A high-ranking cardinal has spoken against discrimination, including that which targets queer people, and said the question of blessing LGBTQ+ couples has not been definitively decided.
Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich of Luxembourg made his comments in an interview with L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican’s official newspaper. Asked about pastoral care in the world today, Hollerich emphasized that perceptions of discrimination by the church was a significant problem, especially with youth. He commented (via Google Translate):
“[W]hat I constantly see is that young people stop considering the Gospel, if they have the impression that we are discriminating. For today’s young people, the highest value is non-discrimination. Not only that of gender, but also of ethnicity, of origin, of social class. They really get angry about discrimination! A few weeks ago I met a twenty-year old girl who told me ‘I want to leave the Church, because it does not welcome homosexual couples’. I asked her ‘Do you feel discriminated against because you are homosexual?’. And she said, ‘No, no! I’m not a lesbian, but my closest friend is. I know of her her suffering, and I do not intend to be part of those who judge her’. This made me think a lot.”
Hollerich, who is the Relator General for the Synod and holds leadership posts in European episcopal networks, explained that discrimination was intolerable in the church:
“No one [is] excluded: even the divorced and remarried, even homosexuals, all of them. The Kingdom of God is not an exclusive club. It opens its doors to everyone, without discrimination. To everyone! Sometimes the Church discusses the accessibility of these groups to the Kingdom of God. And this creates the perception of exclusion in a part of the people of God. They feel excluded and this is not right! Here it is not a question of theological subtleties or ethical dissertations: here it is simply a matter of affirming that Christ’s message is for everyone!”
Pressed on the point that theological issues were at play, too, the cardinal, who once called for a reconsideration of the church’s teachings on homosexuality before walking his comment back, affirmed Pope Francis’ call to do theology drawn from human experience. Hollerich stated:
“So many of our brothers and sisters tell us that, whatever the origin and cause of their sexual orientation, they certainly haven’t chosen it. They are not ‘bad apples’. They are also the fruit of creation. And in Genesis we read that at every step of the creation God is pleased with his work saying “..and he saw that it was good”. Having said that, I want to be clear: I don’t think there is room for a sacramental marriage between people of the same sex, because there is no procreative goal that characterizes it, but this does not mean that their emotional relationship has no value.”
The cardinal expanded on the idea that same-gender relationships have value when asked about his response to the Flemish bishops’ recent publication of a liturgy to bless such couples. He remarked:
“Frankly, the question [of blessings] does not seem decisive to me. If we stick to the etymology of ‘bene—dire’, do you think that God can ever ‘bene—male’ of two people who love each other? [Editor’s note: “benedire” is Italian for “to bless,” derived from the words for “good” and “to say”.] I would be more interested in discussing other aspects of the problem. For example: what determines the conspicuous growth of homosexual orientation in society? Or why the percentage of homosexuals in ecclesial institutions is higher than in civil society.”
This interview includes Cardinal Hollerich’s strongest statements yet in his continued support for LGBTQ+, which are all the more notable given they were published by the official Vatican newspaper. Previously, 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.
The interview also highlights the importance of personal encounter, especially with church leaders are truly open to learning. Cardinal Hollerich makes this point when speaking of his conversation with the young ally of a lesbian friend, which he admitted “made me think a lot.” LGBTQ+ people and allies need to persist in meeting with church leaders because God can work through seemingly minor interactions to bring about great new things.
On Sunday, October 30, 2022, New Ways Ministry will host a webinar, “A Home for All,” to explain why and how Catholics can and should support non-discrimination initiatives for LGBTQ+ people in both church and society. This 60-minute webinar is based on New Ways Ministry’s book of the same title, and will examine some of the book’s key insights, as well as include a period for questions with the authors, Francis DeBernardo and Robert Shine. Registration closes this Friday, October 27th. To register, click here.
—Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, October 27, 2022