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 Cardinal Hollerich was correct the first time that the church’s teaching on homosexuality is outdated and needs a “fundamental revision” in view of contemporary scientific and social scientific insights.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
National Catholic Reporter, “Top synod cardinal: Church should change attitude, not teaching, on gay relationships“