An assembly of Germany’s Synodal Way passed several LGBTQ-affirming resolutions last weekend, though a main document calling for the church church to reconsider its general sexual ethics failed to pass. In posts today and tomorrow, Bondings 2.0 will update readers on what happened and what it may mean.
The Synodal Way, a multi-year collaborative process between Germany’s bishops and its lay leadership, held its fourth assembly this month in Frankfurt. On the agenda were five texts related to LGBTQ issues, four of which received final votes and one which was given an initial reading.
Significantly, the first relevant vote held was on the foundational text of Working Group IV, which focused on sexuality and relationships. This text called on the church to renew its sexual ethics, including a new valuing of diverse sexual orientations and same-gender relationships. While nearly 83% of assembly participants voted in favor of it, the text failed to receive two-thirds majority of bishop participants required to pass (though it did gain a ‘yes’ vote from 61% of bishops present). This vote created difficulties at the assembly, prompting strong emotions from many participants, including bishops. Some felt betrayed by many of the bishops who voted against itbut had remained silent about their objections beforehand.
Afterwards, votes on the LGBTQ-focused documents did pass. In one text, the assembly asked the German bishops to amend the current laws for church employment so that being LGBTQ+ or being in a same-gender relationship are no longer grounds upon which a church worker can be fired. Further, church employment policies should include non-discrimination language that includes sexual orientation and gender identity, so that current or potential employees are protected from all forms of workplace harm.
Another text sought a reassessment by the Magisterium of the church’s teachings on homosexuality, which includes revising the Catechism such that “homosexual acts” are not longer listed under “principal sins against chastity” and giving a positive evaluation of a homosexual orientation. This text also called for the church to acknowledge the harm it has done to people because of the present teachings, as well as to reject conversion therapy.
A text on the normalization of non-heterosexual priests was given a first reading. This text states, in part:
“[H]aving to conceal and treat as taboo a part of one’s own identity very often has a detrimental impact on the mental and physical health of those concerned. It is a serious encroachment on personal rights, and a violation of dignity. Fears of denunciation are constant companions of many non-heterosexual priests who have not come out. This situation exposes them in many ways to the danger of becoming victims of abuse of power. . .There is a lack of partners to talk to, and an inability to talk on the part of the church leadership. At the same time, the fear of sanctions makes any honest dialogue impossible.”
The text expresses hope that the Synodal Way can “help break with taboos and normalise their [the priests’] situation.” To that end, motions are proposed like an honest acknowledgement of non-heterosexual priests’ existence and a reckoning with the discrimination such priests face because of the church, as well as:
“The Catholic Church in Germany promotes and demands that all ministers and persons in positions of responsibility treat non-heterosexual priests with the respect and sensitivity to which all other people are equally entitled, regardless of their sexual orientation. Anyone who exhibits discriminatory attitudes cannot hold positions of responsibility and leadership. The Catholic Church in Germany works together with church, governmental and civil society anti-discrimination agencies in order to support sensitisation.”
The text calls for the present Vatican ban on accepting non-heterosexual men to seminary be lifted universally and “that all negative statements regarding their sexual orientation should be deleted from official Church documents.”
Finally, a text addressing gender diversity was voted on. It was passed with nearly 95% of participants voting in favor. The contents of this text will be explored in greater detail in tomorrow’s post, as well as what the significance of this last assembly may be for LGBTQ issues in the wider church.
—Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, September 15, 2022