialogue and discussions is a reasonable and necessary compromise, if you will, from his previous comments about changing doctrine. I say that because dialogue is absolutely essential before there can be any doctrinal change. I liken it to the process regarding gun safety. We have to say and acknowledge the misunderstood constitutional right to bear arms in order to pursue common sense restrictions that are necessary to try to effect change so that none of our children can fear going to school.

  4. Thomas Bower
    Thomas Bower says:

    This reminds me of Tom Lehrer’s “Vatican Rag” from the 60s/70s which pokes fun at some RC traits. In this verse the Cardinal changes his tone depending on who asks the question. Perhaps the Cardinal should be reminded that his formal dress is to remind him he is called to be a martyr, not a yes-man.

  5. Robert E Nee
    Robert E Nee says:

    He is not saying there cannot be a change of doctrine- a process called development of dogma by John Newman. What he is saying is the the important status in our church now is to listen what the Spirit is saying about how we live the laws of love these days. The result of the synod ahead may indeed develop dogma – doctrine – about many things, including sexual moral doctrine. He is expressing the status quo. That is why it is important to tell the church what the Spirit is saying to you!!!!

  6. Peter Daly
    Peter Daly says:

    I am very disappointed that the Cardinal appears to have reversed himself, especially since I quoted him in the NCR.
    I think this is tactical. He does not want to appear to have prejudged the matter before the Synod.

  7. Cheryl Rogers
    Cheryl Rogers says:

    Very disappointing but I am not surprised. I have been disappointed all my life by the Catholic Church on many issues. I continue to wonder what Jesus thinks of all this because this is not the way of His. How can such learned men be so limited in the meaning of the WORD made flesh for us all. All means all. The pathway to walk with Christ is NOT limited and only available to Catholics who seem its leadership is causing their sheep to fall way pack in all the denominations of Christians. Thank you Lord for enlightened Christians in the United Church of Christ, the Quakers, the Episcopalians, and even the Reformed Jew! Wake up Catholic bishops who are infecting other bishops with this continued wrong path to Jesus. God help us all


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